Let me first state here for the avoidance of doubt that I am a complete Nigerian and I have been watching the unfolding drama in our Senate, the upper lawmaking house and I am so amused as well as happy that for once, a Senator, one of their own, is standing up to the Senate.
I don’t know Senator Ovie Omo-Agege (who many call Obarisi of Urhoboland) but he has earned my respect and not because some people are conveniently accusing him of masterminding the disappearance of the Senate’s Mace with last week’s invasion of the Senate chamber by unknown people; he has earned my total respect because it is high time someone looked the leadership of the Senate in the eyes and told them they cannot drag Nigeria backward even if he wants to be President of this great country. That is why all men and women of honour and courage, people who love this nation, must stand by and with Senator Omo-Agege in these trying times and ensure the Senate reverts itself on the malicious suspension of 90 WHOLE Legislative days given him.
Omo-Agege’s only crime is that he dared to voice his opinion against the Election Reordering Bill which many believe was targeted at President Muhammadu Buhari.
Let us take a careful look at the two laws and one subsidiary legislation or rule governing the National Assembly and conducts/activities within its two Chambers. One, the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria (as amended) which is the supreme law of the land. Two, the Legislative Houses (Powers & Privileges) Act, 2018. Three, the Standing Rules of the Senate made pursuant to section 61 and 101 of the 1999 Constitution. I am forced to bring this to the fore for the benefit of those vilifying Senator Omo-Agege and trying to connect him to the missing (thought I heard the Senate said it has found it anyway) Mace.
As Misbau Alamu Lateef succinctly captured it in one of his articles, “there is nothing, and I mean NOTHING, in any of the above stated two laws and the Standing Rules which criminalizes or penalizes the alleged conduct of Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, even as we saw in the videos in circulation on social media. Yes, he entered into the Chamber or precincts of the NASS and so what?
Okay, section 22 of the Legislative Houses (Powers & Privileges) Act 2018 actually states that a suspended member of a legislative house (recall the pedestrian and dictatorial penchant to suspend members in our National Assembly) shall not enter or remain in the Chamber or precincts of the House while the suspension period was still running.”
Mr. Lateef further said: “So, what if a suspended member does enter the Chamber or remain there? Well, section 22 of the Act merely states that any officer of the Legislative House shall FORCEFULLY remove the erring suspended member from the Chamber or precincts. That is all. End of discussion. Nothing more under that law or any other law!”
But it must be added here that even the said section 22 of the Act is in violation of the sections 68 and 69 of the 1999 Constitution which already provide how a can vacate his seat. It must therefore be deemed null and void to the extent of its inconsistency. Indeed, by the Constitution, a lawmaker can only vacate his seat if he dies; resigns; is recalled by his electors; decamps from the party on whose platform he was elected (without a division in that party); or he is otherwise removed by an appropriate court. Our Senate has no powers whatsoever to suspend or nullify a Senator’s election. This is the major legal point settled in the cases of: Ali Ndume v Senate (i.e. the 8th Senate where Senator Saraki is the Senate President); Bauchi State House of Assembly v. Hon. Danna; Usman v. Kaduna State House of Assembly; and Hon. Melaye v. House of Representatives.
On the question of the strangers who invaded the Senate, well, sections 15 and 16 of the same Act merely provide that such STRANGERS may be liable to pay fines of fifty or one hundred naira. or (in the alternatives) go for 3 or 6 months imprisonment. That is all. Another end of discussion for “unknown thugs” or strangers.
So, these “unknown thugs” or strangers only need to go look for fifty naira or one hundred naira fine to atone for their crime against the almighty senators who may press for charges against them. At least, no one saw Senator Ovie Omo-Agege carry or steal any Mace! Did you? You sure didn’t.
The people of Delta Central Senatorial District are in pains. Now being denied their constitutional right of representation, there are vibration of a threat of self-representation in the Senate pending when the Senate gets some wisdom to undo its self-inflicted harm of suspending their very popular Senator. It has been said that they may be going in large numbers to seat with Saraki and other Senators in the Red Chambers to protect their right of representation. I know Deltans as a people who dare to challenge wrongs and support their thinking.
Also, well-meaning Nigerians who have had enough of this somewhat high-handed leadership in the Senate are seething with anger. With the way things are going, especially as the 2019 elections draw closer, this present Senate would wake up one day and close the Senate shut down the country.
As one who lives in Onitsha, Anambra State and does business in Delta State especially in the Central district, many of us have felt the presence of Senator Omo-Agege. Other than Great Ogboru, no politician is more popular than him in Delta. His opponent in the 2015 election did not even score half of his votes. He pushed through the Act establishing the Federal University of Petroleum Resources Effurun (FUPRE), which President Buhari signed into law last year. He has given more than 200 market women direct cash to support their petty businesses. His constituency projects are visible everywhere. He was smart enough to join hands with the Federal Government to get best bargains for his people. For this, the Amukpe-Eku-Agbor main road is now being finally constructed. In the Senate, I am told Omo-Agege is an intellectual power house. Loved by his colleagues, except Saraki who allegedly hates him for being close to President Buhari. But Omo-Agege ‘no send’ Saraki!
I do not want to agree with conspiracy theorists who claim that Omo-Agege’s suspension is a ploy to weaken him politically thereby paving way for a cheap electoral victory of his arc opponent, a serial Senatorial aspirant of another political party. No, I don’t want to agree. But then, the way this man, his party and supporters are cashing in on this dubious suspension by a high-handed Senate leadership should make anyone to have a rethink. However, I believe the people of Delta Central now know the difference from the past when they had a dormant representative with the present, a vibrant one that some people are bent on silencing.
One takeaway from the ongoing drama is that, the end of impunity in the Senate is near, very near, all thanks to Senator Omo-Agege, so this is the time for all Nigerians to come together and stand with Senator Omo-Agege if we must have a Senate that should make laws for the betterment of Nigerians.
–Madubuachi wrote from Onitsha, Anambra State
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