Indications emerged yesterday that members of the National Assembly on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) may have abandoned the much touted plot to impeach the presiding officers of the two chambers, Senate President Bukola and Speaker Yakubu Dogara.
Following their defection to the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the leadership of the APC were said to have rallied its lawmakers to begin impeachment moves against Saraki and Dogara on the ground that they can’t be presiding over the federal legislature under the cloak a minority party.
The first clue that all was not well with APC’s impeachment plot yesterday was the camaraderie spirit with which the lawmakers exchanged banters among members across party lines before going into a closed door session.
Senate Leader, Senator Ahmed Lawan, was also spotted with the Senate president in the chamber welcoming members from recess.
An APC Senator who did not want his name in print told LEADERSHIP that following what transpired at the APC primaries held across the country, the lawmakers are not keen about the issue of impeachment at the moment.
He said, “Politics is about interest, and one’s interest first. How can we go ahead to protect the interest of a political party that failed woefully to protect the interests of its dedicated loyal members? Where is the much talked about payback time?
“There are 12 of us who could not secure a return tickets despite the assurance of automatic ticket the party’s national chairman gave us. Governors were just on their own; nobody to call them to order.
“Why do we need to come here and increase our angst by trying to impeach Saraki? Was he the one that denied me APC senatorial ticket? Politics is about interest as I’ve earlier said”.
Another disenchanted APC Senator who spoke with our correspondent in confidence said, “Yes, 12 of us lost at the APC senatorial primaries. In Ogun State, Governor Amosun snatched Senator Tejuosho’s own.
Governor Ajimobi is displacing Senator Akanbi. Senator Omo-Agege lost out. The chief whip, Senator Adeyeye, is not coming back. Senator Gbenga Ashafa was substituted to make way for Senator Tinubu to become the highest-ranking Senator from the South West so that she can become Senate leader. The fate of Senator David Umoru and Senator Sabi Abdullahi is neither here nor there.
“They are already defeated and if you now seize tickets from those already declared winner and give it to them, the court will remove them. That is what will happen to Senator Shehu Sani with time.
“You don’t expect us to come here and start saying Saraki should step aside; for what? What time do we even have to go into that since by November campaigns would have started?”
At the closed door meeting yesterday, the Senators resolved to put to rest contentious issues that had distracted them from addressing key national issues in the recent past.
The lawmakers were said to have expressed worry over recent political conflict in the upper chamber. The meeting, which lasted for about 20 minutes, was said to have attracted expressions of serious worries by most lawmakers.
Although no official statement was issued at the end of the closed-door session, Another Senator who spoke on condition of anonymity told LEADERSHIP that threats and counter threats by APC and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) lawmakers were dropped.
He said, “the Senate today (Tuesday) reconvened after about two months recess and immediately went into a closed door session where all members had frank discussions about the future of the 8th Senate as it goes into its last stage.
“The members agreed to give peace a chance and avoid allowing the Red Chamber of the federal legislature to degenerate into an arena of conflict over partisan and personal issues”.
It was further learnt that the APC caucus also extracted a promise from the Senate president that national interest will continue to take precedence over any other consideration in the activities of the Senate.
The Senators were said to have agreed not to allow external forces and influence to cause disaffection, disturbance or crisis within the legislature.
Also in the House of Representatives, it was obvious that the plot by APC lawmakers to effect a change in leadership may have failed.
Yesterday’s plenary, which lasted for 30 minutes, saw the Speaker approving the votes and proceedings of July 24, 2018 and also announcing the death of the wife of Hon Henry Ofongo from Bayelsa and the father of the chief whip, Hon Al-hassan Ado Doguwa.
Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in the House under the auspices of Parliamentary Democrats Group (PDG) yesterday asked the ruling APC to channel its energy on other meaningful endeavours, as any plan to impeach Speaker Dogara would be futile.
Spokesperson of the PDG, Hon Timothy Golu, said that PDG will not relent in defending the authority, right and mandate of the Speaker against any threat from any quarters.
He advised the APC to prepare to loose more of its members, as many of its lawmakers would be defecting to the PDP, thus placing the opposition in a comfortable majority in the House of Representatives.
Golu said, “Our attention has been drawn to statements credited to the All Progressives Congress, APC, that the Speaker, Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara, should vacate his seat as he is occupying a usurped position.
“We want to again state categorically clear that any attempt to instigate crisis or undermine the authority, right or position of the Speaker would meet a brick wall.
“The position of the Speaker does not belong to any political party as he was elected by members from all the political parties as provided for in the 1999 constitution”.
The lawmaker cautioned security agencies not to allow themselves to be used as tools by the “failing APC” as Nigerians and the international community are watching and monitoring developments in the polity with kin interest.
“We call on our colleagues to be vigilant and prepare for any eventuality that those planning to destabilise the parliament may come up with”, Golu added.
PMB Rejects 12 Bills
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday, in separate letters, informed the Senate of his decision to withhold his assent from a total of 12 bills.
The rejected bills are, Institute of Entrepreneurship (establishment) Bill 2018, Stamp Duties (Amendment) Bill 2018, Electoral (Amendment) Bill 2018 and Development Income Tax Relief (Amendment) Bill 2018.
Others are Electoral (Amendment) Bill 2018, Advance Fee Fraud and other Related Offences (Amendment) Bill 2017, National Institute of Hospitality and Tourism (Establishment) Bill 2018, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (Amendment) Bill 2017, National Research and Innovation Council (Establishment) Bill 2017, National Agricultural Seeds Council Bill 2018 and Subsidiary Legislation ( Legislative Scrutiny) Bill 2018.
Some of the categories of requests made by the President for consideration and approval of the Senate include “Suppression of Piracy and other Maritime Offences Bill (2018), request for confirmation of appointment of Olanipekun Olukoyede as the Secretary of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission ( EFCC) , N346.5billion 2018 statutory budget proposal for Niger Delta Development Commission ( NDDC) and raising of external capital of $2.786 billion and $82.54m to refinance the balance of $500m matured Eurobonds in the international capital market .
Reacting to the turnover of rejected bills, Senate , Ahmed Lawan called for “establishment of a technical committee by the Senate to look into them for possible way out.”
…Seeks NASS Approval For $2.78bn Eurobonds
Also, President Buhari has written to the National Assembly requesting it to approve the issuance of $2.786 billion in Eurobonds and other securities in the international capital market for the implementation of new external borrowing approved in the 2018 appropriation Act for part-financing of the 2018 budget deficit and key infrastructural projects.
Buhari also asked the Senate to issue $82.54m to refinance the balance of $500m matured Eurobonds in the international capital market.
Senate President Bukola Saraki read the letter by Buhari during plenary.
The Senate adjourned plenary till Wednesday, October 10 to mourn Hon Olufunke Adedoyin from Kwara State, who died penultimate Friday.
The adjournment was in line with the tradition of the National Assembly that both Senate and House of Representatives Chambers shift sessions to honour departed colleagues.
The House of Representatives also adjourned to today in honour of its late colleague, Hon Adedoyin.
No Threat To INEC Budget, Says Dogara
Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, said yesterday that contrary to speculations, funding for the 2019 general election is not under any threat.
He assured that there is already a provision to take care of such contingencies that may arise in the service wide votes.
The Speaker, while speaking with journalists, noted that there is about N300 billion service wide votes provided for in the 2018 budget that can be used to service election funding.
He reaffirmed that as custodians of the mandate of the Nigerian people, the House of Representatives considers issues affecting Nigerians as top priority, adding that all pending matters, Electoral Act inclusive, would be given accelerated attention.
He said, “You see we are servants of the people by our calling as Representatives of Nigerians and we don’t have the right to put our interests forward before the interests of the people.
“We are here to serve public good, these issues are outstanding and it was never going to be threatened in any way as was widely perceived, because we have a provision in the budget for service-wide votes, about three hundred billion and whatever was the emergency would have been met from that service-wide fund that we have allocated in the budget.
“As we are back, we have set ourselves to accomplish what is there in the interest of the people. Even if it means in a day or two we will accomplish that, even if it means handling it as we did for the ease of doing business bills”.
Legislative Aides Protest Unpaid N5.8bn Allowances
Meanwhile, legislative aides in the National Assembly yesterday protested against alleged non-payment of their allowances totaling N5.8billion.
LEADERSHIP reports that the legislative aides had on September 4, during recess, threatened to shut down the National Assembly if their allowances were not paid before resumption.
Speaking to journalists, during the protest, the leader of the aggrieved aides, Mr. Sam Melaye, insisted that the lawmakers must pay their entitlements later this month.
Melaye said failure to pay their entitlements would lead to a total shutdown of the National Assembly.
The entitlements, according to Melaye, are Duty Tour Allowances not paid to any one of them within the last three years, which he said was over N2billion.
He also listed training allowances, which he said amounted to N1billion annually and now N3billion in arrears.
“We have not being paid our Our Duty Tour Allowance in the past three years which is over N2bn now. Our training allowances totaling 3billion is also not being paid”, he said.
The legislative aides who were dressed in black stormed the lobby adjoining the Senate and House of Representatives chambers.
Some of the inscriptions on the placards they carried read: “We work for kings but treated as outcast; please pay us our entitlements; we are dying of hunger; all labourers deserves to be paid; not paying our entitlement is a serious act of corruption.”
They aides were, however, prevented from blocking the entrances to the chambers to allow lawmakers access to the floors for plenary.
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