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Mark Blocks 11 PDP Senators’ Defection Bid

Senate President, David Mark Blocks 11 PDP Senators’ Defection Bid
Senate President, David Mark

There was a drama in the Senate on Tuesday when five senators announced their defection from the Peoples Democratic Party to the All Progressives Congress.

But they were immediately ruled out of order by the Senate President, David Mark, who cited a case they instituted against him.

The senators, who announced their defection during plenary in Abuja, are Bukola Saraki (Kwara Central); Aisha Al – Hassan, (Taraba North); Magnus Abe (Rivers South-East); Wilson Ake (Rivers West) and Abdullahi Adamu (Nasarawa West).

They are also among the 11 members of the upper arm of the National Assembly, who forwarded a letter to Mark informing him of their defection to the opposition APC.

Several efforts by the senators to make the Senate leadership read the letter had failed.

Saraki started the process of formally announcing their defection on the floor of the Senate when he raised a point of order, and cited Section 15 of the Senate Standing Orders 2011 as amended. The orders have to do with privileges of senators.

He reminded the Senate president of the letter by the aggrieved senators, including himself, which had not been read on the floor.

He mentioned Senators Abdulahi, Abe, Ake, Al-Hassan, Shaba Lafiagi, Ibrahim Gobir, Jibrilla Bindowo, Danjuma Goje, Ali Ndume, Umar Dahiru and himself as the lawmakers listed in the letter.

Saraki, a former Kwara State governor, explained that all the affected senators and their supporters had already obtained the APC membership cards.

He expressed concern over Mark’s failure to read the letter, saying his action was preventing their formal movement to a party of their choice.

The Senate President, however, ruled him out of order by drawing his attention to the fact that the matter was pending in court.

But Saraki disagreed with him, pointing out that the issue before the court had to do with their prayers that the Senate leadership should be stopped from declaring their seats vacant and not their defection.

Mark again maintained that, “Since the matter is in court, I cannot act on it, therefore, I rule you out of order.”

At this point, the Senate Minority Leader, George Akume, raised a point of order under section 14 of the Senate Standing Orders. He argued that the affected senators should be allowed to exercise their right to join the party of their choice.

He said, “This is a legislative house and our privileges are guaranteed. This Senate should not rule the issue raised by Saraki out of order. This matter has dragged on for a very long time and we cannot stop people from associating with whoever they like.”

The Senate president also ruled Akume out of order because his line of argument was on the same issue raised by Saraki.

Mark’s position did not go down well with Akume, who accused him of infringing on the right of the senators to freely associate with any group of their choice.

He said, “As the Minority Leader, our rights are being breached because the affected senators are moving over to our party. They have the right to move. You are the presiding officer, we have raised a fundamental issue.

“The court order is not being properly interpreted. We have discussed this issue in closed session. Saraki has said the matter pending in court has nothing to do with the issue of defection, so why are they being prevented from moving?”

Mark disagreed with the submissions of Akume and insisted that since the matter in contention was in court, he would not act on it.

He said, “Senator Akume, this matter is in court and I shall make no further comments on it because I would not want to go contrary to our standing orders. On the same issue, the affected senators took me to court and you are pleading privilege, asking me to rule on it.”

Senator Anthony Adeniyi intervened in by pleading with Mark to read the letter and lay the matter to rest once and for all. But he was also overruled by Mark.

Immediately, Senators Adamu, Al-Hassan, Abe, and Ake took turns to announce their formal defection to the APC.

Mark would also not let that stand as he ruled them out of order by citing some legal implications.

The drama continued when attempts by Senator Ehigie Uzamere (APC, Edo Central) to announce his defection to the PDP was frustrated by Mark, who failed to recognise him when he persistently raised his hand.

Attempts by Senator Olufemi Lanlehin, to draw the attention of Mark to the frustration of Uzamere, under order 25 (f) , was also ruled out of order by Mark.

The Chairman, Senate Committee on Information, Media and Public Affairs, Senator Eyinnaya Abaribe, told journalists after the session, that none of the 11 senators had defected as far as the Senate was concerned .

He said, “We resolved within the Senate to maintain the dignity of the upper chamber. In that wise, everything was done today openly and without rancour.

“We have to give kudos to the Senate and its president for handling the matter in a manner that Nigerians are very proud of.”

Abaribe, who admitted that senators had the right to express themselves, stressed that procedures must be followed in doing so.

He said, “Our rules are very clear, when a matter is in court, we cannot discuss it. The hands of the Senate President are tied, he cannot do otherwise and if he does otherwise, it would be contemptuous of court.

“Therefore, while not saying that the matter has been laid to rest, we can say sufficiently that the matter has now been handled in such a way that all sides are aware of their rights and things are going on smoothly in the Senate.

“As far as the Senate is concerned, there has been no movement yet. It is the legal opinion sought by the Senate leadership that played itself out on the floor of the Senate today (Tuesday).”

Abe said, “There is a problem in the Senate and we believe that Senator Mark has over the years, proved himself as an astute statesman, democrat and politician. We still believe that our defection is a problem that has a political solution.

“What we need to do as senators under our leadership is to look for a solution that will satisfy the desires of individual and the citizens of this great country.”

Al–Hassan said she left the PDP because justice was not done to her.

She said, “I had cried too many times that I am suffering injustice, persecution, and intimidation in my state. I had written the national leadership and the national secretariat of the PDP so many times and nothing happened.

“Therefore, I decided to move to the APC where I can get justice. We submitted a letter which the Senate president said he was not going to read because there is a pending court injunction.”

Source: Punch

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