…says move unconstitutional, won’t stand
A group under the auspices of Defenders of Constitutional Democracy (DCD), on Wednesday, accused the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, and his Deputy, Ovie Omo-Agege of a secret plot to alter the subsisting Senate Standing Orders and Rules on ranking to facilitate the emergence of a newbie senator-elect as Senate President.
The National convener of the group, Alhaji Aliyu Abdullahi, in a statement issued in Abuja, warned that such a move would backfire as it is unconstitutional and alien to best democratic practices, the apex legislative Assembly entrenched over the years.
“We want to inform distinguished Senators-elect and indeed all Nigerians that we have uncovered an unholy, secret and insidious plot by the outgoing Senate President, Ahmad Lawan and his deputy, Ovie Omo-Agege to amend the Senate Orders and Rules, which provides that only ranking senators shall be elected as presiding officers,” he said.
According to Abdullahi, “We have reliable information that the duo (Lawan and Omo-Agege) are working in cahoots to impose a puppet on the 10th Senate as Senate President.
“It is unthinkable that the Senate president and his deputy would want to indulge in such an act just to spite a particular senator who has an overwhelming capacity and whose pedigree the President-elect is comfortable and willing to work with.
“We want to state categorically that this move cannot stand because it is a clear violation of section 311 of the 1999 (as amended, Fifth Alteration, No. 8), which has provided that only the standing orders and rules of a subsisting Assembly shall be used in the election of principal officers at the state and National Assembly.
“Recall that the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (Fifth Alteration) (No.8) Act, 2023 alters sections 54, 96 and 311 of the Constitution to stipulate a quorum of at least two-thirds of members-elect for the inauguration or first sitting of the Senate, House of Representatives and State Houses of Assembly, respectively and also mandates the use of existing Standing Orders of each legislative house at the inauguration”
He stated further: “As Defenders of the Constitution, we have already taken steps to seek judicial intervention by filing an originating suit at a Federal High Court. We are waiting for a date for the commencement of the proceeding.
“We warned that nobody should surreptitiously alter or produced any fake aspect of the Standing Orders without approval and adoption by members.
“The amendment to section 311 of the Constitution now provides that the Standing Orders of each house before its dissolution will be used for the first sitting of a new Assembly and may be modified within a reasonable time after the inauguration and first session of the Assembly”
“Our dear Nigerians, this amendment has finally and effectively put a nail in the coffin of any amendment of the Standing Orders of the Senate before the inauguration of the 10 Assembly.
“And since the subsisting Orders provide for a ranking senator to be elected as president or deputy president of the Senate, there is no room for a fresh senator-elect to emerge as senate president and we warn that anybody thinking of such should desist from forthwith because we will not allow such illegality to stand.
“We, therefore, advise Lawan and his deputy, Omo-Agege and their co-travellers to perish the thought of foisting a first-time lawmaker as the presiding officer of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria when we have eminently qualified senators from the South-South who can function effectively as the presiding officer of the 10th Senate. It is illegal, unlawful, unconstitutional and unacceptable.
“The intendment of the ranking provision in the Constitution is tapping from the experience of lawmakers, engender proper legislative processes, which new lawmakers may not be exposed to.
“It is therefore undemocratic for outgoing legislators who benefitted from the ‘ranking’ provision to now be planning to scuttle the implementation of such a beautiful piece of legislation.”
“Section 311 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria states (1) The provisions of this Section shall have effect until the National Assembly or a House of Assembly exercises the powers conferred upon it by section 60 or 101 of this Constitution as appropriate.
“(2) The Standing Orders of the Senate established under the former Constitution shall apply in relation to the proceedings in the Senate established under this Constitution.
“(3) The Standing Orders of the House of Representatives established under the former Constitution shall apply in relation to the proceedings in the House of Representatives established under this Constitution.
“(4) The Standing Orders of a House of Assembly established under the former Constitution shall apply in relation to a House of Assembly of a State established under this Constitution.
“(5) The Standing Orders of the former legislative houses referred to in subsections (2), (3) and (4) of this section, shall apply in relation to a legislative house with such modifications as may be necessary to bring them into conformity with the provisions of this Constitution”.