- An aide to the Senate president has said that Bukola Saraki does not plan to give up his seat as the leader of the eight assembly
- The aide said the 1999 Constitution as amended allows for any lawmaker even from the minority party to hold principal positions at the National Assembly
- According to the aide, Saraki would rely on the provisions of the Constitution to retain his seat as Senate president until June 2019
On Tuesday, July 31, the Senate president Bukola Saraki defected from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to the opposition, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
In a statement announcing his defection, the Senate president blamed the APC for disregarding basic rules of the party's administration. He also said that the leadership of the APC was segregating members of the nPDP (now R-APC) from other politicians within the party.
In a detailed analysis, Premium Times reports how Saraki who has remained actively in politics plans to retain his position as the Senate president.
A close aide to the Senate president said although it is not clear which party between the ruling and the opposition controls majority of lawmakers in the Senate, the 1999 Constitution (as amended) does not prevent anyone from a minority to lead the upper chamber.
Section 50 (1) (a) of the Constitution states that there shall be “a president and deputy president of the Senate, who shall be elected by the members of that House from among themselves.”
Pleading anonymity, the aide said that the constitution does to explicitly state that lawmakers on the minority cannot seek election as president or deputy president of the Senate.
The source also noted that his principal will depend on the provision of the Constitution to retain his position as Senate president until June 2019 when the ninth Senate would elect its principal officers.
Also citing Section 50 (2) of the Constitution, the aide said defecting to a different party was not one of the ways a Senate president could lose his position.
Section 50 (2) states: “The President or Deputy President of the Senate or the Speaker or Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives shall vacate his office:
a) If he ceases to be a member of the Senate or of the House of Representatives, as the case maybe, otherwise than by reason of a dissolution of the Senate or the House of Representatives; or
b) When the House of which he was a member first sits after any dissolution of that House; or
c) If removed from office by a resolution of the Senate or the House of Representatives, as the case may be, by the votes of not less than two-thirds majority of the members of the House," the document said.
He further argued that there have been occasions in the past dispensations when presiding officers of the National Assembly were from minority parties.
Making a list, the aide said, Ike Ekweremadu, the current deputy Senate president is a member of a minority party while Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto state remained the speaker of the House of Representatives after defecting to the APC from the PDP.
The aide also noted that in the Second Republic, the late Edwin Ume-Ezeoke of the defunct Nigeria Peoples Party (NPP) was the speaker of the House of Representatives while his deputy, Ibrahim Idris, was of the then ruling National Party of Nigeria (NPN).
Also, John Wash Pam (Plateau state), of the NPP, was the deputy senate president to NPN’s Joseph Wayas.
However, it is clear that both the last two scenarios were possible because of an alliance formed between the two parties after the 1979 elections.
He added that it is not impossible for the APC leadership to seek removal of Saraki, he however, said such move might also trigger the removal of other principal officers who are members of the ruling party.
Speaking on the matter, Yusuph Olaniyonu, the spokesperson for Saraki, said the Senate president would not be resigning his position as leader of the eight Senate.
“All I can say at this time is that you should go and read the constitution. Does it forbid members of minority or majority parties from becoming presiding officers of House or Senate," Olaniyonu said.
Saraki who was a former governor of Kwara state, emerged the president of the Senate in June 2015 after a successful general election, winning the Senate minority leader Ahmed Lawan.
The Senate president alongside other 10 senators had joined the APC in January 2014 from the the PDP. The senators include: Shaba Lafiagi (Kwara north), Mohammed Ndume (Borno south), Danjuma Goje (Gombe central), Abdullahi Adamu (Nasarawa west), Magnus Abe (Rivers southeast), Wilson Ake (Rivers west).
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Others were Bindo Jubrilla (Adamawa north), Abdullahi Gobir (sokoto east) and Alhassan Aisha Jummai (Taraba north).
Meanwhile, NAIJ.com previously reported that the National Working Committee of the APC has reportedly queried Saraki for allegedly producing a conducive environment for its members to defect recently.
The party’s NWC asked Saraki to respond within 48 hours to its query as to why disciplinary action should not to be taken against him for breaching article 21 of the constitution of the party.
The party’s query took the decision in a resolution signed by the national secretary of the party, Mai Maila Buni.
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