Oscar Chukwugekwu, Abuja
Some members of the Senate have denied claims by the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) that the 2015 Senate Standing Orders was forged by some senators to favour them.
The senators, who spoke to journalists in Abuja on Monday ahead of Tuesday’s resumption of the 8th National Assembly, however, maintained that amendments were carried out in the document.
It would be recalled that an allegation of forgery was leveled by members of the Senate Unity Forum (SUF), the umbrella body of the All Progressives Congress (APC) senators, who threw their weight behind Senator Ahmad Lawan’s bid for the position of Senate President against Senator Abubakar Bukola Saraki.
But speaking to journalists in Abuja yesterday, some senators, who described the allegation as a ruse, claimed that what some of their colleagues regarded as forgery, are amendments.
According to Senator Abiodun Olujimi, the amendments made in the 2015 Senate Standing Order being referred to as forgeries by the Lawanists in the Senate, were carried out by the management of the National Assembly for the inauguration of the 8th Senate.
She said the senators alleging forgeries as a result of slight amendments effected on the 2011 Senate Standing Order used by the 7th Senate as reflected in the 2015 Senate Standing Order, are just playing politics with a strictly internal matter of the Senate.
She noted that those playing politics have forgotten that legislative immunity on such matter prevents both the police and the court of law to meddle in it.
“As far as majority of the senators are concerned, the alleged forgeries being bandied about by Ahmad Lawan and his group, is a ruse, because for every new senate, a new standing order must be provided which was what was given to senators at the inauguration of the 8th Senate on the 9th of last month (June).
“Lawan and the other senators crying wolf where there is none were not the only senators, who were in the 7th Senate; and besides, the 7th Senate ended with its standing order of 2011 on the 4th of June 2015. The 2015 Senate Standing Order is a fresh document meant for the 8th Senate and not 7th Senate. So, where lies the forgery they are talking about?” she asked.
She added that appropriate sanction may later be meted out to those dragging the institution of the Senate in the mud on matters that are strictly internal.
“I think there are reprimands for those, who go outside the line, I am sure that the senate will apply appropriate sanction at the appropriate when to those that may be found culpable on this matter at the end of the day,” she stressed.
Senators Hope Uzodinma, Shehu Sani and George Sekibo, in their separate reactions, also said what reflected on the 2015 Senate Standing Order in comparison to similar provisions in the 2011 document used by the 7th Senate, were amendments and not forgery as alleged by some of their colleagues.
They said what the aggrieved senators should have done, was to have initiated the process of amending the provisions they found offensive and not shouting forgery and even taken the matter to the police.
The forgery scandal rocking the 8th Senate as alleged by the pro Lawan senators have to do with amendments made to the 2015 Senate Standing Rule, by yet to be identified individuals, upon which a petition was written by Senator Suleiman Hunkunyi, to the police for necessary action last month.
The petition reads in part, “We write to bring to your attention, the existence of the fraudulent introduction of a 2015 Senate Standing Rules as amended.
“We wish to attach the original and authentic Standing Order for 2011 that was used by the 7th Senate, Annexure A.
“We again attached the annex Herero, a purported amended standing order 2015, which was used by the Clerk to the National Assembly (along with the Clerk of the Senate) in inaugurating the 8th Senate on (Tuesday) June 9, 2015.
“The so called new standing order purports to allow for secret instead of the open ballot system that has been prevalent in all Senate elections as permitted by the extant rules.
“This infraction, among others, arise from the fraudulent production of the Rules without an approved consideration by the 7th Senate.
“At no time was the standing order of the Senate amended during the entire life of the 7th Senate neither has the 8th Senate sat for long enough to produce the rules now being circulated and in use”.
The police, on the strength of the petition, subsequently quizzed the leadership of the 7th Senate, including Senator David Mark; his deputy, Senator Ike Ekweremadu; former Senate Leader, Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba; and the former Chairman, Senate Committee on Rules and Business, Senator Ita Enang.
The Senate will resume on Tuesday (July 28), after a five-week adjournment of Plenary activities on June 25, after some principal officers were appointed amid controversy.
Meanwhile, while the APC camp is boiling with its senators at daggers drawn, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)’s seems to have known peace.
This follows revelation that the coast could be clear for the emergence of Senator Godwill Akpabio from Akwa Ibom State as the Senate Minority Leader on Tuesday’s resumption of the Upper Chamber.
It was gathered on Monday that Akpabio received endorsements for the position by the caucuses of the PDP in the Senate across the six geopolitical zones.
One of the caucuses’ endorsements of Akpabio for the position took place at the official residence of the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike EKweremadu, on Monday evening when all the 15 senators from the South-East unanimously endorsed him.
It was also gathered that prior to the South-East PDP caucus endorsement of Akpabio, 15 out of the 17 PDP senators from the South-South, his geopolitical zone, had also endorsed him.
Ditto for the entire five PDP senators from the South-West geopolitical zone as informed by one of the female senators from Ekiti State.
Apart from Akpabio, other minority principal officers of the Senate set to emerged on Tuesday as approved by the various PDP caucuses in the Senate are: Emmanuel Bwacha from Taraba State, Senate Deputy Minority Leader, Senator Philip Aduda from the FCT), Senate Minority Whip and Abiodun Olujimi from Ekiti State as the Deputy Minority Whip.
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