The Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria may be heading for a rowdy session on Tuesday as the legislative House is expected to unveil the ministerial list sent by President Muhammadu Buhari on September 30 as indications of what to expect at plenary are emerging.
The session may be stormy following insistence by some Senators that the President must, in line with the constitution, submit himself for screening if he appoints himself Minister of Petroleum.
The Upper legislative Chamber may also reject an incomplete ministerial list, the opinion that the constitution provides for a nominee from each state of the federation and that any list that did not cover the 36 states would suffer serious opposition on the floor of the Senate.
The ongoing prosecution of trial of the President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) notwithstanding, the senators have vowed that they would not be cowed as the would adopt stringent measures in line with the provisions of the Constitution during the screening of ministerial nominees.
For them, the tradition of take-a-bow for senators coming for screening as ministers would be jettisoned, adding that they were prepared to send names of nominees to the sender of such a list.
Saraki, is currently facing trial at CCT, following a 13-count charge levelled against him by the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB), bordering on alleged corruption and false declaration of assets between 2003 and 2011.
The lawmakers had last Tuesday passed a vote of confidence on Saraki, his Deputy Ike Ekweremadu and all other principal officers after a motion moved by Sen. David Umoru (APC-Niger).
The moral nod to continue with his duty as the Senate President did not come as a surprise to many who are in the know about Nigerian political terrain but a few were shocked that the confidence vote was passed.
Originally, 84 Senators were listed as co-sponsors the vote-of-confidence motion as read by Senator Umaru.
Though the names of the 84 senators said to have co-sponsored the motion were not read on the floor of the Senate, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Business and Rules, Senator Babajide Omowarare (APC-Osun East) asked that his name be removed from the list.
Senator Omowarare’s protest did no harm to the motion, which sailed through via a voice vote, even after arguing that “Ordinarily, by virtue of my position as the Chairman, Committee on Business and Rules, I should have seen this motion before now.
“But it comes as matter of urgent public importance. My name is listed as number 11. Let me say that I don’t know how my name got into the list. I therefore say I am not part of it.”
Senator Umaru, while reading the motion argued that the Nigerian Constitution guaranteed separation of powers, condemning what he described as an ongoing “unwarranted media embarrassment of the Senate and the Senate leadership”, urging Nigerians not to allow themselves to be used to harass or intimidate the leadership of the Senate.
In the same light, Senator Sani Yerima (APC-Zamfara Central), called on his colleagues to “continue to support our leaders”, saying that the lawmakers’ have the right to choose their leadership and “anybody outside this chamber who wants to control the Senate should go and sleep”.
This position aligned with the thrust of Senator Saraki’s opening remarks as the senate resumed from its annual recess. The Senate President had prepared the ground for the motion by insisting that he was arraigned and being persecuted because he emerged Senate President contrary to the wishes of his party.
According to Senator Saraki in his welcome speech, “As we resume today, we must demonstrate clearly to Nigerians that we are prepared to fulfill our mandates and put Nigeria first in all that we do, no matter how we feel about anything else.” He added that “The enormity of our national challenges at this time does not give room for pettiness or politics of vendetta.”
On his travails, he said “Distinguished Senators, I believe you have all followed with keen interest, my trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal.
“I shall avoid discussing the details of that case here for obvious reasons. But let me say it again, that I am ready and will submit myself to the entire judicial process as provided by law.
“Primarily as a Senator of the Federal Republic and as Senate President I owe it to this Senate to stand strong in the face of relentless persecution.
“I invite all of you to stand with me to defend this Senate and preserve its sanctity”, Saraki had charged his colleague.