By NIYI ODEBODE, JOHN ALECHENU AND SUNDAY ABORISADE
Senators who served in the 7th Senate, on Saturday, disowned the 2015 edition of the Senate Standing Orders as amended.
The senators who are from different political parties, said they were not aware of any amendments to the 2011 Senate Standing Orders.
Acting on a petition by Senator Sulaiman Hunkuyi (All Progressives Congress, Kaduna State), the police had on July 6 quizzed the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, and the Clerk of the National Assembly, Mr. Salisu Maikasuwa, over an alleged forgery of the standing orders.
The ‘forged’ orders were said to have been used in the election of Ekweremadu and the Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki.
The PUNCH had exclusively reported on Thursday that the police said that they would release the report on their investigation into the alleged forgery this week.
The petition alleged that some parts of the 2015 Senate Orders were different from the one ratified by the 6th Senate in 2010, which was used by the 7th Senate as Standing Orders 2011.
One of our correspondents who perused both orders, reports that in the 2015 Senate orders, Rule 3 as contained on page four of the standing rule, which has to do with the election of presiding officers, is different from the 2011 Senate Order.
Rules 3(e) (I) and (ii) have been included in the 2015 document to accommodate electronic voting and secret ballot, whereas secret ballot and ballot papers were not specifically mentioned in the 2011 Standing Orders.
The Senate Order 3 (E ii) of 2011 states, “Voting shall be conducted by the Clerks-at-the Table, using the Division List of the Senate with the Tellers in attendance. The Clerk of the Senate shall submit the result of the division to the Clerk of the National Assembly.
“(iii) The Clerk shall then declare the Senator-elect who has received the greater number of votes, elected as President of the Senate.”
The same section in the 2015 Senate Order however reads, “Voting by secret ballot which shall be conducted by the Clerk-at-Table using the list of the Senators-elect of the Senate, who shall each be given a ballot paper to cast his vote with the proposers and seconder as Teller. The Clerk of the Senate shall submit the result of the voting to the Clerk of the National Assembly who shall then declare Senator-elect who has received the highest number of votes as Senate President-elect.”
The open ballot procedure was adopted by the Senate to produce the past Senate President, David Mark and his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu. Senators were called, one after the other, and they openly identified with the candidate of their choice.
Apart from ‘alteration’ to the procedure for election, the order 95 of the 2011 rule on the chairmanship and membership of the Committees is also different in the 2015 version.
In the 2011 document, provisions in Order 95 reads, “The membership of all committees shall not be less than 11 and not more than 13 senators. (2) No senator shall serve in more than three committees (3) No committee chairman shall serve in more than one other committee.”
However, a new insertion in the amended version reads: “The appointment of Senators as Chairmen and members of committees shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the six geopolitical zones of the country and there shall be no predominance of senators from a few geo-political zones.”
A large number of the Peoples Democratic Party Senators refused to comment on the topic but the few who spoke with SUNDAY PUNCH, said they were not privy to any amendments to the standing rule.
Senator Victor Lar (PDP, Plateau South) declared, “As at the time we left the Senate, there were no alterations (to the Senate Standing Orders).”
He said, “The Senate did set up a committee to amend the provisions of the Standing Rules of 1999, that amendment was adopted and so the Senate rules as at 2003, 2007, and 2011 have been the same.”
Similarly, a former high ranking member of the PDP in the Senate, who spoke on condition of anonymity said, the controversy over whether or not the rules were altered was unnecessary.
According to him, the bureaucracy of the National Assembly is in the best position to explain what happened if at all there was any infraction.
He said, “Usually, at the beginning of any new session, you are given a copy of the Rule Book (Senate Standing Orders) which is printed by the management. If any change needs to be done, senators agree on it. I will give you an example, we used to have a rule called rule 101 that was introduced towards the end of the 5th Senate but when we came back in the 6th Senate, we realised that that rule ran contrary to Section 64 even though we had approved it at plenary, in another plenary we agreed to remove it.”
However, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Rules and Business in 7th Senate, Senator Ita Enang, explained that the Standing Orders that should have been used for the inauguration of the 8th Senate is the Standing Orders that was used and closed within the 7th Senate.
Enang was in the PDP when he was in the Senate, but he later defected to the APC.
He said, “I made proposal for amendments between 2011 and 2015, I laid the report on the floor, but we did not consider the report. We did not amend the Standing Orders.
“Before we left, I had approved the reprinting of the Standing Orders and the reprinting did not include inserting anything which was not in the old one. Reprinting is, simply reproduce what we have because there are no more copies,” he added.
Also commenting on the development, Senator Babafemi Ojudu (APC), who represented Ekiti Central in the 7th Senate, said, “There were no amendments at all. I spoke with Senator Ita Enang, who was the custodian of the rules and he expressed shock.
“Any amendments done to the Senate Rules which we used in the 7th Senate is criminal and perpetrators should be charged for forgery.”
Senator Adesoji Akanbi, (Oyo Central, APC); Senator Solomon Adeola, (Lagos West, APC); and Senator Gbenga Ashafa, (Lagos East, APC) said they were not aware of any such amendments when contacted on Saturday.
It is a forged document — Marafa
Senator Kabir Marafa, (Zamfara Central, APC ) who was a member of the 7th Senate and had been re-elected into the 8th Senate alleged that order 3 (2) (iv) had been added into the new rule book which now made it compulsory to spread committee members and chairmanship across the six geopolitical zones.
Marafa, who is a member of the present 8th Senate, was also in the 7th Senate.
He also said that a careful study of both the old and new standing rule at its disposal, showed that the insertion of order 3 ( 3e i – iiii ) was done deliberately to accommodate a member of the opposition party as deputy senate president.
Marafa said, “The problem is that the senate was inaugurated using a forged document. Who forged that document? We can’t gloss over or sweep that criminality under the carpet, Nigeria is not a Banana Republic!”
“The insertion of order 3 (2 iv) & 3 (3e i-iiii) in the 2015 edition is a deliberate act perpetrated by fifth columnists operating within the National Assembly to sabotage the government of President Muhammadu Buhari.
“It was done to cause friction, disaffection and generate bad blood among senators from different zones and provoke confusion in the senate with the sole aim of stagnating government business to give them time to perfect their agenda.”
He further alleged that the insertion of order 3 (2 iv ), was done to favour the PDP caucus in the senate who supported Senator Saraki, to become the Senate President.
He said, “For 16 years of PDP leadership, the presiding officers and committee headship was skewed in favour of the zones that produce more PDP senators but suddenly they introduce equality of zones in the distribution of these offices because they lost out, this is unacceptable by APC senators.”
Senator Dino Melaye, representing Kogi West, in the current 8th Senate, neither denied nor confirmed whether the rules were ammended legally or illegally when contacted on phone.
Although Melaye is in the APC, he belongs to the group, Like Minds Senators, loyal to Saraki.
He simply said, “The issue will be sorted out on resumption of plenary. There is no cause for alarm.
Procedure for amending orders
Another senator from the South-West geopolitical zone, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said there was no time that the 7th Senate made such amendments.
The senator, who was a member of the Senate Committee on Rules and Business, which has the responsibility to initiate such amendments described the new 2015 Senate Standing Order as a forgery and called for the immediate prosecution of the perpetrators.
He said, “We did not change anything in the rules used for the 7th Senate. The procedure for such amendments are clearly stated even in the rule itself and none of the process took place throughout the life time of the 7th Senate.
“Even in the proposed amendment, we did not include the issue of secret ballot system. Who inserted it? When the ballot box did become a matter of the chamber?
“The only thing we inserted in the proposed one was to insert the Committee on MDG. There was the Committee on Commerce and Industry, the Senate President abolished it and created Committee on Investment. There was a dispute between Senators Nenadi Usman and Odion Ugbesia, so we created the committee on investment and deleted the committee on trade and industry.
“We then assigned more functions to the Committee on Special Duties. Apart from these amendments, we didn’t touch any other aspect. The resistance of Senator David Mark to approve the aspect which would assign specific productive functions to the deputy senate president delayed deliberation on the proposed amendments.
Special Adviser to the Senate President, Mr. Yusuph Olaniyonu, said he was not in a position to answer whether the rule was properly amended or not and he consequently directed our correspondent to the management of the National Assembly who inaugurated the 8th Senate.
He said, “I cannot speak on the issue because Senator Bukola Saraki was not yet the Senate President when the Standing Order was produced. I think you should direct your enquiries to the management of the National Assembly for further information”
The Clerk to the National Assembly, Salisu Maikasuwa, also declined comments when contacted.
Attempts to speak with the Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to former Senate President David Mark, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, were unsuccessful as his mobile phone was switched off when our correspondent called him on Saturday. Also, the Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Paul Mumeh, did not pick his calls when contacted.
Also, attempts to reach the Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, were unsuccessful.
Repeated calls to the mobile telephone number of his Special Adviser (Media), Mr. Uche Anickuwu, indicated that it was switched off.
A response to a text message sent to him was still being awaited as at the time of filing this report (8:00pm).
Culled from PUNCH