The Senate on Thursday rejected a motion seeking its nod to debate the speech delivered by President Muhammadu Buhari on the Democracy Day.
But the opposition parties led by the Peoples Democratic Party and the Campaign for Democracy have faulted the All Progressives Congress-dominated Senate‘s action. They said it was a bad omen for democracy, adding that the senators should show courage so as not to encourage dictatorship.
The majority of the senators at plenary overwhelmingly voted against the motion when the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, who presided over the session, subjected it to voice vote.
The motion was moved by Senator Istifanus Gyang (Plateau-PDP), who came under Order 52 of the Senate standing order.
Gyang had sought the leave of her colleagues to present the motion which he described as a matter of public importance.
He said, “The matter of urgent national importance that I am bringing before this Senate has to do with the Democracy Day speech of President Muhammadu Buhari on the 12th of June, 2019. This speech is already in the public domain. I am asking that in view of the interest it has generated, we should debate it.”
Lawan had to cut short the speech of the lawmaker when he asked him to seek the consent of other senators to entertain the motion.
Most of the members of the All Progressives Congress-dominated voted against the motion and it was consequently shut down.
Buhari’s speech delivered at the Eagle Square, Abuja, on Wednesday announced the renaming of the National Stadium Abuja after the acclaimed winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election, the late MKO Abiola.
The President also said with good governance the Federal Government could take 100 million Nigerians from poverty to prosperity in the next 10 years.
Lawan sets up ad hoc committee, Senate adjourns till July 2
Lawan on Thursday swore in a 12-member ad hoc committee to liaise with the management of the National Assembly on House Keeping issues.
The committee, which has as chairman, Senator Abubakar Kyari, is expected to work out the allocation of seats in the chamber as well as the allocation of offices to the senators.
The committee, whose assignment started immediately, according to Lawan, will work with the Clerk of the Senate, Alhaji Mohammed Sani-Omolori.
The committee is expected to submit its report within two weeks.
Members of the committee include senators Aisha Modibo, Gabriel Suswam, Sabi Abdullahi, Betty Apiafi and Bassey Akpan.
Others are Jibrin Barau, Ibrahim Gobir, Nicholas Tofowomo, Adeola Olamilekan, Chukwuka Utazi and Stella Oduah.
The Senate also on Thursday agreed to write letters to President Muhammadu Buhari, to inform him about the inauguration of the 9th National Assembly and the election of presiding officers.
The red chamber also resolved to send similar letters to international parliamentary bodies such as the African Union, Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, Inter-Parliamentary Union, ECOWAS Parliament, Pan African Parliament and Association of Senates, Shoora and Equivalent Council in Africa and the Arab World.
Also, the Senate directed the Clerk to the National Assembly to send the same message to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation.
They also resolved to send congratulatory messages to the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives on their elections.
The red chamber later adjourned for 19 days to enable the management of the federal parliament to come up with acceptable arrangements for the lawmakers’ office accommodation.
They will resume on July 2.
Senate’s action not good omen for democracy – SDP
Reacting to the Senate’s action, the Social Democratic Party said the development was not a good omen for the nation’s democracy.
The party’s National Publicity Secretary, Alfa Mohammed, said this in an interview with one of our correspondents.
Mohammed said, “I would have said that it is too early to place the direction of the Senate leadership, but considering the fact that the Presidency openly championed their campaign, and as you could see, immediately after they were inaugurated, their first place of call was the Villa for a ‘thank you visit’ to Mr President with the Deputy Senate President going on his knees.
“That is not a good omen for the flourish of one of the cardinal principles of democracy, the separation of powers. So, at a period as we have now that the executive arm of government needs a strict monitoring and check of the legislative arm to keep it on its toes, a rubber stamp legislature will spell doom for the country.
“…Meanwhile, I am not abreast of the development at the National Assembly and why the debate was turned down, but I can’t fathom any reason why the NASS should turn down a debate on the President’s June 12 speech, especially when the key element of the speech, the renaming of the National Stadium after the late winner of the June 12, 1993 election, Chief MKO Abiola, was widely accepted as a right step.”
Show courage, PDP tells Lawan
Also, the Peoples Democratic Party has called on Lawan to be independent and show courage.
The main opposition party said it was wrong for the President of the Senate to refuse his colleagues the opportunity of debating Buhari’s speech.
The National Chairman of the PDP, Prince Uche Secondus, who spoke with one of our correspondents, said the Senate should know it was serving the entire nation and not a section of the country or a political party.
He said, “I want to appeal to the President of the Senate, Senator Ahmed Lawan, to be independent and show courage. He should not allow himself to be controlled from outside. He should know that the National Assembly is a different arm of government that should check the excesses of the executive.
“Without a vibrant and independent National Assembly, our democracy will be a mere figure head. The legislature is the symbol of democratic rule. I therefore plead with him, not to shut out his colleagues from speaking.
“The speech made by the President yesterday (Wednesday) was meant to be dissected by the lawmakers. We needed to have it debated and see its workability or otherwise.”
It’s a sign we’ll have a rubber stamp Senate-ADC
In the same vein, the National Publicity Secretary, African Democratic Congress, Yemi Kolapo, told one of our correspondents that there was only a thin line between the executive and the legislature under President Buhari.
She said, “It is clear that the 9th Senate will be a very boring one. That it will be a rubber stamp is also given. Would the leaders of the APC have made Saudi Arabia and Dubai a second home, during the chess game that produced Lawan for fun?
“Would they have spent huge resources and time etc for the beneficiary to start being diplomatic with issues concerning the President?
“Today, we are in a situation where there is only a very thin line between the Executive, Legislature and perhaps the Judiciary.”
Senate not in control of itself – CD
Also, the Campaign for Democracy has said the Senate’s action shows that the upper house of the National Assembly is not in control of itself.
The CD President, Usman Abdul, said, “One of the strong arms that reflect true democracy is the legislature. Therefore, the National Assembly should represent and accommodate divergent interests.
“If the executive is beginning to pocket the legislature, it is like we don’t have a democracy. Look at the emergence of the leaders of the assembly; look at the senator who became the Deputy Senate President, and look at their first motion and what happened to it, and you will see that the legislative arm is not firmly in control.”
Be patient with Senate, says CDHR
But the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights said the Senate should be given time to settle down, adding that Nigerians should show understanding with its initial shortcomings.
The CDHR President, Malachy Ugwummadu, said, “It is in our collective interest that the National Assembly should be allowed to settle down. We should have two or three incidents before we can accommodate any anxiety of how things are or should be.
“What Nigerians are desirous to see is complementary legislature and executive. However, the purpose of the legislature in a democracy is to be able to infuse the views of the masses into the programmes of the executive.