A former member of the upper chambers of the National Assembly, Senator Ayo Arise, has called on the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, to as a matter of urgency and necessity, approach the Supreme Court on the need to declare the seats of Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, and other defecting senators vacant.
Arise, who is a senatorial aspirant in Ekiti North for the 2019 National Assembly election, said that the only solution to the current logjam and political uproar in the country now is for the executive arm of government to be bold enough to uphold section 68 (1) g. of the constitution to declare the seats of all defecting senators vacant.
Arise, an erstwhile Chairman, Senate Committee on Privatisation, made the call while speaking on a television programme monitored in Ado Ekiti.
He said: “According to section 68 (1) g. of Nigerian Constitution, Dr Saraki and others who have just decamped from their original parties without a valid reason as prescribed by the constitution are no longer members of the National Assembly and by extension, Saraki has ceased to be the President of the Nigerian Senate.
“Therefore, it is now imperative for the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice to do the needful by approaching the Supreme Court to save the country from the ongoing defection-mentality which has now become a recurring practice in Nigerian politics, especially in the build up to every election.”
Arise, who represented Ekiti North Senatorial District between 2007 and 2011 at the Senate, said the issue at stake was far beyond individual or a group of people, but rather a constitutional matter in order to move the country forward, saying: “Nigeria will forever remain underdeveloped politically if we fail to do what is right by adhering to the tenets and dictates of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“Law is not a respecter of anybody and it must not be held contrary in Nigeria, hence the need for the law to take its course in the latest development and set the record straight once and for all. This will go a long way at bringing sanity and sanctity into the nation’s democracy.
“The Supreme Court, in the case between Hon. Ifedayo Abegunde and Ondo State House of Assembly and others, had unambiguously settled the issue of defections, when it defined the difference between factionalisation and fractionalisation of a political party and explained the reasons that can warrant the defection of any elected member of the national or state assembly without suffering the consequences as stated in section 68 (1)g of our constitution.
“It stated that fractionalisation of a party could not have warranted any lawmaker to change his or her party but held that, factionalisation through which a legislator can decamp must be in conformity with the section 68(2) of the constitution which states that, there must be a division in the party.
“What factionalisation or division means here is that, there must be a parrallel executive from the national to the ward level within the affected political party before the constitutional requirements that permits defection without forfeiture of one’s seat could be met.
“And as at today, there is no such ground in the APC to allow Saraki and others to change from the party through which they became legislators without losing their seats in the National Assembly. They could participate in a new election to fill their seats in their new parties.”
On the possibility of having the INEC budget for the 2019 general elections passed into law because of the current stand-off between the National Assembly and the Executive arm, Sen. Arise noted that, the constitution allowed the President to spend up to 50 per cent of previous budget proposal in the event of a delay in passing a current budget by the lawmakers.