…Says Senate lacks power to suspend any member, ban group
…Insists court judgment on Sen Ndume’s suit still subsisting
…Vows to stop bid to override Buhari on sequence of elections
The last may not have been heard about the division in the Senate as senators loyal to President Muhammadu Buhari have insisted that the upper chamber lacks the power to ban them.
This follows the Senate decision last week to disband the Parliamentary Support Group for President Buhari and later handed 90 legislative days suspension on Senator Ovie Omo- Agege (APC, Delta Central).
A top ranking Senator, who spoke in confidence on Sunday, confided in The Daily Times that the group will resist the attempt by Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki and his associates to turn Senate into ‘anything goes’.
The senator said: “Saraki is not the president of senators. He is just a leader among equals. But he is stressing his power beyond his constitutional boundary.
“Firstly, he lacks power to outlaw any group. By virtue of the 1999 Constitution, we have the right to belong to any association. We did not form our group in Senate, we meet outside the Red Chambers.
“Can you magine the impunity of the Senate President calling for the ban of Buhari Support Group when he did not have the power. What of other groups like Northern Senators Forum, Southern Senators Forum?”
The Daily Times learnt the group is an ad-hoc arrangement with the agenda to block Senate bid to override the President on sequence of elections and support Buhari; ensure passage of 2018 Budget in April; pass vote of confidence on the acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr Ibrahim Magu; and ensure reverse of Omo- Agege’s suspension among others.
The senator further stressed that the Senate lacks power to suspend any Senator, citing the landmark judicial precedent in Ndume v the Senate to buttress his point.
The Daily Times reports that although the Senate has appealed against the verdict, the request before the Court of Appeal in Abuja is not tantamount to stay of proceedings as the Federal High Court in Abuja held that Ndume’s suspension was illegal on the grounds that the Senate lacked the power to suspend federal lawmaker in the first place.
Unless Court of Appeal rules otherwise, the verdict of the lower court is still subsisting.
Another flaw cited by the source is that the report of Sen Anyanwu-led Ethics and Privileges Committee was signed by six members, adding that all the members of the Committee are PDP except 2 APC members.
According to the senator, the Senate president is not helping the party on which platform he held sway as Senate president by banning a group that purportedly supports the president.
He said, “If the Senate president is a loyal party man, why would he be antagonistic to a group supporting the president who is the national leader of his party?, he asked.
He disclosed that the division in the Senate is obvious and that those of them in the Parliamentary Support Group will not abandon Senator Omo- Agege in his trying period. He said members of the group will prevail on the suspended senator not to withdraw his suit as demanded by the Senate but pursue to its logical conclusion.
He even threatened that the group will challenge its disbandment in court.
But responding to the issues, one of the members of Senate leadership told The Daily Times last night that the leadership of the Senate remains unperturbed by the threat from the Support Group to challenge the decision of the Senate in court.
He added that the Senate leadership will not waver but stick to its gun as its decision was purely parliamentary procedure without prejudice to any senator or group.
The Senator, who sought anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the matter said, “ The leadership believes that the sanctity of the Senate as an institution has to be protected above any personal interest.”
Senator Omo-Agege was last Thursday suspended for 90 days by the Senate over his comment that the amendment to the Electoral Act 2010 to reorder the sequence of polls in a general election was targeted at President Buhari.