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Mark Rejects Minority Leadership

Principal Officers Of The 8Th Senate Are Expected To Emerge Today Amidst High Level Intrigues And Face-Off Between The Saraki And Lawan Factions And PDP Caucus

Teddy Nwanunobi, Abuja

As senators return from their two-week recess today, after their inaugural sitting on June 10, there are indications that the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) caucuses of the Upper Chamber would release the principal officers of the Chamber. This is coming on the heels of information that David Mark had declined to be minority leader despite being a ranking PDP senator.

Following this development, the controversy over whether the APC leaders should produce the four principal officers in the majority or the Party’s caucus should take up the responsibility might have been laid to rest as the issue has reportedly been settled at a meeting in Abuja on Monday. The UNION reports that the principal officers would not include the duo of Senator Bukola Saraki and Senator Ike Ekweremadu, who had both been elected the Senate President and Deputy Senate President, respectively.

While the APC caucus is expected to produce the Senate Majority Leader, Deputy Senate Majority Leader, Senate Chief Whip and Deputy Chief Whip, the PDP caucus, however, would produce the Minority Leader, Deputy Minority Leader, Minority Whip and Deputy Minority Whip. It was learnt that the two caucuses met separately in Abuja on Monday for hours at different locations. The UNION gathered that the separate meetings were geared towards finalising the list of the senators that would lead the 8th Senate. Information has it that the PDP caucus would push forward Senator James Manager (Delta South), Senator Phillip Aduda (FCT), Senator Joshua Dariye (Plateau Central) and Senator Joshua Lidani (Gombe South) to lead the opposition.

Former Senate President, Senator David Mark, it was gathered, had refused to automatically become the Senate Minority Leader, being the most ranking senator. As a result, the onus to lead the opposition on the floor of the Red Chamber now falls on Manager, who is the most ranking senator from the South- South geopolitical zone. The UNION learnt that the emergence of Ekweremadu as the Deputy Senate President is responsible for the loss of Senator Eyinnaya Abaribe. Abaribe was initially tipped to become the Deputy Minority Leader, in case Ekweremadu had declined offer of the Deputy Minority Leader being a fourth term senator. From the APC front, it was learnt that the Senator Ahmad Lawan loyalists, under the aegis of the Senate Unity Forum (SUF), had insisted that the Party leaders would present the four principal officers.

But loyalists of Saraki on the platform of Like Mind Senators (LMS) maintained that the zonal caucuses would decide their leaders. It was also gathered that the National Chairman of the APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, met for many hours behind closed doors with senators from both the Saraki and Lawan camps on Monday, and resolved the crisis. Sources at the meeting hinted that Senator Ali Ndume might have been made to agree to become the Senate Leader, while Senator Ahmed Sani Yerima would become his deputy. The sources also added that the meeting agreed to present the duo of Lawan and Senator George Akume as the Minority Whip and Deputy Minority Whip, respectively.

Further checks also revealed that the Senate President would read the list containing names of the principal officers from both caucuses at the resumed sitting today. The new leadership of the 8th Senate would, according to sources, consequently be saddled with the task of constituting the Committee of the Senate that would produce the list of senators that would make up the 54 standing committees of the Senate. The Committee would, in collaboration with the principal officers, compile the list of the chairmen, deputy chairmen and membership of the committees to drive the legislative agenda of the Saraki-led Senate. There are also indications that President Muhammadu Buhari might forward the list of ministerial nominees to the Senate for necessary consideration this week.

The 8th Senate would also revisit the issues of Petroleum Industry Bill, Constitution Review and the legislative agenda of the 8th Senate, which had yet to be unveiled by the new leadership. Saraki had, before the Senate embarked on recess, told Nigerians that the PIB would be given priority attention by the 8th Senate under his leadership. He also assured that the Fourth Alteration Bill to the 1999 Constitution, which was passed by the 7th Senate, but did not receive the assent of the former President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, would start receiving legislative attention in the Upper Chamber to ensure successful passage of the Bill by the current Assembly. Besides, Saraki, who is yet to unfold the legislative agenda, that is expected to guide and direct the activities of the 8th Senate, is likely to do so on resumption today.

This is in accordance with his earlier promise before the Chamber went on the short break. Saraki had, on Wednesday last week, reassured the commitment of the present Senate towards conclusive passage of the PIB through intensive dialogue that would address the fundamental problems that frustrated its passage in the 7th Senate. Saraki, who made the promise when he played host to the Managing Director, Shell Petroleum Development Company, (SPDC), Osagie Okunbor, and his team in his office in Abuja, said that the Senate would continue to embrace dialogue to fast track the easy passage of the Bill in the present dispensation.

He pointed out that the PIB remained a priority in the Senate. “We have to engage discussion and dialogue. We can break the jinx which can only be achieved devoid of politics. PIB is a priority in this Senate,” he said. Saraki further said that politics and other controversial issues, though very important, should be left out of the process for now. “We will break down the bulkiness of the bill and tackle all the grey areas,” he said.

On the issues of the 1999 Constitution Amendment Bill and the 2011 Electoral Act Amendment Bill, which were either passed by the National Assembly or refused assent by former President, Goodluck Jonathan, Saraki said that the Bills would be given priority attention as soon as the Senate resumes plenary. He gave the assurance while addressing members of the Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), who paid him a courtesy visit in his office in Abuja, last week, saying that the Senate would work harmoniously with the group in order to help fast track the developmental goals of the present administration. Meanwhile, The UNION reports that the National Assembly management has commenced the allocation of offices to senators of the 8th Senate.

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