Lawyers, Including A Senior Advocate Of Nigeria, Disagree On The Absenteeism Of Some APC Legislators And Procedural Issues In The Election Of New NASS Leadership
A Lagos based lawyer, Ebun Olu-Adegboruwa, has disagreed with Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Prof. Itse Sagay, over the election of Senator Bukola Saraki and Hon. Yakubu Dogara as Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives. Prof. Sagay had said: “The bulk of the APC senators were having a meeting with the President and in their absence, PDP senators and Senator Saraki’s supporters in the APC went to the chambers and started the proceedings and nominated Saraki unopposed as President of the Senate.
‘’In my view, it is not only an act of gross impunity which Senator Saraki has brought from the PDP but he has now demonstrated it in the Senate. It is an illegal act because there is no way a Senate can be formally inaugurated without all the members being present – provided they want to be present. ‘’They knew that the bulk of the APC senators were not there and the APC senators intended to participate in the election.
For Saraki and other PDP senators to have gone ahead to do that election in their absence was an act of illegality and criminality. ‘’It was an attempted coup in the first arm of government in Nigeria and it is a very serious assault on democracy in this country and if I was the President, I would refuse to recognise the result of such an illegal exercise and insist that a proper Senate is convened to elect its officials’’.
Disagreeing, Adegboruwa said the election was validly conducted and as such, legally binding. Making his position known in a press statement made available to The Union in Lagos yesterday, Adegboruwa said “the process of proclamation of the National Assembly was validly initiated by the President”. According to him the proclamation of the National Assembly was duly communicated to all member-elect and as such those who stayed away, made a choice which outcome need not be visited on the whole body.
He said: “Upon the Clerk of the National Assembly receiving a formal letter from the President, for the proclamation of the National Assembly, power had changed hands, from the President, to the National Assembly bureaucracy (the Clerk), as upon issuance of the letter authorizing proclamation, the President had discharged his own constitutional obligation and had become functus officio, either to delay, halt or abort the process of proclamation, or even to direct a different course of action, such as convening a meeting of senators of the APC extraction only, at another venue.
“The letter of the President to inaugurate the National Assembly takes precedence over and above any other internal correspondence, with APC legislators. This is because the President is incompetent to issue another directive, by mail, sms or otherwise, to his own party members only, capable of subverting or undermining the proclamation of the National Assembly, a process which involves legislators of other political parties and the APC could not seek to impose its own internal wranglings, to hold Nigeria to ransom. “At least 75 Senators were present in the Senate, going by the election of the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, who polled 54 votes to Senator Ali Ndume’s 20 votes, with 1 abstention, making 75. So, 51 senators could not have been absent, from the stable of the APC, if the total number of Senators is 109.
Thus, whether one goes by the simple majority of 55 Senators, as prescribed by the Constitution or that of 38 Senators, as prescribed by the Rules of the Senate, the Senate leadership was properly and validly elected. “It is indeed unfortunate, that some Senators chose not to be present at the inauguration, for whatever reasons. Their absence, without lawful excuse, will not invalidate the proceedings of the Senate of June 9, 2015”, he added.
Adegboruwa also argued that APC displayed classic arrogance in its decision to hold a mock election with which it sought to impose a leadership on the National Assembly. “On June 6, 2015, the All Progressives Congress gathered most of its National Assembly legislators together in Abuja, in an attempt to hijack the leadership of the National Assembly, in what it termed a ‘mock’ election. Nigerians across the land rose up to condemn that crass display of political arrogance, by the APC and mobilisation commenced nationwide, to call the bluff of the APC, by rejecting the nocturnal choices of the APC, for the National Assembly leadership”, he said.
The lawyer also said APC lacked moral authority to complain since its elected representatives participated in the election. “The APC participated in the proclamation of the National Assembly, through its elected members, so it was aware of it and was part of it. APC participated in the election of the principal officers of the National Assembly, through its elected members. The person elected as Senate President is a Senator of the APC, who was nominated by another APC senator and his nomination was also seconded by another APC senator.
“Other APC senators present, who may have been opposed to the nomination of the APC Senate President, did not forward or suggest a contrary nomination, meaning that Senator Bukola Saraki was unopposed and elected by all 75 senators present. That is the position of the proceedings of June 9. “APC participated actively in the election of Deputy Senate President.
An APC senator, Ali Ndume, contested with a PDP senator, Ike Ekweremadu. Ndume was nominated by an APC senator and his nomination was seconded by an APC senator. 20 APC senators voted for Ndume, thus legitimizing the process”, he maintained. He also backed his argument by a Supreme Court decision in Akhiwu v. The Principal Lotteries Officer, Mid-Western State of Nigeria, (1972) ALL NLR 233, “where a party has consented to the procedure adopted at the trial in the High Court and in fact suffers no injustice, it is too late for him to complain on appeal that the wrong procedure was followed.”
“So how can APC go to court, to challenge its own election, which it participated in fully? The APC as a political party has no locus standi or recognition by law, in the election or indeed the affairs of the National Assembly. So it can’t go to court. It is only Senators and the Reps that can approach the court.
“What on earth will be the grouse of the APC legislators in court? That they were not allowed to attend the inauguration? By who? By their party, the APC? Or by the President, who had already directed the Clerk to proclaim the National Assembly? “The APC senators who were deliberately absent, on a frolic of their own, did not send any official letter or give any reason to the Clerk, for their inexplicable absence and they did not request officially, for the programme of inauguration to be delayed or postponed, even when such will not be countenanced”, he stated.