Rowdy session in Senate over minority leadership positions - NEWS FRONTIER DAILY


Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Rowdy session in Senate over minority leadership positions

The Senate temporarily degenerated into a rowdy session on Tuesday, over the announcement of Senator Osita Ngwu (PDP, Enugu West), as Minority Whip by Senate President, Godswill Akpabio. 

Tuesday’s session started on a usually friendly note with everything going on as scheduled with announcements, motions and other orders of the days business. 

The Senate President then read out a letter from the minority caucus announcing the choice of Senator Abba Moro (PDP, Benue South), as Minority Leader. 

However, the mood in the Senate changed when he announced Osita Ngwu (PDP, Enugu West) , as minority Whip. 

Akpabio announced that the two new minority leaders where supported by a majority of their colleagues in the opposition. 

He said 41 minority senators signed the document endorsing Moro as minority leader while 30 backed Ngwu for minority whip seat. 

The announcement drew loud protests from Labour Party Senators who felt their party was being shut out.

The PDP maintains majority in the opposition with over 30 senators while Labour Party has seven. SDP and NNPP have two senators each and APGA has one. 

Senator Okechukwu Ezea (LP, Enugu North), raised a point of order to protest the absence of his party in the minority leadership.
Ezea said, “At the minority meeting from which we just came out of, Abba Moro, was endorsed but the position of minority whip we agreed to schedule another meeting because the leadership has to be shared equitably. 

"There is no way we have four leadership seats for minority in this Senate and the PDP will take three of the seats. The next Party is Labour Party with seven senators and we get nothing, that is unfair, that is unjust, that is unacceptable and is against the spirit of the Nigerian Constitution.

"How can the PDP take three minority leadership seats? This is unfair, unjust and unacceptable.”

Ruling on Ezea’s  point of order, Akpabio said, "That is the PDP, If you were talking about the APC, I am sure they would have been fair and considerate. I am in total sympathy with the Labour Party,  I am in total sympathy with the minority party, SDP and others.”

Tempers rose and voices were raised leading to a rowdy session as Senators from all sides tried to outspeak one another. 

Amid the uproar which ensued, Senator Tony Nwoye (LP, Anambra North) accused Akpabio of picking minority leaders for the opposition parties. 

He said, "How can you be chosing minority leaders for us? Are we your slaves?" Nwoyi tackled the Senate President. 

Lawmakers from the ruling party joined they fry as they made efforts to pacify their colleagues from LP, other approached Akpabio for consultations on how to resolve the impasse. 

After roughly 16 minutes, the Senate President restored calmed nerves before addressing opposition lawmakers.

He dismissed insinuations that he had a vested interest in the affairs of the opposition parties in the Senate.

Akpabio explained that he merely announced the names forwarded to him by the opposition caucus and that it would be unfair not to respect the voice of the majority when it has spoken.

He said, "All we need to produce a leader is a simple majority. What's the reason for not agreeing with the position of the majority? 

"41 minority senators signed for Abba Moro and 30 signed for Osita Ngwu. They have the majority. It will be unfair for me not to announce them after getting majority of support. My job is not to work with individual opinion but with majority of position."

"If you are about 48 or 49 and 30 people have signed, what is the magic that you said he should not be announced?

If you are 49 and 41 persons have signed for Abba Morro, what is the reason why you said the Senate President should not announce? The majority have agreed. 

"The majority have signed, and some are still signing, but not all of you have signed for Abba Moro, but he already has the majority. 

“It would be unfair for me to ignore the majority signatures and refuse to announce senator Moro as your minority leader for now, at the same time it would also be unfair for me to see somebody who actually is in the majority, what he actually need is 24 or 25 senators and he has up to 30 and I will not announce him. 

"No matter your personal observations, I just want to plead with my colleagues to understand that my job here is not to take individual's opinion or to work what some want but to work on the bases of truth.”

Senator Adamu Aliero (PDP, Kebbi) tried but failed to convince Akpabio to stay action on the seat of the minority whip as the Senate President ruled him out of order. 

Aliero explained that the opposition caucus resolved that Abba Moro should be the minority leader but was yet to decide on the position of  the minority whip.

But Akpabio referred him to Senate Standing Rule 52(6), which says it shall be out of order for any senator to speak on any issue that has already been decided.

With the latest arrangement, the PDP has taken three out of the four principal positions reserved for the minority parties. 

The Senate Minority Leader and Minority Whip seats became vacant after the Court of Appeal sacked the two former occupants, Senator Simon Davou Mwadkwon (PDP, Plateau North) and Darlington Nwokocha (LP, Abia Central) respectively. 

The Court of Appeal  nullified the election of Mwadkwon and ordered a rerun while Nwokocha was removed and Augustine Akobundu of the PDP declared as the authentic winner of the 25 February election in the senatorial district. 

Only last week, PDP senators held a crucial meeting within the National Assembly complex Abuja preparatory to the replacements of the vacant principal positions of Senate Minority Leader and Minority Whip. 

Senator Garba Maidoki (PDP, Bauchi), who briefed journalists after the closed door meeting, had said the opposition lawmakers settled for North Central geo political zone to produce the Minority Leader. 

During Tuesday's plenary, Akpabio announced the duo of Abba Moro (PDP, Benue South) as minority leader and Osita Ngwu (PDP, Enugu West) as minority whip. 

Addressing reporters soon after the day’s session, the new Minority Leader, called for unity and promised on behalf of his colleagues to play the role of a vibrant opposition.

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