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New Senate rule restricts President, Deputy seat to ranking members

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Wednesday, October 4th, 2023
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In what appears to be a preemptive move against destabilization, the Senate leadership on Tuesday pushed through an amendment to its standing rules.

Under the amended rule, only ranking members can stand for elections and be voted into the office of President and Deputy President of the Senate.

This is coming just two weeks after the 10th Senate suffered what many believe is an impeachment move against the Senate President, Godswill Akpabio.

The amendment was passed after Senators who attended the days session adopted a motion sponsored by the Senate majority leader, Opeyemi Bamidele.

Consequently, an amendment to section three of the Senate Standing Orders which stipulates that to vie for the position of president of the Senate or deputy president of the Senate, a senator must have spent one term or four years as a Senator.

Following the amendment, first-term senators are now barred from the list of those qualified / eligible to contest for the two topmost position of presiding officers of the Red Chambers.

The motion was entitled: “Amendment of the Standing Orders of the Senate pursuant to Order 109 of the Senate Standing Orders, 2022 (As Amended).”

Rule 3 of the Senate Standing Orders as amended now stipulates that any senator wishing to contest for the position of the Senate President and Deputy Senate President must have spent a minimum of one term in the senate.

However, opponents of the amended rule argue that it violates the 1999 constitution (As amended ) in its section 50(1) simply provided that: “there shall be a President and a Deputy President of the Senate, who shall be elected by the members of that House from among themselves.”

The Senate also amended its rules and created an additional nine Standing Committees bringing the number of Senate committees to 83 from its previous 74.

It can be recalled that during the inauguration of the 10th Senate in June, the former Zamfara State governor, Abdulaziz Yari, garnered 46 as against Godswill Akpabio’s 63 votes in the race for the Senate Presidency.

Roughly three weeks ago, the office of the Senate president raised an alarm alleging that it uncovered a plot to remove Akpabio from office.

In response, the Northern Senators Forum issued a disclaimer while condemning what they described as an attempt by Akpabio to pitch Senators against President Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

Human Rights groups have in response to Seante’s amendment to its rules specifically as it concerns the election of the Senate President and his Deputy, declared it unconstitutional.

The Executive Director of the Human Rights Writers Association (HURIWA), Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko who spoke on the issue said , “The amendments are unconstitutional and ultra vires because section 42(1) of the Constitution states clearly that policies of government ought not to be made in such a way that a certain category of citizens will be disabled from participating or benefitting therefrom.”

He further said that “the idea of allowing only ranking members to be qualified to contest for offices within the Senate’s hierarchy is impracticable in Nigeria where the turn-over rate of legislators into the national assembly is not as robustly sustainable as the Americans or British experience about their parliamentarians.

“In Nigeria, virtually 40 to 45 percent of Senators don’t get reelected. Supposing those who get re-elected lack charisma and leadership qualities, will the Senate be led by never-do-wells? This law is an attempt to muzzle opposition to the decadent leadership of Sebator Akpabio leadership that is made up of stooges of the executive arm of government. We in the HURIWA are asking those senators so affected negatively from this destructive amendments to file litigation to get the amendments quashed because the amendments are self serving, lack progressive ideals and are very primitive and unconstitutional”

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