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Move to declare defecting senators' seats vacant fails

13 February 2014, 09:44

Abuja - An attempt to declare the seats of the 11 PDP senators who had defected to the APC vacant failed on Wednesday in the Senate.

The Senate President, David Mark, warned senators to lay to rest debate on the issue of defection until the court gave its ruling on the matter and face more important national issues.

Mark stated this when Sen. Ita Enang (PDP-Akwa Ibom) raised a point of order, asking the Senate President to declare vacant seats of the Senators who announced their defection from PDP to APC.

Enang came under order 14 of the Senate rules which allows senators to speak on issues of privilege and also cited section 68 (g) of the constitution.

"A person whose election to the House was sponsored by a political party, he becomes a member of another political party before the expiration of the period for that House, his or her seat should be declared vacant provided that his membership of the latter political party is not as a result of a division in the political party.''

Enang argued that there was no division in the PDP and as such, the defecting Senator's seat should be declared vacant and fresh elections be conducted to fill the seats.

Enang also cited section 68 sub section 2 which states that the Senate President or Speaker of the House of Representatives, shall give effect to the provisions of sub section 1 of this section.

The Senate President, however, ruled Enang out of order.

According to him, as the chief law maker, I cannot go against the laws of the senate which says that a matter in court cannot be debated upon.

Senator Thompson Sekibo (PDP-Rivers), however, cited sections 1, 2 and 3 of the constitution and made emphasis on section 3 which states that any law which was inconsistent with the constitution was invalid.

According to Sekibo, the Senate law which says any matter in court cannot be debated is inconsistent with the constitution.

He said that the Senate President should rely on the constitution and declare the seats of the defecting senators vacant.

He said that since the Senators had defected and their defection was invalid, it meant that there were no longer Senators and should therefore not sit in the Senate chamber.

The Senate President, however, ruled him out of order, saying that he maintained his stand that once a matter was in court, it should not be debated in the senate.

Mark told the senators that no matter how many points of order they raised on the issue of defection, his ruling would remain that the matter was in court and should not be debated.

He described the points of order as a distraction and an attempt to delay other legislative activities of the day.

Mark implored the senators to lay to rest the issue of defection pending the court ruling.

The Senate President had been relying on the Senate standing order 53 rules 5.

The order says: "Reference shall not be made to any matter on which a judicial decision is pending, in such a way as might in the opinion of the senate president prejudice the interest of parties."

Senator Mohammed Ndume (PDP-Borno) also raised a point of order and advised the senators to put an end to the debate on the issue of defection which had been ongoing in the last two weeks.

Ndume said that the Senate should move on to consider other issues that were lined up on the order paper of the day.

Subsequently, the Senate proceeded to the screening of ministerial nominees.

Mark had on Tuesday declined to read a letter from 11 PDP senators on their decision to defect to APC citing the order which bars the Chamber from discussing any issue which is before a court.


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