OrderPaperToday – The position of Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is no doubt a highly placed position in the country. Senators are seen as “big men” due to their influence and affluence in the society. However, like the rest of us, lawmakers are subject to the normal human emotions of happiness, sadness, and of course anger. These emotions are expressed on the floor in the course of their duties.
In this piece, we give top five times Senators lost their cool during plenary in 2018:
5: Triple snub by police chief
The Inspector General of Police (IGP), Ibrahim Idris, and the Senate engaged in a long drawn battle in April and May this year as the IGP ignored the Senate’s invitation thrice.
Idris was first summoned on the 28th of April to brief the Senators on the treatment of Senator Dino Melaye (PDP, Kogi) by the Police and the spate of killings across the country which he neglected.
An angry chamber again sought his appearance on the 2nd of May but Idris sent his deputy, Joshak Habilah, claiming that he was in Kaduna state over an attack that had occurred.
Despite the best effort of the Senate and its leadership to get the Police boss to appear before them, Idris ignored the red chamber for the third consecutive time on the 9th of May as he failed to appear or even send a representative. The Senate Leader, Ahmad Lawan informed the red chamber that he made several attempts to reach the IG but he did not respond to his calls and text messages.
The Senate finally lost its cool after the third snub as an angry Senator Emmanuel Bwacha described the conduct as “a national embarrassment” calling for the chamber to go into a closed door session to deliberate on the measure that would be taken against the Police boss.
“It is sad, it is inexcusable, unacceptable, it is condemnable and it calls for immediate action. We need to take a very serious action on the way forward. I suggest that we should have a closed-session for a very serious consideration on this matter. This is a national disgrace,” Bwacha had roared.
At the end of the emergency closed door meeting, the Senate declared Idris as “an enemy of democracy and not fit to hold any public office within and outside Nigeria”. The red chamber added that the conduct displayed by the IGP showed “a gross disrespect” to its constituted authority.”
4: Bickering over poor performance
Wednesday, 28th November was a dramatic day in which infuriated Senate Committee Chairmen openly accused their members of skipping committee meetings while the accused fought back by aiming shots at the chairmen. Issues of performance and credibility formed basis for the bickering.
The first duel was between Senator Ahmed Yerima who is the Chairman Senate Committee on Marine Transport and a member of his Committee, Senator Mohammed Hassan. Hassan had raised a point of order on the floor of the Senate to lament over a case of alleged non-remittance of N177 billion by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA).
On the other hand, Yerima was displeased with Hassan saying he did not bring up the issue at Committee level before bringing it to plenary. He further attacked Hassan, describing him as an inactive committee member who is fond of avoiding meetings and is not aware of happenings within the Committee.
“Maybe because he (Hassan) has not been attending Committee meetings,” Yerima fired.
In his response, Hassan inferred that Yerima has performed poorly as Committee Chairman, advising him to up his game.
“I think the Committee Chairman needs to be more up and doing,” a visibly displeased Hassan fired back at Yerima.
Shortly after the Yerima-Hasan episode, another “quarrel” occurred between the Chairman Senate Committee on Anti-Corruption and Financial Crimes, Senator Chukwuka Utazi and his committee members, Senator Isah Misau and Senator Dino Melaye played out on the floor.
The heated exchange of words between the trio occurred during the confirmation of the nomination of Olanipkekun Olukoyede for appointment as Secretary of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Senator Misau protested the confirmation of the nominee accusing his Committee Chairman of having a hidden interest and taking a “short cut” in the confirmation of the candidate.
He alleged that the Committee Chairman did not consult with members as directed by the Senate a day earlier. Misau’s accusation was backed by Senator Dino Melaye who even challenged Utazi to declare on his honour if the Committee met as directed by the red chamber.
In his response, an angry Utazi blasted the duo of Misau and Dino as absentee Committee members who are fond of engaging in “frivolities and trivialities”.
Utazi would later have the last laugh as the Senate confirmed the nomination of Olanipkekun Olukoyede for appointment as Secretary of the EFCC.
All hell was let loose on the 12th of April when Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe accused President Muhammadu Buhari of incompetence. Senator Abaribe raised a point of order in relation to the President’s statement the previous day in London where Buhari blamed the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi for the spate of farmers-herdsmen violence across the country.
According to Abaribe, the President’s blame game was an indication of incompetence by the Commander-in-Chief.
“Yesterday, in London, the Commander-in-Chief and President of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari said that these killings were as a result of the people who were trained by Muammar Gaddafi, implying that the people who are doing the killings in Nigeria are invaders from outside of Nigeria.
“If so, it validates my last point that when a Commander-in-Chief says he cannot take care of invaders, why is he still a Commander-in-Chief? Why do we still continue to indulge this President that goes along to tell everybody outside this country that he is totally incompetent? It is obvious…”
At this point there was uproar in the Senate fueled by angry APC Senators who felt Abaribe’s comment was disrespectful to the Office of the President.
The tension on the floor was heightened as an APC Senator from Jigawa, Abdullahi Gumel, stood up and tried to force his way to the PDP minority wing of the Senate in an apparent bid to confront Abaribe. He was however restrained by the Senate Majority Leader, Ahmed Lawan who raised a point of order to demand an apology form the Abaribe.
Abaribe was initially defiant but later offered a half-hearted apology, saying “If any word I used was misunderstood by anyone, I apologize”.
- Electoral sequence “walk out”
2018 Valentine’s Day was not a love affair at the Senate. On that fateful Wednesday, the Senate considered and passed the Conference Committee report on the amendment of the electoral act, which sought to re-order the sequence of elections.
Shortly after the report of the Conference Committee was adopted in the Senate amidst dissenting voices in the chamber, ten APC senators lead by Senator Abdullahi Adamu (APC, Nasarawa) stormed out of plenary and staged a press conference in protest.
Speaking at the Press Conference, Senator Adamu described the amendment to section 25 of the electoral act relating to election sequence as unconstitutional, partisan, and targeted at President Muhammadu Buhari.
That episode would lead to a series of drama that culminated in the suspension of one of the ten Senators, Ovie Omo-Agege as well as the rejection of the passed electoral amendment bill by President Buhari. Despite several attempts to re-work the bill, it is yet to see the light of the day till date as the President has continued to reject the bill.1. Akpabio’s seat face off with Saraki
The most memorable and heated face-off between Senators in 2018 took place on Wednesday October 14th, 2018. The tension filled day started when one of the prominent defectors who dumped the PDP for the APC, Senator Godswill Akpabio (APC, Akwa-Ibom), sought to speak on a point of order raised by Bassey Akpan (PDP, Akwa-Ibom) who accused the APC in Akwa-Ibom of planning to disrupt the 2019 gubernatorial election in the state.
However, the Senate President Bukola Saraki prevented Akpabio from making his contribution, insisting that the Senator return to his former seat among the PDP Senators before speaking.
“Former Minority Leader, you cannot speak from there, go to your former seat and I will recognise you,” Saraki said to Akpabio.
The Majority Leader of Senate, Ahmed Lawan, swiftly lept to Akpabio’s defence, stressing that there is no organised seating arrangement in the chamber; hence Akpabio should be allowed to sit wherever he desires and give his speech.
Saraki countered Lawan by noting that there was no microphone attached to Akpabio’s new seat, to which the Senate Leader retorted: “Let us not take Panadol for his (Akpabio) headache, he has chosen to seat there!”
The exchange between Saraki and Lawan, immediately threw the chambers into a rowdy session as APC Senators and PDP Senators, led by Senator Dino Melaye, engaged in heated exchanges. Senator Melaye migrated from his seat to the APC wing of the chamber, clapping his hands sarcastically in front of APC lawmakers.
Speaking on the matter, Senator Emmanuel Paulker (PDP, Bayelsa) submitted that Akpabio should not be allowed to contribute to Akpan’s point of order as the rules of the Senate do not allow for contributions to order 43.
“Akpabio, you cannot speak!” Paulker screamed at the former Minority Leader.
An attempt to intervene by the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, was short-lived as Senator Ali Ndume consistently interrupted him, leading Ekweremadu to sit in anger without making his point.
The matter was eventually laid to rest when Akpabio declined further comment and apologised to his colleagues for “raising his voice” in the rancour that played out on the floor. Ndume, Lawan, and Saraki also joined in apologising for their roles in the tension and drama gripped the red chamber.
If you are looking out for drama or heated sessions in the National Assembly, Wednesday might be a good day for you to watch and follow plenary as four of the five days Senators lost their cool as listed in this piece fell on a Wednesday. Coincidentally, Wednesday is the day when major TV stations such as the NTA broadcast plenary live to the entire country. Could the Senators be playing to the gallery? We will never know!