Three out of the four principal officers of the Senate assumed office on Thursday after the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, read their nomination letters from their respective zonal caucuses in the red chamber.
Saraki at the resumed sitting of the federal lawmakers, read out the letters addressed to him by the APC senate caucuses from the North-East, North-West and South-South.
He said the North-East Senate caucus had endorsed and nominated Senator Ali Ndume as the Majority Leader, while the North-West caucus adopted Senator Bala Ibn Na’Allah as the Deputy Majority Leader.
He added that the South-South caucus members according to their own letter, adopted Senator France Alimikhena as the deputy whip.
Saraki was, however, silent on the Chief Whip because members of the South-West caucus which should produce a representative, did not write any letter.
He subsequently asked the Sergeant – at – Arms to lead the three principal officers to their respective seats and assume office immediately.
Our correspondent learnt that the South-West senators refused to write any letter because they claimed that the party’s decision as contained in its letter, was sufficient.
Attempts by the senator representing Zamfara Central Senatorial District, Kabiru Marafa, to make the Senate President read the letter from the National Chairman of the party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, containing lists of the principal officers, was again frustrated by Saraki
Marafa had cited Senate Standing Order 28 (1) and Constitution point of order Section 65, (1E), to drive home his arguments.
He said, “According to the provision, there should be a majority leader of the Senate who should be a senator nominated from the party with the highest number of senators.
“This point of order was raised yesterday (Wednesday) and another colleague raised another point of order distinguishing between the word, from and by, which was used there. That is why I am joining it with order 65 (1d) of the constitution.
“It says subject to the provisions of section 66 of the constitution. A person shall be qualified for election as a member of the Senate if he or she is a member of a political party and sponsored by the political party.
“Mr. President, there is a communication from the APC which is the party with the majority representatives in the Senate. However, for reasons best known to you Mr. President, you declined to read it yesterday (Wednesday ) on the floor of the Senate when your attention was drawn to the communication from the party.
“The constitution provision just cited, clearly put the party ahead of any other caucus from anywhere. Therefore, if the communication from the party, can so be regarded, I suggest that you, Mr. President cannot read any communication from any caucus because there is no caucus that is bigger than the political party.”
Marafa was immediately opposed by Senator Danjuma Goje ( Gombe Central ), who urged the Senate President to disregard his submissions because the same issue raised by him had been ruled upon.
He said, “Senator Marafa raised the same order yesterday (Wednesday) and the Senate President ruled that the issue had been discussed and should not be opened again. I don’t know why the issue is being reopened. This is contrary to the rules of the Senate.
“We are the highest law making institution in the country, if we cannot observe our rules, we don’t have any right to be making laws for the country. Therefore I will like Mr. President to stand by the ruling of yesterday (Wednesday)that the issue had been settled.
“Secondly, the issue of leadership within the chamber is our own responsibility as senators. We have been sponsored by political parties to come to the Senate. Nobody or law says the chairman of the party should appoint the Senate President.
“The law clearly states that we, the senators, should appoint our own leaders within the chambers. This is the first time this type of thing will be happening in the Senate since the return of democracy in 1999. Caucuses have been nominating their leaders and I have been participating.”
Saraki, as expected, ruled Marafa out of order, stressing that he had concluded on the issue during Wednesday’s sitting.
He said, “Let me refer to order 53 (6) which states that it will be out of order to attempt to reconsider any specific question upon which the Senate has come to a conclusion. This matter had already been raised and ruled upon… I will have to rule senator Marafa out of order.”
Ndume, who addressed his colleagues, explained that his job schedule included among others, leading the business of the Senate; managing legislative schedule; and liaising with committee chairmen.
He said, “I will not deceive myself. Every senator is more than qualified to lead the Senate. God normally chooses who He wants. Leading the Senate means that the success recorded is not going to be my own but for all of us.”
Ndume, after the Senate had concluded its legislative business of the day, announced an adjournment to July 21 to allow the ad-hoc committees on review of Senate finance and that of legislative agenda, had time to do their work.
Boko Haram: FG Applies to Tender Fresh Evidence as Ndume Alleges Persecution
The federal government has applied to file fresh evidence and call additional witnesses to support its charge that Senator Aliyu Ndume allegedly sponsored Boko Haram members.
But the senator opposed the application, saying the government was merely persecuting him since it did not have any evidence to support the charge.
He therefore, urged the trial judge, Justice Gabriel Kolawole, to refuse the application to bring in new evidence and call new witnesses.
Ndume was charged before the court in 2012 for allegedly having links with the outlawed terrorist group, Boko Haram.
The federal government, through its counsel, Mr E. Orji, a senior state counsel in the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), had in an application, urged the court to allow him file additional proof of evidence against Ndume.
He said: "The application is intended to give the accused person a fair hearing and also the right to cross-examine the witness and contradict the evidence that would be given.
"We urge this court to grant this motion and dismiss the counter affidavit of the accused because it is intended to cause a clog in the wheel of justice."
Ndume's counsel, Mr. I. A. Kaigaman, while responding to the submission of Orji, told the court that the motion would overreach the judgment of the Court of Appeal, which had expunged from the record the compact discs which prosecution claimed contained communications between Ndume and a member of the Boko Haram.
He described the motion as a gross abuse of the process of the court.
"The motion constitutes a gross abuse of the process of the court and should be refused. The application has no fact to convince the court to grant it.
"Bringing additional evidence will amount to unfair trial for the accused person,"Kagaman said.
After listening to the submissions of counsel, Justice Kolawole fixed May 27 for ruling.
The last hearing was stalled owing to the prosecution's failure to present its witnesses.
The prosecution was expected then to call its witnesses in continuation of trial after the Court of Appeal had given its judgment in two interlocutory appeals by the accused, challenging the admission of some electronic evidence tendered by the prosecution led by Thompson Olatigbe of the Federal Ministry of Justice.
Ndume, a serving senator from Borno State, is facing terrorism related charges before the Federal High Court in Abuja.
He was arraigned before Justice Kolawole on December 12 last year, on a four-count charge by the Department of State Service (DSS).
He is accused of sponsoring the Boko Haram sect, and failing to disclose the cell phone number of Konduga, which was alleged to be in his (Ndume’s) possession.