Ahead of the resumption of full legislative business in the Tenth Senate next week, all appears not to be well around the Red Chamber with murmurings among Senators on the chances of Senate President, Akpabio remaining in office.
What are the underlying issues, and what does it take to remove a President of the Nigerian Senate?
The last two weeks have seen the media awash with alleged moves by aggrieved Senators in the Tenth National Assembly to impeach the President of the Senate, Senator Godswill Akpabio.
While the Senate Media and Public Affairs Committee has dismissed the alleged plot, not many are aware of the issues. As we delve into this explainer on the allegations provoking the said plot as well as the defence of the Akpabio Camp, let’s put some background to the issues.
Elected to the Senate for a second term on Saturday, 25th February 2023, as the lawmaker representing Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial District, Senator Godswill Obot Akpabio commenced moves to actualise his ambition to President of Nigeria’s Tenth Senate. With a couple of hurdles on the way, including a similar ambition on the part of Senators Orji Uzor Kalu, Osita Izunaso, David Umahi, Jibrin Barau, Ali Ndume, Abdul’aziz Yari, Akpabio would eventually get the nod of his party to zone the coveted seat to him.
As the campaigns intensified ahead of the Senate’s inauguration, fellow aspirants Jibrin Barau, David Umahi, and Ali Ndume crossed over to Akpabio’s camp, then referred to as “The Senate Stability Group” to take up the position of Deputy President of the Senate Hopeful, Chairman of the Akpabio Campaign Organisation and Director-General of the Campaign Organisation respectively. On the other hand, Senator-Elect Yari’s support group adopted the name; “Senate Democratic Caucus,” and the group comprised Senators of Northern Extraction, members of the Minority Caucus comprising six political parties and a few members of his majority All Progressives Congress (APC) spoiling for rebellion.
Fast forward to June 13 2023, Senator Akpabio faced with a lone opponent, Senator Abdul’aziz Yari, .clinched the coveted seat in unsurprising fashion, polling 63 votes to defeat the Zamfara West Senator-Elect (at the time), who polled 46 votes in the Presiding Officers election.
Following Akpabio’s emergence, Senator Yari stated in an interview that he had assured Senator Akpabio of ‘his team’s readiness to work with him for the protection of the National Assembly as an institution.’ The first indication that this statement was loaded, however, came on Day 2 of the Tenth Senate following the statement of Senator Abdul Ningi, a member of both the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) and Yari’s Senate Democratic Caucus.
“I’m very happy this afternoon because the first thing that the Senate President did was to call for an executive session and it was a very exhaustive delivery, and I’m happy he has started on a clean state. I can see that he is ready for this job, and we have assured him that once he gives us our respect, we are going to accord him our followership.
We also cautioned him that in spite of whatever happens, the Senate is the institution that made him the Senate President and the Chairman of the National Assembly, and because there was a former Senator here, and you could see clearly that he is ready to work with us on behalf of the people of this country,” he said.
On August 8, however, the announcement of seventy-four (74) Senate Standing Committees and their leadership was made at the close of a special plenary to screen and confirm forty-five (45) Ministerial nominees of President Bola Tinubu. The announcement further increased the odds of unpleasant murmurings in the Senate as Senator Yari was handed the leadership of the ‘less fanciful Water Resources Committee, while his loyalists like Senator Ningi and Aminu Tambuwal, were announced as Chairmen of the Senate’s National Identity and Population Commission. as well as the Housing and Urban Development Committee, respectively.
With the Senate proceeding on its annual recess, these murmurings appear to have caught the attention of other Opposition Senators and their sympathisers who now want Akpabio’s removal as Nigeria’s number three citizen ahead of the Senate’s resumption on September 26 under the following grounds:
AKPABIO’S ‘TEN SINS’
- Promoting the interest of the President at the expense of national interest.
- An intimate relationship with President Tinubu prevents him from paying attention to his colleagues.|
- No voting exercise by the Senators on the final clearance of the Minister-Nominees.
- Ethics and Privilege Committees/Ad-hoc Committees were not consulted in the final resolution on petitions filed against unconfirmed Ministerial Nominees.
- Refusal to deal with some interest groups over issues bordering on oil subsidy removal and electricity tariff.
- Controversial statement on token allowance to be sent to Senators’ account for a holiday.
- Senate President’s Camp given preferential treatment in Resources Allocation (Supplementary Budget).
- Akpabio’s loyalists handed leadership of “Category A”.Committees>
- Position of Vice Chairmen for “Category A” Committees allotted to his loyalists.
- Some experienced Senators denied Committee Chairmanship.
THE DEFENCE (Akpabio’s Camp)
- The allegations are ‘’imaginative composition’’ and media trials against the Senate President.
- The Senate is stable and one harmonious big family working for the betterment of Nigeria.
- Life-enhancing Bills/Motions.unanimously passed within the first 60 legislative days.
- Senate has collectively sacrificed odd hours to screen/confirm Service Chiefs and Ministers.
- Senate pleads to be allowed to settle down for its national assignment.
Procedure for Impeaching a President of the Nigerian Senate
The President or Deputy President of the Senate shall vacate his office –
(a) If he ceases to be a member of the Senate, as the case may be, otherwise than by reason of a dissolution of the Senate or the House of Representatives; or
(b) When the House of which he was a member first sits after any dissolution of that House or
(c) If he is removed from office by a resolution of the Senate, by the votes of not less than two-thirds majority of the members of that House.
Section 50 (2) – 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (As amended)
THE BIG QUESTION
Going by the provision of the Constitution as enumerated in Section 50 (2) – 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (As amended), critics of Senator Akpabio will need at least 73 signatures out of the one hundred and eight other lawmakers in the Senate to ensure Akpabio’s removal.
Additionally, it has to be noted that at least two Senators from the Red Chamber, namely Senators David Umahi and Ibrahim Geidam, have vacated their seats to take up Ministerial positions as Minister of Works and Minister of Police Affairs, respectively, bringing the total number of Senators in the Red Chamber to one hundred and seven (107) at current.
Are Akpabio’s enemies or, perhaps, frenemies ging to be able to outwit him?