The President of the Senate, David Mark, after an hour session on Wednesday declared that federal lawmakers were prepared to sacrifice their blood, if necessary, to uphold the Constitution.
The Senate President was reacting to Tuesday’s fracas in the Rivers State House of Assembly.
The Senate broke into many camps over the crisis rocking Rivers State and its House of Assembly.
For the first time in the history of the Seventh Senate, the lawmakers had to rely on Order 73 (1-4) of the Senate Standing Orders, where each member cast his/her vote on whether the chamber should urge the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Abubakar, to wade into the crisis or not.
At the end of the tension-soaked session, with consultations and criss-crossing among the opposition and ruling parties, it was a tight vote.
The ayes had 50 votes as against 47 for the nays to resolve that the Senate can only urge the IGP “to take immediate steps to address the issue of the broken relationship between Rivers State Governor Rotimi Amaechi and the Commissioner of Police (CP), Joseph Mbu.”
According to a source, a section of the chamber had actually argued that the Senate should urge the IGP to remove CP Mbu.
Rather than embark on the business of the day, Senate went straight into a closed-door session, which lasted almost an hour, from where the senators resolved to condemn the fracas in the Assembly on Tuesday.
On resumption of plenary, the Chairman of the Petroleum Resources Committee (Downstream), Senator Magnus Ngei Abe, moved a motion vide Order 43 of the Senate Standing Rules.
Mark allowed him to raise the motion, which allows a senator to make a personal explanation in the chamber.
Abe recounted the events of Tuesday to his colleagues, saying that for “63 days, the Rivers State House of Assembly has not been able to sit. This week, the Assembly got notice from the governor that he wanted to bring an alteration to the state budget, which prompted the Assembly to write the Commissioner of Police for protection…”
Rather than offer protection, mayhem ensued, said Abe, who also wondered how law and order could break down when the “Assembly is directly opposite the State Police Command on Moscow Road.
“This incident happened right under the nose of the police, who were believed to be there to protect the Speaker and members of the House of Assembly,” Abe alleged.
Having heard Abe’s explanation, an angry Mark condemned the treatment meted out to legislators in Rivers State and declared that the nation’s highest legislative organ finds the situation “totally unacceptable…”
His words: “Clearly, what is happening in Rivers State is an embarrassment to legislators across the length and breadth of this country and it is in the interest of Assemblies not to do anything that will portray legislators as irresponsible because that is not what we are. Clearly also, what is happening is totally unacceptable and it must be condemned in its strongest possible terms, in its entirety irrespective of who is directly involved or who is behind it.
“Senator Abe has raised a very serious issue and it is proper that we take steps to ensure that the Rivers State House of Assembly is restored to normalcy so that they can continue their activities in terms of legislation. In order for us get the facts so that we don’t operate by the things that we see and hear from the media, it is appropriate to send our committee to investigate for us.
“I appeal to all the parties involved to sheathe their swords until we are able to get a feedback from our committee and we are able to get a resolution. Let me state here in very clear terms that this Senate will do everything possible; even if it means sacrificing our blood to uphold the Constitution of this country.”
Thereafter, the Senate president beckoned on Senate Leader, Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba (SAN), to read the five resolutions taken at the closed session.
Twice, Mark called out the question and twice, the “nays” carried the day.
At this time, senators had got up from their seats and had clustered in groups.
More than 11 Senators, from the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the opposition parties, clustered round the Senate president, each offering his/her opinions on the matter. This lasted for almost 30 minutes.
On resumption of plenary, the Vice Chairman of the Senate Committee on Federal Character and Inter-Governmental Affairs, Senator Babajide Omoworare, made history by being the first member in the Seventh Senate to call for division.
Omoworare explained to the Senate president that he was not satisfied with the voice vote. He invoked Order 73 (1-4).
Upon citation of the order and in compliance with the rule, the Senate president ordered the security to “clear the lobbies and lock the doors.”
Mark declared thus: “For once, let’s test where we stand on issues.”
Omoworare then moved his motion and thereafter, Senate Clerk, Ben Efeturi, stood up and began to call on each senator to vote.
Rather than announce the result after the vote was concluded, senators broke up into another round of consultations, which lasted several minutes. Three senators abstained.
They included Senator Kabiru Gaya, whose committee was mandated to investigate the Rivers State House of Assembly fracas.
Serving as the Chief Returning Officer, the Senate president announced the results.
He said that seven senators were absent while 47 members said “nay”, with 50 “ayes.”
The chamber, once again, erupted into another rowdy session. Some Senators shouted, No! no!!
Ruling on the matter, Mark announced that those were the final figures, adding jokingly that whoever was not satisfied could go to the tribunal.
“This is the authentic figure…whoever is not satisfied can go to the tribunal and I am the tribunal.”