By Joseph Erunke
DEPUTY Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, yesterday, dissociated himself from the amendment of the 8th Senate Standing Rules, saying he was no longer a senator when the rules were made.
Senator Ekweremadu spoke through his Special Adviser on Media, Uche Anichukwu, on a Ray Power Radio morning programme, tagged: “Political Platform”, where he responded to questions on the alleged forgery/amendment of the Senate Standing Rule, 2011.
He washed his hands off the allegation, saying at the time the said Senate Standing Rule/Order 2015 was made, he had ceased being the Deputy Senate President and so was no longer a principal officer to have contributed to the making of the document in question.
He said the making of a new Rule/Order for a new Senate or House was entirely the business of the National Assembly bureaucracy and asked those striving to frame him up to look elsewhere.
He said: “Let me just explain here that every National Assembly, that is every Senate or House has its Standing Rule/Order as every Standing Rule/Order normally has a life span of four years. So, if you go to the Office of the Clerk to the National Assembly now, you are likely to find Standing Rules/Orders of 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011 and the current 2015.
“From the point of the valedictory session of the 7th Senate on 4th June, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, Distinguished Senator David Mark and the rest of other members of the 7th Senate ceased to be senators until the 9th of June, when the 8th Senate was inaugurated; and as usually done, the new senators received new Standing Rule/Order 2015.
“The making of that 2015 edition of the Senate Rule/Order is the business of the bureaucracy of the National Assembly. What the 8th Senate can do, which its predecessors have sometimes done is to amend as suitable. And the process of the amendment is spelt out in the that document.
“So, if you say that the current Senate or Ekweremadu or whoever altered the Standing Rule that brought them to power, it is just like saying that former President Olusegun Obasanjo forged the 1999 Constitution upon which he was inaugurated as a president. You know it wasn’t his making and the governors that came that time too, it wasn’t their making. What happens is if Nigerians don’t like what is contained in the 1999 Constitution, they try to amend it. It’s the same with the Rules/Orders of the National Assembly. But you cannot even amend it until you are inaugurated as a Senator or Member. So, haven been inaugurated, anybody not comfortable with any part of the Standing Rule/Order 2015 upon which the Senate was inaugurated can follow the laid down procedure in the Rule within the lifespan of the Senate.
“So, you can see that what they call an amendment is a new document with a life of its own. It couldn’t have been done by any member of the 8th Senate. It is just impossible for it to have been made by Ekweremadu. I guess it is all politics”
Asked whether his principal did not work behind the scene to influence the alleged changes in the Senate Rule, Mr Anichukwu said: “How could he have worked behind the scene to amend it because from the 4th of June, when the 7thSenate ended, he ceased to be a senator, just like every other senator.
“You could remember that after the valedictory session on that day, Ekweremadu and Senator David Mark left without their usual official cars. That showed they were no longer senators or occupying their offices in the Senate. So, how could he have worked from behind the scene? And do not forget that even the main matter they are contesting is not Ekweremadu’s eligibility. They claim the old Rule for the 7th Senate prescribed open ballot in which you mention the name of the person you want to vote in as the Senate President or Deputy President of the Senate, while the Clerk to the National Assembly used the open secret ballot system in which your name is called, you are given a piece of paper to write down the name of your preferred candidate and drop in the box in the full glare of everyone and on live TV watched all over the world. No one has complained that the election was rigged. Even Senator Ali Ndume crossed over to Ekweremadu and gave him a very warm congratulatory embrace”
He explained further: “There is an important point I want to make here, how a new Senate or House is inaugurated is entirely the business of the National Assembly bureaucracy
“Remember that in the 6th Senate, Senator George Akume ran against Senator David Mark for the position of the Senate President. You would remember that some people said no, he was not qualified to run for that office going by the old Rule because he was a new Senator. But the then CNA, Mr. Ogunyomi, said no, ‘this is how I want to run it.”
When told that some people, especially from the opposition APC felt that his principal took a seat that rightly belonged to the APC, Mr Anichukwu said the seat did not belong to any political party.
He said: “Going by Section 50 (1) of the 1999 Constitution, that Office doesn’t belong to anybody or party. It belongs to Nigerians. That is why APC lawmakers became Speakers in Plateau and Benue State Assemblies last June even when the APC was in minority. By the way, are some people trying to tell Nigerians that if the PDP had won majority in the National Assembly, which is an independent arm of government, and head both chambers, the President Buhari Administration would cease to function?”