The leadership of the National Assembly has summoned an emergency meeting for Tuesday (today).
The Special Assistant to the Senate President on International Relations, Bankole Omisore, called the meeting via his Twitter handle on Monday.
The tweet reads, “NASS leadership will tomorrow meet at noon to consider some national issues. The National Assembly leadership comprises both @NGRSenate and @HouseNGR.
“It will be followed by another meeting with the leadership of @inecnigeria led by its Chairman, Prof. Mahmud Yakubu.”
It was gathered that the meeting, which will be attended by the President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, and the Speaker, House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara; and the principal officers of both chambers would be briefed by INEC on the 2019 general elections.
It was further gathered that the leadership would also discuss the recent defections, which had generated controversies in both chambers.
There had been rumours earlier on Monday that the National Assembly might reconvene on Tuesday, suspending its ongoing two-month annual recess. But a source at the Senate dismissed the resumption reports, stating that it was a leadership meeting and not plenary.
The source said, “Yes, a joint leadership meeting has been called for 12 noon tomorrow. The meeting is on the current issues in the National Assembly, all the issues.
“By 1pm, chairman of INEC and other leaders of the commission will join the meeting to brief the National Assembly on the preparations for the 2019 general elections.”
Meanwhile, members of the Parliamentary Democrats Group have said that the Senate and the House will reconvene only after getting assurances that there will be no attempts to remove the leadership of the National Assembly.
The spokesman for the PDG, Mr Timothy Golu, in a statement on Monday, said lawmakers would be briefed on the outcome of the meeting of the leadership on whether to reconvene or not.
The statement read, “Our leaders are meeting to brief us on the appeal by the Presidency for us to reconvene. There must be assurances that no illegality will be attempted against any of our leaders.
“We are worried by the statements from some anti-Saraki senators like Adamu Abdullahi and Ali Ndume to the fact that the Senate President must be changed.
“Talks are ongoing and as long as there is no threat to our democratic peace, we can reconvene to attend to issues.
“We want peace and stability for our democracy to grow and produce more good fruits. If among ourselves we are found guilty of any form of sabotage for personal reasons, then we are not fair to the people.”
The group noted that only lawmakers could decide among themselves to change their leadership and not through interference by the executive arm.
“The legislature is an independent arm of government and as legislators, nobody can dictate to us. So, we advise the Presidency and the ruling APC to allow us to decide our fate.
“Our presiding officers are doing well and we have no cause to complain. Those stoking embers of discord in the parliament should kindly stay off,” the PDG said.
Senate leader urges immediate resumption as Enang fears govt shutdown
But even as the National Assembly leadership planned its emergency meeting, the Senate Leader, Ahmed Lawan, on Monday stressed the need for the National Assembly to reconvene immediately in order to address some requests made by President Muhammadu Buhari.
He told State House correspondents that the need for the federal lawmakers to reconvene from their ongoing vacation formed part of the discussion he had with the Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
He said, “I have come to brief him (Osinbajo) on the situation in the Senate and the discussion also considered the need for the National Assembly to reconvene immediately for us to pass the virement on the supplementary budget presented by Mr President.
“You know that the budget for 2018, the capital aspect will be largely funded by foreign facilities, loans. Now we need to approve that.
“We also need to approve other important and essential requests, especially that of INEC and other security agencies for our security to be improved.
“It is therefore very essential that we reconvene immediately to look into those issues because our government is almost stalled and I believe that if we are able to pass the supplementary budget and virement request from Mr President, this will enable our administration to provide the various infrastructure that we have planned to provide for Nigerians and also all the other aspects of national development.”
Lawan said to do otherwise would lead to sabotage of the administration and democracy.
He wondered how the lawmakers would describe themselves if they cannot provide essential things for Nigerians and provide funds for INEC to plan for the 2019 elections.
When asked what will happen if the presiding officers fail to reconvene the Senate, Lawan said, “The presiding officers are people like you and I; they are Nigerians, they should listen.
“So, I don’t even want to contemplate that the presiding officers will say they will not reconvene the chambers of the National Assembly based on the fundamental and primary request of Mr President of passing the budget.
“I believe that the presiding officers should do the needful to reconvene the two chambers of the National Assembly to give us the opportunity to pass the supplementary budget and virement request of Mr President as quickly as possible.”
Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Ita Enang, restated his appeal to the National Assembly to suspend its ongoing vacation in national interest.
He said if the federal lawmakers failed to approve the request soon, it might lead to complete government shutdown.
Enang said, “We are still appealing to the National Assembly to reconvene. You remember that we passed the budget with the understanding that the greater amount of it would be sourced from foreign loans.
“Although it was approved that there would be loans, amount to be sourced was not approved. The Fiscal Responsibility Act requires that the President should specifically state the amount the government wants to get from foreign loans and present it before the National Assembly.
“That letter has been presented to the National Assembly and the National Assembly has to pass that amount before the money could be obtained from foreign financing institutions.”
He added, “This is what we are asking and if it did not happen in the next few months, we may have a complete government shutdown. What we are receiving from the federation account as the Federal Government share of the capital component is not enough to sustain even the 15 or 20 per cent of the budget.”
Again, PDP Reps allege plot to invade, force Senate open
Meanwhile, the Peoples Democratic Party members of the House of Representatives again on Monday raised the alarm of a plot to invade the Senate and reconvene it by force.
The PDP caucus warned that the plot, allegedly to be executed by “a small group of senators” aided by security agencies, could lead to a total breakdown of law and order at the National Assembly if the planners did not abandon the idea.
The caucus gave the warning after the members’ emergency meeting at the National Assembly.
It stated that the plotters would pretend that they wanted the Senate to discuss urgent national issues; the real intention was to remove the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, and the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu.
Recall that last week, the caucus raised a similar alarm and went a step further to name senators Ali Ndume, Abdullahi Adamu and Ovie Omo-Agege, as the brains behind the plot.
But, on Monday, it did not mention names, preferring to call the alleged plotters “a small group of senators.”
The Deputy Minority Leader of the House, Mr Chukwuka Onyema, who signed a statement on the position of the caucus, said any illegal reconvening of the Senate would not stand.
The lawmakers advised the All Progressives Congress Federal Government to uphold the rule of law in all its actions if the country must not lose its democracy.
The caucus stated, “It has come to our attention that there is an impending plot by a small group of senators aided by security agencies to again invade the Senate chamber with a view to illegally reconvening the Senate plenary.
“Ostensibly, their purpose is to address what they term as urgent national issues. However, it is clear that their real purpose is an attempt to unlawfully oust the leadership of the Senate and effect a change of the Senate President and the Deputy Senate President.
“This trend of events must be strenuously resisted by all true democrats and well-meaning Nigerians. We have, over time, witnessed a descent of our country’s once stable democracy, into an abyss of dictatorship.”
On the reconvening of the National Assembly, the PDP caucus said, “The procedure for reconvening the National Assembly is unambiguously stated in the rules of both Houses of the National Assembly. These rules draw their constitutionality from Section 60 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“When the National Assembly stands adjourned to a fixed date, it may only be reconvened at an earlier or later date when the leaders of the political parties in the National Assembly make a written representation to the presiding officers, stating that there is a need to convene plenary to attend to matters of urgent national importance.
“In such an event, the presiding officer may give notice to members of a date that the National Assembly is to reconvene. In the present instance, there has been no such notification to either the Senate President or the Speaker of the House of Representatives.”
But when contacted for his reaction to the allegations, Omo-Agege dismissed the claims by the PDP members in the House of Representatives.
He said, “The allegation is totally unfounded, it is a figment of their imagination and I don’t know where this is coming from. They had better focus on protecting Saraki if they must.
“However, they must understand one thing: nobody elected Saraki a monarch. He was put there (as Senate President) by senators and the senators can remove him when they believe it is time. My position on this is very clear and I have never hidden it, the moment he stopped being a member of the APC, he had lost not just the moral right but also the legal right to remain as Senate President. I expect him to do the right thing, to step down from that office and allow the majority party to appoint or elect a replacement.”
The Nigeria Police Force in its reaction to the allegations denied backing any faction of the National Assembly.
The Force Public Relations Officer, Jimoh Moshood, said, “It is not true that the police are supporting any group of senators. The police are not involved in politics. We are not partisan.
“The police are not concerned with the leadership of the Senate or the House of Representatives. The general public should disregard those allegations. The police are not involved in party affairs.”
South-East senators blame Ndume for Ekweremadu’s travail
The accusations and counter-accusations among federal lawmakers assumed another dimension, also on Monday, as the South-East caucus of the House accused Senator Ali Ndume of instigating the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission’s investigation of the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu. They warned that the entire South-East geopolitical zone would hold him responsible should any harm befall the deputy Senate President.
The group accused Ndume of interfering with the work of the EFCC by making utterances and granting interviews suggesting that the agency was treating Ekweremadu with kid gloves.
The group said, “We have closely watched events around the National Assembly, especially the ruthless attempts to emasculate the opposition and unseat the Senate leadership by all means possible.
“We have also followed the ongoing investigation by the EFCC of the allegations levelled against the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu. Despite our doubts, we have maintained our calm, hoping that the law will take its natural cause to vindicate the innocent.
“However, like every responsible and patriotic Nigerian, we have every reason to worry after reading the comments by Senator Ali Ndume, claiming that the EFCC is treating Ekweremadu with kid gloves. He canvassed Ekweremadu’s detention and indictment by the agency in spite of the obvious ill health of Senator Ekweremadu.”
The South-East lawmakers alleged that Ndume’s latest comments gave him away as the one behind the July 24 blockade of the official residences of Saraki and Ekweremadu by security agencies in Abuja.
The group added, “Indeed, reading Senator Ndume’s comments clears every doubt that himself and some other APC senators and cabals are behind the ordeal of the Deputy Senate President and that this investigation has to do with the remorseless efforts to unseat the Senate leadership.
“It is now easier to link the hostage-taking of Senator Ekweremadu and the attempted hostage-taking of the Senate President on 24th July, 2018 by agents of the State on a day both were supposed to be presiding over the Senate.
“Meanwhile, we are not restraining the EFCC from heeding Senator Ndume’s hate speech and prompting to act unprofessionally, detain Ekweremadu or act in ways inimical to his health and well-being, but we surely know those to hold responsible should anything happen to Ekweremadu.”
When contacted, Ndume said he would address journalists on Tuesday where the allegations would be responded to.