Defection Saga: Decampee Senators Await Mark’s Verdict Next Tuesday

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By Olusegun Emmanuel, Abuja.

The 11 Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) senators who have indicated their intention to quit their party for the All Progressive Congress (APC) on Wednesday, yielded to arguments from their colleagues on the need to allow for more time further consultations by the senate leadership.

The senators yesterday succumbed to argument that since the matter is in court, there is the need to allow the senate President David Mark time to seek further legal opinion.

Apart from the objection to reading the defection letter on the ground of subjudice, there was also the argument the it was written jointly instead of individually.

The senators including Sen.Bukola Saraki who had earlier shunned a truce meeting by the Senate President, Sen. David Mark, agreed to wait till next week by which time the senate leadership would make a definite pronounce on whether to read the defection letter as required by law or otherwise.

The senators had insisted that their letter be announced regardless of objects from the leadership that it fell short of the provision of the constitution on the procedure for cross-carpeting.

But at the executive session which held behind closed door, sources said, “the defecting senators were advised by their colleagues to tread softly. They were

told to honour the meeting called by Mark as it would foster unity among the
senators even if they changed their parties.”

The source added that Sen. Saraki was initially hesitant, but he agreed to attend the meeting after much persuasion.

Before the senate sitting on Wednesday, there were speculations that the defecting senators had hatched a plan to protest on the floor of the chamber today.

As early as 10:15am, some of them were seen exchanging hot words over the
absence of Senate President David Mark.

But it appears that the leadership of the Senate got wind of the plan and
subsequently barred media coverage of today’s proceeding on the floor.
Security officials attached to the senate ordered journalist out the
gallery and shut all the doors.

Briefing journalists after the session, Senate spokesperson, Senator
Eyinnaya Abaribe confirmed that the issues concerning the defection were
looked into. He added that the defection plan is being delayed by some
legal and constitutional issues on which the Senate president would require
further advice before reading the letter.

“I can confirm to you that the issue of defection was also discussed
during the closed door session and it was resolved that the Senate  President
in particular would have to seek further legal advice because of serious  legal
issues thrown up during the discussion based on interpretation of the
Constitution and the Senate Standing Rule.

“Under the Senate Standing Rule No. 25, only the Senate President has the
power and authority to interpret anything and he has decided to seek
further legal advice.

“And I think it is good for the country. We are law makers, not law
breakers. It was in an attempt to seek political solution to the problem of
defection that we had the discussion behind closed doors.”

However, the Senate Minority, Leader George Akume accused the Senate
President of playing politics with the issue of defection. He explained
that the constitutional guideline on matters relating to defection is clear
and that it was not the first time senators will be moving from one party
to another.

“Well it is open knowledge that 11 senators from PDP have indicated their
interest to defect to APC. They are adequately covered by some provision of
constitution and of course the issue of defection is not new because it has
happened before in the two chambers.  We met today to deliberate on this
particular issue we said the Senate President should look for political
solution.

Nobody talked about legal opinion on this matter and we are going to
reconvene Tuesday to continue on this issue. We believe strongly that by
Tuesday this matter will be laid to rest in the interest of the country and
for the sanity and integrity of the Senate.

In another development, the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar
has been scheduled to appear before the Senate next Tuesday to account for the role
of the Police in the crises playing out in Rivers Stare.

Similarly, the screening of President Goodluck Jonathan’s ministerial nominees
has been slated for next Wednesday.