Concern over Senate President Godswill Akpabio’s comments on token for senators’ holiday is yet to abate as indications have emerged that the presidency is miffed at the unfavorable perception it is having on the administration.
It was gathered that members of President Bola Tinubu’s inner circle have reportedly commenced the search for a replacement for the Senate President, Godswill Akpabio.
In what a credible source described as a “secretly guided but desperate search,” the close associates of the President might also tinker with the existing leadership structure in the Senate once the need to replace Akpabio is sealed, it was learnt yesterday.
This development is coming on the heels of the displeasure by the Presidency over Akpabio’s public embarrassment of members of the Senate on Monday last week.
At the close of sitting on Monday last week, Akpabio had announced that the Clerk of the Senate would send a token to the senators in order for them to enjoy their vacation. The announcement did not go down well with the senators even as Akpabio quickly rephrased his statement. The incident was captured on live telecast.
The development, which caused a backlash with some Nigerians berating the Senators for feeding fat on the nation’s treasury, had forced some lawmakers to admit that only N2million was paid to them as leave allowance and not a bogus amount as being bandied around.
Although Akpabio is said to have commenced a rapprochement move to ward off any sanction, an indication that the Presidency was upset over the comments emerged over the weekend when Presidential Spokesman, Ajuri Ngelale, faulted the senate president for being insensitive to the condition of Nigerians.
Ngelale who appeared on a TV programme also distanced the president from such comments, stressing that Akpabio ought to know better than joke over such a sensitive issue.
But another credible source confided in our correspondent on the condition of anonymity that close allies of the President had already expressed their strong exceptions to the public communication ethics of Akpabio.
A serving Senator from one of the southwest states said Ngelale’s position was not his personal opinion but that of the clique around the president.
Also, Senate Chief Whip, Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume has hinted on possible drastic action against Akpabio over the latter’s disclosure that money had been wired to the bank accounts of the lawmakers in order to enjoy their annual vacation.
Senator Ndume, who spoke to the BBC Hausa Service monitored by our correspondent, blamed Akpabio’s public disclosure for the attack on Senators, saying something would be done about the Senate President’s unguarded utterances if he does not desist.
The Borno South Senator emphasised that the N2million allowance paid to each Senator was not out of the ordinary, likening the largesse to the customary annual leave bonus or allowance entitled to employees in an establishment.
“It’s common knowledge that if any employee is going on leave, he/she is entitled to a leave grant. That was the money we received, and it is nothing unusual or special.
“All Senators received N2million. And I am making this comment with a heavy heart, because he (Akpabio) is the cause of this controversy.
“He created an impression as if we were given some special or huge amounts of money. What’s the big deal if I receive N2million allowance in my capacity as a Senator?
“He made a very wrong statement, and I warned him immediately that his comments were unbecoming of an elder.
Meanwhile, in direct contrast to the bashings and incisive vituperations he got last week, Senate President Godswill Akpabio yesterday enjoyed the backing of an agenda-setting college of former and serving National Assembly (NASS) members who declared that the recess allowances for members of the Red Chamber he announced at plenary was in order.
The past and serving lawmakers under the aegis of Leadership Council of The Initiatives insisted that Akpabio was sincere in his dealings, as he only announced that the lawmakers had received their allowances from the clerk of the National Assembly before he was interrupted.
At a press conference in Abuja, the Dean, Faculty Board of The Initiatives, Hon Eseme Eyiboh, said no lawmaker goes on recess without allowances, adding that the Senate president was erroneously misinterpreted.
He stated: “In a time like this, Senators are going on holidays. A token had already been sent to them. He did not say the Clerk shall send. He said the Clerk had sent. As of the time he was making that statement, the senators had received the alert already.
“Regardless of the fact that they are senators, these people were inaugurated on June 13th. We are now in August and they are going on break.
“They will resume in September. By the time they resume in September, how do we expect them to cope since they have not received their salaries. The capital releases to all ministries, departments and agencies were withheld.
“So, they had not collected their salaries. Whatever is given to them, whether as salaries, allowances or whatever it is, they deserved it”.
Oyiboh noted further that every worker deserves his wages, just as he said if a Senator is allowed to go on holiday without allowances, even his constituents will not be happy with him.
“In a time like this, some senatorial districts have as many as 18 local government areas. If a senator goes to his senatorial district now without salary, don’t you know what will happen to him? That token was the representation of a gesture. If you are entitled to your salary and it was not paid, you could be given a token.
“It is an intervention, it is to ameliorate suffering you would have otherwise suffered. The word ‘token’ is just an intervention. He didn’t say they had posted your salary. For a man who is kind and generous as he is, there is no just reason to attack him, there is nothing wrong with what he has said.
“His colleagues had already received the money. Let us be considerate because the senators had made a lot of sacrifices. They work till 11pm on some days and outside the legislative days. I think we should appreciate that,” Eyiboh maintained.
He also defended the visit of Senator Akpabio to the president villa for consultations on certain issues of national importance.
Written by Chibuzo Ukaibe