The Senate leadership has amended its standing rules in a move that some see as a way to prevent destabilization. The new rule states that only ranking members who have served at least one term or four years as senators can run for the office of President and Deputy President of the Senate.
This amendment comes two weeks after the 10th Senate witnessed what many believe was an impeachment attempt against the Senate President, Godswill Akpabio.
The amendment was adopted after a motion by the Senate majority leader, Opeyemi Bamidele, was passed by the senators present at the session.
The motion was titled: “Amendment of the Standing Orders of the Senate pursuant to Order 109 of the Senate Standing Orders, 2022 (As Amended).”
Rule 3 of the Senate Standing Orders as amended now requires that any senator who wants to contest for the position of the Senate President and Deputy Senate President must have spent a minimum of one term in the senate.
However, some critics of the amended rule say that it contravenes the 1999 constitution (As amended ) which in its section 50(1) simply states that: “there shall be a President and a Deputy President of the Senate, who shall be elected by the members of that House from among themselves.”
The Senate also increased the number of its Standing Committees from 74 to 83 by creating nine new ones.
Recall that the former governor of Zamfara State, Abdulaziz Yari, as a first timer, lost to Godswill Akpabio by 63 to 46 votes in the contest for the Senate Presidency in June, when the 10th Senate was sworn in.
A few weeks later, the Senate president’s office claimed that there was a scheme to oust Akpabio from his position.
The Northern Senators Forum reacted by disowning and denouncing Akpabio’s alleged attempt to create a rift between Senators and President Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
Meanwhile, human rights groups have challenged the constitutionality of the Senate’s amendment to its rules regarding the election of the Senate President and his Deputy.
According to Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, the Executive Director of the Human Rights Writers Association (HURIWA), the amendments are invalid and beyond the scope of the constitution. He cited section 42(1) of the Constitution, which prohibits the government from making policies that would exclude or discriminate against any group of citizens. He also argued that the idea of restricting the eligibility for Senate leadership positions to only ranking members is unrealistic in Nigeria, where the retention rate of legislators in the national assembly is not as consistent as in the US or UK parliaments.
“In Nigeria, virtually 40 to 45 per cent of Senators don’t get reelected. Supposing those who get re-elected lack charisma and leadership qualities, will the Senate be led by never-do-wells? This law is an attempt to muzzle opposition to the decadent leadership of Senator Akpabio leadership which is made up of stooges of the executive arm of government. We in the HURIWA are asking those senators so affected negatively from these destructive amendments to file litigation to get the amendments quashed because the amendments are self-serving, lack progressive ideals and are very primitive and unconstitutional”