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National Assembly records 24 dead senators


By Ben Agande, Rotimi Ajayi, Habib Yakoob,
Wednesday, October 30, 2002

 lNzeribe contests indefinite suspension in court

lAnyim asks for private legal firm to handle Nzeribe

lNa'Abba questions $1.5bn withdrawal from foreign reserves

ABUJA — A STUDY of the Senate in the last three years of democracy has identified 24 members of the upper chambers of the National Assembly as mere bench-warmers. A member of the Senate, Chief Arthur Nzeribe, has already instituted an action at the Federal High Court, Abuja challenging the Senate President, Chief Pius Anyim and the Senate itself over his indefinite suspension from the House, while Speaker of the House of Representatives, Alhaji Ghali Na’Abba has queried President Olusegun Obasanjo over a recent withdrawal of $1.5 billion from Nigeria’s foreign reserves without the approval of the National Assembly.

The Senate study conducted by the Research and Communication Unit of the Federal Government said the conclusion on the "bench warmer senators" was based on Bills presented to the House. The names of the 24 senators were not immediately available. The study revealed that none of the 24 law-makers initiated, sponsored or presented any Bill since the business of law-making began in the past three years. Analysis of the study showed that out of a total of 217 Bills presented up to September this year, 160 were initiated by 85 out of a total of 109 senators. Further breakdown showed that out of the 160, 89 Bills were initiated, sponsored and presented by just 12 senators, while 69 Bills were either presented individually or jointly by the remaining 73 senators.

The study also listed 12 senators who stood out as prolific sponsors and presenters of Bills during the period under review, with Senator Martyns Yellowe (PDP-Rivers), topping the list with 11 presentations. Senator Chuba Okadigbo and Senator Mike Ajegbo (both PDP-Anambra), presented 10 Bills each, while Senator Adeseye Ogunlewe (AD-Lagos) presented nine, just as Senator Dalhatu Tafida (PDP-Kaduna) presented eight Bills.

Senators Adawari Pepple (PDP-Rivers) and M. T. Liman (PDP-Katsina) presented seven Bills each, just as Haruna Abubakar (PDP-Nasarawa) and Jonathan Zwingina (PDP-Adamawa), respectively presented six Bills.

Three other senators, Adolphus Wabara (PDP-Abia), Melford Okilo (PDP-Bayelsa) and Matthew Mbu (jr) (PDP-Cross River) respectively presented five Bills. The study did not disclose the names of the redundant senators. Within the period under review, the Executive arm accounted for 57 Bills which included the first three Bills that the Senate debated immediately after its inauguration in 1999.

On Bills passed since 1999, the study showed that the Senate passed a total of 35 Bills out of which 19 were initiated by the Executive arm, while 16 came from the senators.

The unit would soon conclude its study on what transpired in the House of Representatives within the same period.

*Nzeribe sues Senate, Anyim

 

Embattled Senator Arthur Nzeribe has dragged the Senate President, Anyim Pius Anyim and the Senate to court challenging his indefinite suspension by the Senate last week Tuesday. In a suit filed at the Federal High Court, Abuja, the senator is seeking a declaration that his indefinite suspension by the Senate is ultra vires as the constitutional right of the plaintiff as guaranteed by Section 36 was violated.

He wants the court to determine whether: "The 2nd defendant, the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in suspending the plaintiff indefinitely on 22nd day of October, 2002 has compiled with Section 60 of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999, Order 67 Rules 1, 2, 3, 4, 12 of the Standing Rules of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 2002.

"The 2nd defendant, the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in suspending the plaintiff indefinitely on the 22nd day of October 2002 complied with the provisions of Order 45 (1) and (2) and Order 110 (1), (2), (3), and (4) of the Standing Rules of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 2002.

"The 2nd defendant, the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in suspending the plaintiff indefinitely acted within its powers having regard to Section 36 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, Order 97 (4) a, b, c of the Standing Rules of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 2002.

"The 2nd defendant, the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria can pass a resolution at variance with a motion before the House.

He based his application on the following four grounds:

"By virtue of Order 67 (4) of the Standing Rules of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 2002, a senator cannot be suspended more than fourteen (14) legislative days and the said suspension must arise from the grounds stated in Order 67 (1), (2) and (3) of said rules.

"By virtue of Section 60 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the 2nd Defendant herein, is given or has powers to regulate its procedures.

"Whereas there is no evidence on the record of the Senate to show that prior to 22nd day of October 2002 or on the 22nd day of October 2002, the 2nd defendant herein exercised its powers pursuant to Section 60 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 by way of amendment of Order 67 of the Rules of the Senate 2002 and in accordance with Order 110 (1), (2), (3), (4) and (5) of the said Rules.

"By virtue of Section 36(1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, the 2nd defendant, the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria cannot in the determination of allegations levelled against the plaintiff by the 1st defendant, (the Senate President) resolve any such matter without giving the plaintiff a right to fair hearing guaranteed by the Constitution."

Nzeribe is therefore seeking the following reliefs: "A declaration that the procedure by which the 2nd defendant, the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria suspended the plaintiff as reflected in the votes and proceedings of the 22nd of October 2002 is irregular, null and void.

"A declaration that the plaintiff’s constitutional right as guaranteed by Section 36 of the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 was violated by the 2nd defendant.

"An order, setting aside/questioning the decision of the Senate as reflected in its votes and proceedings of the 22nd day of October 2002 to suspend indefinitely the plaintiff."

 

lNa’Abba questions Obasanjo

 

Speaker of the House of Representatives, Alhaji Ghali Na’Abba has queried President Olusegun Obasanjo over the recent withdrawal of a sum of $1.5 billion from Nigeria’s foreign reserves account without the approval of the National Assembly. The Speaker’s query was contained in a letter dated September 13, with reference number NASS/SPK/PRESS/Vol.111 addressed to President Olusegun Obasanjo and a follow-up letter dated October 25, 2002. The September 13 letter stated that the withdrawal was done without due constitutional procedure.

He said "my attention has been drawn to the decision at a recent meeting in your office with the Accountant-General of the Federation to withdraw the sum of US$1.5 billion or N185.999 billion from the federation's foreign reserves account. The Federal Government share of the planned draw-down at 54.68 per cent would amount to US$820.2 million or N101.704 billion. I was equally made to understand that already the sum of US$235.2 million or N30 billion had been drawn down while the balance of US$585 million is kept for Federal Government of Nigeria's use by the end of the year to finance its capital projects.

"In view of the constitutional implication of this action, I would wish to request Mr. President to confirm the veracity or otherwise of this information, please. If the response is in the affirmative, it would be appreciated if an explanation is offered as to why due constitutional procedure was not followed. While expecting your kind but prompt response, please accept, Mr. President the renewed assurances of my highest consideration."

In the second letter of October 25, 2002 the Speaker complained about the President’s refusal to answer the September 13 letter and requested that the President should urgently reply on the issues raised. The letter reads: "I wish to refer to my letter No. NASS/SPK/PRES/Col.111 dated September 13, 2002 (copy attached), on the above subject and to note that Mr. President is yet to avail me of a reply to the issues raised.

"I am therefore, to request Mr. President to kindly but urgently respond to the issues raised in my letter under reference, please."

The Speaker’s letter was backed up with memo sent by the Accountant-General of the Federation, Mr. Kayode Naiyeju with Ref. No. AGF/TRY/796.Vol.11/237 to the Minister of Finance. The memo was entitled: "Draw Down from Reserve Account for funding of capital projects in 2002 budget.

In the memo, the Accountant-General pointed out that by the draw-down, the nation’s consolidated revenue fund account showed that a deficit of N79.05 billion would be recorded by December this year.

 

lAnyim tasks Agabi on Nzeribe

 

Senate President, Anyim Pius Anyim, has written the Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr. Kanu Agabi, requesting him to give fiat to a private law firm, Ogbueli Chambers, for the prosecution of Senator Francis Arthur Nzeribe.

Senator Nzeribe, was last week suspended indefinitely by the upper legislative House, following allegation by the Senate President that he defrauded the House to the tune of N22.8 million.

However, the senator, has severally defended himself, arguing that the Senate President was merely after him because, he revealed his secrets of presidential ambition to President Obasanjo.

In the letter to Agabi, titled: "Application for the Attorney-General’s Fiat to prosecute Senator Francis Arthur Nzeribe," signed by the Senate President, Anyim Pius Anyim, he said: "The Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has uncovered a case of fraud involving dishonesty and forgery against Senator Francis Arthur Nzeribe, in relation to the accounts of the Senate.

"The Senate has decided to hire a private legal practitioner to conduct the case for the Senate and for which the Senate hereby requests that the Attorney-General’s fiat be given to Ikechukwu Ezechukwu, Esq. of Ogbueli Chambers, Plot 17, Yaounde Street, Zone 6, Wuse, Abuja, to prosecute the said senator.

 

 

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