Of Saraki And The Senate Presidency: A Case Of Usurpation

By Ikenga Chronicles August 8, 2018

Of Saraki And The Senate Presidency: A Case Of Usurpation

–Dr. Vitus Ozoke

“I’ll leave if impeached by two-thirds of members of the Senate.” (Bukola Saraki)

Yes, but that is if you are still Senate President. Section 50(2)(c) of the Nigerian Constitution prescribes a super majority (two-thirds) of members of the Senate (in the case of the Senate President) for the removal of the Senate President. Same super majority of members of the House of Representatives is constitutionally required for the impeachment of the House Speaker.

I get that. The problem here, which Saraki doesn’t seem to get, is that, by automatic operation of law, Dr. Bukola Saraki is no longer the President of the Senate. Heck, Bukola Saraki is no longer a senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. You have to be a senator first to be a Senate President. And the super majority requirement only applies to the impeachment of the Senate President.

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Is Bukola Saraki, and the horde of defecting legislators, aware of the provisions of section 68(1)(g) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria? That section reads:

“A member of the Senate or of the House of Representatives shall vacate his seat in the House of which he is a member if, being a person whose election to the House was sponsored by a political party, he becomes a member of another political party before the expiration of the period for which that House was elected; Provided that his membership of the latter political party is not as a result of a division in the political party of which he was previously a member or of a merger of two or more political parties or factions by one of which he was previously sponsored.”

One would have thought that 68(1)(g) was very straight forward. And that the chief lawmaker of Nigeria should be able to understand such a simple provision of law. Obviously, 68(1)(g) is not too simple. I have discovered that since my controversial posting on the DSS barricade of the National Assembly complex yesterday. I have since discovered that even many Nigerian lawyers have stood 68(1)(g) on its head. Their confusion stems from the proviso to the section.

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That proviso reads:

“Provided that his membership of the latter political party is not as a result of a division in the political party of which he was previously a member or of a merger of two or more political parties or factions by one of which he was previously sponsored.”

Everybody, mostly the lawyers, who have challenged my position on the issue, have argued that Bukola Saraki was saved from the consequences of 68(1)(g) by the proviso to that section. They have argued that APC, Bukola Saraki’s former party, suffered a division, resulting in the breakaway faction known as r-APC (otherwise called the Reformed APC).

Yes, APC suffered a division, which meets the exception in section 68(1)(g) proviso. The offshoot of that division is the r-APC. The problem for Saraki here is that he did not join the r-APC; he defected into the PDP. PDP is not a product of the division in the APC.

The spirit of that proviso is to save a senator or representative who finds himself on the other side of an internal party split while still serving an active unexpired legislative term or who becomes a member of a new party resulting from the merger of his original sponsoring political party and another or other political parties. That is not the case here. PDP, the party to which Bukola Saraki has defected is neither the outcome of a division in the APC nor the product of a merger to which the APC is a party. That is the correct interpretation of the proviso to section 68(1)(g).

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So, having left the political party that sponsored him into the Senate before the expiration of the period for which that Senate term was elected (in this case the APC), and having joined a party (in this case the PDP), which has no relationship with the APC, either by adversarial division, or by a harmonious merger accord, Dr. Bukola Saraki ceased to be a senator of the Federal Republic the very meet he left the APC for the PDP. Ipso facto, Dr. Bukola Saraki ceased to be Senate President the very minute he left the APC for the PDP.

To hear Dr. Bukola Saraki, MD, cite section 50(2)(c) of the Nigerian Constitution, and insist that a two-third majority of the Nigerian Senate is required to impeach him as Senate President is pathetic on many levels. First, it exposes his hermeneutic deficiency in dealing with basic provision of Nigerian jurisprudence. Second, it exposes the danger of allowing non-lawyers to head the Senate of the Federal Republic.

Let me be very clear. This is not just about Bukola Saraki; this is about every lawmaker who has left their sponsoring political party to another political party before the expiry of the period for which their legislative term was elected. Godswill Akpabio also ceased to be a senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria the moment he switched from the PDP to the APC.

Section 68(1)(g) is an automatic consequential provision. No further action is required to give it effect. It says that such a defecting senator or representative shall vacate his seat upon the breach of that section. The clerk of the National Assembly may just transmit a courtesy letter of vacation to such an erring senator.

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Long and short of it all: Bukola Saraki and any number of lawmakers (senators and representatives) who have violated section 68(1)(g) are no longer members of the National Assembly having vacated their seats. The operation of section 68(1)(g) has rendered section 50 almost completely moot. I say almost because a paragraph of that section is still relevant to the extent that it is consistent with section 68(1)(g). And that is section 50(2)(a), which reads:

“The President or Deputy President of the Senate or the Speaker or Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives shall vacate his office if he ceases to be a member of the Senate or of the House of Representatives, as the case may be, otherwise than by reason of a dissolution of the Senate or the House of Representatives.” Section 68(1)(g) is one of those scenarios.

As it currently stands, Dr. Bukola Saraki, Godswill Akpabio, and several others, may be usurpers of legislative seats and may be prosecuted for it.

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