23rd January, 2014
Fifty-two members of the Nigeria Senate, nearly half of its membership of 109, have written to the leadership of the National Assembly to express their objection to any attempts to declare vacant the seat of any member of the Upper House who defects to another political party.
In the letter, dated January 20, the Senators warned that such vacancies should be declared only through a process of recall by the relevant constituents or by the pronouncement of a court of competent and final jurisdiction, rather than what they called ‘politics of intimidation, harassment and or comment that could jeopardize the peaceful co-existence of unity of Nigeria.’
The Senators, citing the crisis in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) which has resulted in some Senators planning to defect to other political parties, stressed the need to forestall imminent crisis in the polity. Urging the Senate to continue to accommodate all legislators irrespective of their views, they said Nigeria could only make progress when they tolerate and respect one another and the rule of law.
“Having reaffirmed our confidence in the National Assembly as the only institution empowered by the Constitution to protect and defend the collective interest and yearning of Nigeria are however concerned about some comments, statements and threat in the print and electronic media credited to some elected and unelected persons threatening to declare vacant, the seats of some Senators who are the representatives of the Nigerian people in the National Assembly,” they said.
They stressed that they view such threats with serious concern as they are mischievous and capable of undermining the independence of the legislature and taking away the mandate given to such Senators as the representatives of the Nigerian people.
They further drew attention to a pending legal matter at the Federal High Court in Abuja on the same subject matter, pointing out that it is the practice of the Senate that where a matter is pending in a law court, it cannot be a subject of discussion or debate on the floor of Senate.
“We hereby note that this is not the first experience in the Senate where some Senators have moved to political parties of their choice as a result of one reason or the other, whereas, such has not caused any political tension or intimidation,” the letter cautioned. “It is our resolve that the Senate should maintain and sustain this principle and precedence.”