The National Assembly may soon be in the news again for the wrong reasons if the different tunes emanating from senators and members of the House of Representatives on the planned reconvening of the federal parliament on Tuesday are anything to go by.
Investigations by SUNDAY PUNCH revealed that no official communication had been sent out by the leadership of the national legislature to any member to either announce the postponement of the September 25 resumption or inform them to resume on that day.
Members of the National Assembly, through separate motions by their majority leaders in July, agreed to reconvene on Tuesday, September 25, 2018, after their annual recess.
However, majority of the members appeared busy with the process of getting their parties’ tickets to retain their seats as the September 25 resumption date draws near.
Some members of the All Progressives Congress and those of the Peoples Democratic Party, in separate interviews with SUNDAY PUNCH strictly on conditions of anonymity, traded allegations on planned secret sittings by the opposing sides that day.
The APC lawmakers said they had uncovered a plot by the National Assembly leadership to secretly send out invitations via text messages to the PDP lawmakers to resume on Tuesday.
But their opposition colleagues said their colleagues in the ruling party were actually planning to secure a court order on Monday or Tuesday morning, mandating one-third members of both chambers to reconvene.
The PDP lawmakers claimed that their colleagues in the APC wanted to take advantage of the current situation to change the presiding officers of both chambers who had defected to the PDP.
PDP planning to ‘embarrass’ Buhari Tuesday
A member of the APC from the North-West geopolitical zone, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told one of our correspondents that the PDP senators planned to embarrass President Muhammadu Buhari on that day by passing a vote-of-no-confidence in him.
The plan, according to him, is that the PDP lawmakers will capitalise on the killings in the North and Buhari’s refusal to sign the electoral law amendment bill, among others to justify their action.
He said, “They know that Tuesday is resumption and the APC presidential primary, where Buhari is expected to emerge as the candidate, will also hold that day. They are also aware that many of us will like to witness the occasion.
“They did not want the news of Buhari’s emergence as the sole candidate to dominate the media space that day; so, they want the vote-of-no-confidence story to spoil the show for our party.”
Another APC senator said, “Yes, (members of the) opposition in the National Assembly are planning to strike. They want to open the federal parliament at a time the APC lawmakers would be busy with their screening and preparing for the primaries.
“The whole idea is to make it possible for the PDP lawmakers to hide under the guise of INEC budget and electoral act amendments, especially the sequence of elections, to pass a vote-of-no-confidence in the president.
“Part of their reasons is the unabated killings going on in the country either by the herdsmen or by the Boko Haram insurgents.”
PDP plans to woo aggrieved APC lawmakers
Another APC senator, who also spoke with one of our correspondents, alleged that the PDP leadership in both chambers was planning to woo aggrieved APC members, who might have lost out of the party, with automatic tickets on resumption.
He said, “They are also trying to make more contacts when the NASS reopens. They are targeting some APC lawmakers who may be dissatisfied with the outcome of their party’s primaries.
“They are reserving some seats even if it means dropping some of their candidates just to ensure that they form an overwhelming majority in both chambers to really play the role of the opposition and frustrate President Buhari.
“There is provision for replacement of candidates in the INEC constitution till next year. They are trying to see how they can cash in on these things but the most important thing now is that they want to reopen NASS on Tuesday while we are still busy with our primaries.”
Members to receive separate text messages
Asked how the leadership wanted to reconvene the federal legislature without the knowledge of the APC members, the lawmaker said two types of text message would be sent out.
He said the first set would be sent on Monday morning strictly to PDP lawmakers while their counterparts in the APC would get their own late on Monday night.
He said, “The first set of text messages will be sent to all their own party legislators 24 hours before reconvening (Monday) . The next set of text messages will be sent in the night of that day and everybody will be told to appear in the morning.
“They just want to make sure that we are not around by the time they sit. They will deliberately delay the text message meant for other members (APC lawmakers) till late Monday night.
“They will also make the announcement on the national television and radio stations late on Monday night that everybody should appear. They know that this is not possible because we won’t be in Abuja.
“Besides, we won’t be prepared for such emergency resumption. Whatever decision taken would be binding on everybody since we all endorsed the motion that the annual recess should end on September 25.”
PDP lawmaker, CUPP allege APC plot to reconvene N’Assembly
However, a PDP federal lawmaker from the North-Central geopolitical zone alleged in an interview with one of our correspondents that his colleagues in the ruling party were actually trying to illegally unseat the presiding officers with one-third majority.
He said, “Their secret plot was exposed as some of the judges they contacted turned down their request.”
Also last week, the Coalition of United Political Parties said it uncovered a plot by the APC to derail democracy.
The coalition through a statement by its spokesperson, Ikenga Ugochinyere, alleged that the APC planned to file a suit “seeking out a compromised judge who will, in controversial circumstances, grant an exparte application directing that one-third of the senators/House members can demand to open either chambers of the National Assembly.”
The statement read, “CUPP has been informed that the plot also includes the Police inviting the leadership of the National Assembly just before the controversial ruling and their subsequent detention with a black market injunction from a magistrate court.
“This will thereby pave the way for the unlawful and violent change of the leadership of the Senate and House of Representatives. Some of the security agencies will provide security cover for the ‘coupists’ while a section of the media had been co-opted to churn out news and justification for such evil plots.”
Members vow to resume plenary
Meanwhile, members of the National Assembly have said they will return from recess on Tuesday as its leadership has not announced the postponement of resumption because of the forthcoming primaries of political parties.
Speaking with one of our correspondents, Senator Ali Ndume (APC, Borno South), said he was not aware of any plot by the PDP lawmakers to dominate the plenary on Tuesday and pass resolutions against Buhari.
Ndume stated that such “ambush” would be impossible as the principal officers must be around to coordinate the proceedings.
The former Majority Leader stated, “We are not aware of any postponement; so, we assume that the earlier date stands unless there is another announcement.”
Ndume however said APC members in the National Assembly would not dump the presidential primary for legislative duties.
He added, “There are always activities in the parties even when the National Assembly is in session. We can only suspend (legislative) activities for that day if we have to.
“Actually, what is supposed to happen is that the National Assembly is supposed to resume considering the fact that we have matters of urgent national importance before the National Assembly.
“Party activities should not be an excuse. Don’t forget that the APC and the PDP cannot have their major activities on the same day.
“If we resume and we can form a quorum, activities can go on. Either the APC or the PDP has the number to form a quorum that will allow the business of the National Assembly to go on.”
Reacting to the alleged plot by the PDP caucus, Ndume said, “That cannot happen; we cannot ambush ourselves especially when both sides are known. If there is presidential primary, then plenary has to be suspended.
“How can they (PDP) even do that when they don’t have the majority leader and the deputy majority leader? The leader is the person that leads the business of the chamber. How can you do that without the person?
“The leader must be there and in the absence of the leader, it is the deputy, and the deputy is also in the APC. There is nowhere in our rule that someone else can act in the absence of the two. There is no provision like that.”
Also, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege (APC, Delta Central) said he had no information contrary to the scheduled Tuesday resumption. “I am not aware of any, neither resumption nor postponement,” he said.
In the same vein, a member of the House of Representatives, Mr Sunday Karimi (PDP, Kogi), who was asked about the certainty of resuming on Tuesday, said, “I don’t know about another date.”
Reacting to the allegation that PDP senators planned to pass a vote-of-no confidence in Buhari, Senator Rafiu Ibrahim (PDP, Kwara South), who speaks for the APC defectors in the chamber, said Nigerians would vote the President out of office.
Ibrahim, who expressed uncertainty about resumption on Tuesday, urged APC lawmakers to be at the chambers should the date be maintained.
He said, “Since there is no contest for the President at their primary, being the sole aspirant, they should wait in Abuja and they should use ‘helicopter’ to monitor the National Assembly, since they have the power, and watch. They have always been thinking that they have the powers to do such things, we don’t have the powers. We cannot do anything.
“We will resume normally. We are not thinking about anything of such, either to pass any vote-of-no confidence or to impeach the President. Nigerians will vote out the President.”
SUNDAY PUNCH had exclusively reported on September 9 how some lawmakers called on the leadership of both chambers to extend their resumption from September 25 to the second week of October.
A cross section of the lawmakers from both the Senate and House of Representatives had explained that the September 25 earlier fixed was no longer feasible.