12 February 2014

Nigeria: PDP Shells Out Dollars to Defectors - APC

Photo: Vanguard
PDP Party.

The APC has accused the PDP of using public funds to lure back some of the federal lawmakers who have defected from the ruling party to the APC, condemning what it called political horse-trading carried too far.

In a statement issued in Lagos yesterday by its interim national publicity secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party said the PDP, in an unprecedented show of desperation, has rolled out a mouth-watering enticement package that promises $2 million to each senator who returns to the PDP; $1 million to each member of the House of Representatives, and $10 million to each "leader" who abandons the APC for PDP.

It said the price tag for the federal legislators from Rivers State is even higher, at $5 million each.

But the APC said there is no cause for alarm, as no amount of inducements will stop the change that is in the horizon, because the long-suffering people of Nigeria are ready and eager to vote out the PDP next year.

The party said the five House of Representatives members who have taken the PDP's killer bait when they defected to the APC were neither forced to do so nor given any incentive beyond the rare opportunity offered them to be a part of the looming change.

It expressed the hope that the double defectors would declare the blood money they have collected from the PDP to those who voted them into office, and also pretend to be democratic by sharing the money with them.

"Nigerians can now see why their country has gone broke; why the allocation to states from the federation account has continued to dwindle, and why infrastructures have either remained decrepit or non-existent. It is not difficult to imagine the number of boreholes that $10 million can sink, or how far such a huge amount will go in building cottage hospitals and health clinics.

"Things are bound to get worse in the days ahead because the desperate PDP will, more and more, use public funds to try to change the course of history. We therefore urge Nigerians to remain resolute in the face of what will be a wave of inducements never before seen in these climes, because there is no going back on the plan to vote out the PDP next year and save Nigeria from a rapacious and inept leadership," APC said.

Mark stops Saraki, 10 others senators

Citing an ongoing legal tussle over defection, Senate president David Mark yesterday foreclosed any further attempt by 11 Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) senators from defecting to the All Progressives Congress (APC).

Though five out of the 11 PDP senators at yesterday's plenary made spirited effort to invoke the Order of Privilege, Mark told them that there was need for judicial order.

Senator Mark, relying on Order 53(5) of the Senate Standing Orders 2011, as amended, successively declared their planned defection to the APC as null and void and of no effect.

The five senators that raised points of order, citing Order 14, which deals with the privileges of senators, to announce their defection to the APC were: Bukola Saraki (Kwara Central), Abdullahi Adamu (Nasarawa West), Aisha Alhassan (Taraba North), Magnus Abe(Rivers South-East) and Wilson Ake (Rivers West).

Senator Saraki was the first to raise Order 14 on matter of privileges, drawing the attention of the president of the Senate to the letter he jointly submitted in respect of their cross-carpeting to the APC and asking him to read the letter.

Responding, Mark referred him to Order 53(5) which reads: "Reference shall not be made to any matter on which a judicial decision is pending, in such a way as might in the opinion of the President of the Senate prejudice the interest of the parties thereto."

Mark further told Saraki, "It cannot be a matter of privilege to you because the matter is in court and no mention should be made of it. Therefore, I rule you out of order."

The other four senators followed in like manner, raising the same point of order and announcing their defection to the main opposition party. They received the same response from Mark.

In an attempt to help his prospective party colleagues, the Senate minority leader, George Akume (Benue, APC), raised Order 15 and moved a motion that Mark should read the letter of the defecting senators.

Order 15 reads: "Any senator may rise at any time to speak upon a matter of privilege suddenly arising, and he shall be prepared to move, without notice, a motion declaring that a contempt or breach of privilege has been committed, or referring the matter to the Committee on Ethics and Privileges, but if the matter is raised in Committee of the Whole Senate, the Chairman shall leave the Chair and report progress."

After citing this Order, Akume went further to say, "This is a legislative house and privileges are guaranteed by law. This is an issue that has dragged on for so long. We cannot stop people from associating. By the power conferred on me as the minority leader, I have the right to speak on behalf of my people. Therefore, I move that the Senate president should read the letter now. I so move."

Countering Akume's motion and argument, Mark confronted the APC leader: "Tell me your privilege that is being breached and I will rule on it. I do not want to shut you out, but there shall be no further reference made on it."

When the former Benue State governor could not wriggle out of the legal cage, Mark ruled him out of order, declaring that by the power conferred on him by Order 14, which Akume had referred to, he was not satisfied with his explanation.

The defecting senators had earlier gone to court and obtained an interim injunction to stop the president of the Senate from declaring their seats vacant. The court order also stated that the status quo should be maintained by the parties in the suit.

But, negating this legal hurdle, the 11 aggrieved senators from the ruling party jointly wrote a letter expressing their defection to the APC and desperately impressed on the president of the Senate to read their letter to the chamber.

Not willing to violate the rules of the Senate, Mark has, in the last three weeks, tactically tried to manage the situation politically so that the matter would not degenerate and disintegrate the upper house.

The chairman, Senate Committee on Information, Media and Public Affairs, Enyinnaya Abaribe, told Senate correspondents that it is the resolve within the Senate to maintain the dignity of the upper chamber.

Abaribe added that senators can get up and express themselves but the procedure must be followed: "Our rules are very clear when a matter is in court: we cannot discuss it. The hands of the Senate president are tied; he cannot do otherwise, and if he does otherwise, it will be contempt of court. Therefore, while not saying that the matter has been laid to rest, we can say sufficiently that the matter has now been handled in such a way that all sides are aware of their rights and things are going smoothly in the Senate.

"Let me make certain things clear: first of all, everybody is a member of the Nigerian Senate elected under a platform. When you are elected, you are given a seat and if you have to move there are rules that you have to comply with. Nothing in that rules says if you come and just make a voice statement, that will be sufficient. When you come via a point of order, no.

"As far as the Senate is concerned, there has been no movement yet. It is the legal opinion sought by the Senate leadership that played itself out on the floor of the Senate today in which the Senate president said the matter is in court and he is legally bound to abide by the rule, which says once a matter is in court, you cannot comment on it.

"The defecting senators got an interim order and the main case is still in court, so it is not the job of the Senate to seek the interpretation of the injunction. There is no problem with our rules. We are not lawyers and we are not a court, so we leave the issue at that. The onus lies on those who went to court to quickly hasten the court process; either way, they can decide to withdraw their letter and once they do that... "

On the non-appearance of the inspector-general of police, Abaribe said it was unfortunate. "We could not meet with the inspector-general of police as earlier scheduled today because of some scheduling problems, but we will let the public know when we are going to have the IGP in chamber.

"There were scheduling problems that we couldn't resolve today. The IGP is also a busy person and we should be able to iron out things with him," he added.

APC may lose 2 senators

Meanwhile, there are strong indications that APC may lose two senators to the PDP.

This emerged when Senator Ehigie Uzamere (APC, Edo) signified his intention through a statement yesterday. The other senator, said a source, is from Nasarawa State, who was elected on the platform of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC).

Uzamere, in his statement, described APC as "a party organized around a sole administrator who overturns and overturns and overturns depending on his moods, desires, whims and caprices" and cannot dispense justice, equity and fairness in a heterogeneous polity.

He said, In exercise of the mandate freely given to me by you in my first tenure on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), I protested and fought against the domination of the people of Edo South Senatorial District by the forces, structure and dynamics of the party and government of that time. The heat generated by the resultant friction led to my inevitable exit from the party.

"On hand to receive me was the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), as it then was, a party which rose to power in Edo State as a result of the people's dissatisfaction with the PDP's performance in governance. I postulated then that the PDP's ticket in Edo State was worse than the Zimbabwean dollar. My movement from PDP to ACN was smooth due to my policy of putting state interest above partisan considerations as an elected leader. It was this policy that influenced my decision to clear an ACN nominee for the position of Edo State representative on the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) Board, even though I was a PDP senator. In appreciation, the ACN did not only admit me to their fold, it gave me a return ticket to the Senate, an act for which I will remain eternally grateful.

Senators Abe, Al-Hassan protest

Two senators, Magnus Abe and Aisha Al-Hassan, have protested the action of Mark.

Speaking to journalists immediately after plenary, Senator Abe said: "What you are witnessing is the internal politics of the Senate; we have confidence in the leadership. There is a problem in the Senate and we believe that Senator David Mark has, over years, proven himself as an astute statesman, democrat and politician. We still believe that this is a problem that has a political solution and what we need to do as senators under our leadership is to look for a solution that will satisfy the desires of individual senators, satisfy the desires of individual citizens of the country to see greater democracy, satisfy the constitution to allow free association of persons and I think the challenge before the Senate is to look for the solution and we are still working together."

Also, Senator Al Hassan said, "I raised my point of order because I need to inform the Senate. I need to inform Nigerians that I have changed position. That I have moved from the PDP to the APC. I left the PDP because justice was not done to me. I had cried too many times that I am suffering injustice, persecution, and intimidation in my state.

"I had written the national leadership and the national secretariat of the PDP so many times and nothing happened. Therefore, I now decided to move to the APC where I can get justice. We submitted a letter which the Senate president said he was not going to read because there is a pending court injunction that the status quo should be maintained.

"We are saying that the issue before the court has to do with the declaration of seats vacant but Senator Mark maintained that it's about defection. We cannot be asked to maintain status quo about declaring our seats vacant. That order did not affect us and it's not about moving from one party to another.

"I have registered in the APC and I have moved from PDP. I want my supporters to know that I have moved in the Senate but if the Senate president failed to read them, that is his opinion. I have given the information. I respect him but he said there is a court injunction against him; he is entitled to his opinion; he is entitled to the way he interprets the order. I am in APC 100 per cent. But if the Senate president still thinks I am in the PDP, that is his personal opinion which he is entitled to."

PDP consolidates Reps majority, as 5 members defect from APC

Meanwhile, the PDP has consolidated on its prior majority status in the House of Representatives as it yesterday surpassed the All Progressives Congress (APC) by 10 members.

The gale of defections continued yesterday with five more lawmakers defecting from the APC to the PDP, swelling the latter's ranks to 178 as against APC's 168.

APC gained one with the defection of a PDP member to its fold.

The defectors (APC to PDP) as announced by House speaker Aminu Waziri Tambuwal are: Lawan Shehu-Bichi (Kano), Abdulsalam Adamu (Kano), Sani Umar (Zamfara), Ibrahim Shehu Gusau (Zamfara) and Umar Bature (Sokoto).

Hon. Isa Mohammed Ashiru (Kaduna) was the sole defector from PDP to APC, in effect leaving the latter with 168 members.

Thirty-seven lawmakers had on December 18, 2013, defected to the APC, thus granting majority status to the APC: 174 to PDP's 171 members in the House.

But the PDP has, since the resumption of the House from recess, steadily gained an upper hand in the gale of political party cross-carpeting. Last Thursday, it clinched a slim two-member lead over the APC (174 PDP/172 APC).

Before Thursday, four defections pushed the PDP up one place to 172 members, while APC remained in the same position with 174 members. APC gained two members and lost another two. They are: Titsi Ganama and Haske Hananiya from Adamawa State (APC to PDP). Benue PDP lawmaker Emmanuel Jime and Democratic Peoples Party (DPP) member Yahaya Kwande from Plateau moved to the APC.

Also, Hon. Haruna Joseph Kigbu from Nasarawa State last Tuesday defected from APC to the PDP, levelled membership scores between the parties at 173 apiece.

The remaining 14 seats are occupied by the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Accord Party, Labour Party and DPP.

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