The Senate yesterday stood down all items on its order paper and suspended legislative duties till Tuesday in honour of 44 soldiers killed by Boko Haram in Borno State last weekend.
It also mandated its committee on army and defence to pay a solidarity visit to soldiers in the northeast, investigate the loss of troops and ascertain if personnel have adequate provisions.
The casualty figure according to reports excludes nine farmers killed during the three-day attack on some villages and a military camp.
The resolutions were sequel to an adopted motion sponsored by Deputy Majority Leader Bala Na’Allah and Senator Andrew Uchendu.
Na’Allah in his lead debate had made three prayers: the observance of a minute’s silence, the condolence visit and investigation. But Uchendu added that the Senate should adjourn sitting rather than merely observing the moment’s silence.
“Mr. President and dear colleagues, I have no reasons to doubt the figure of the 44 dead soldiers. But if that figure is correct, then this Senate must come out and show massive concern, not just one-minute silence. We must shut down for one whole day in honour of those fallen heroes,” Na’Allah said.
Still on the military, the vice chairman of the Senate committee on army, Senator Ibrahim Danbaba, claimed that the committee under the chairmanship of Senator George Akume has been inactive for over two years.
“In fact, the only thing the committee has done that can be said to be oversight was our visit to the army headquarters in 2016. Mr. President, the Senate is completely detached from the Nigerian Army. We in the Senate do not know what the army is actually doing.
“I want to say this again that there was a draft bill that was referred to the committee about two years ago; that bill is still lying down in the secretariat of the committee. This is because the leadership of the committee has not been able to give direction as to what to do with the bill,” said Danbaba.
He urged the chamber to direct its committee on ethics to investigate the conduct of the committee and why its leadership should be allowed to stand. He also warned that the alleged inactivity could bring the Senate to disrepute.
Senate President Bukola Saraki consequently directed Majority Leader Ahmed Lawan to discuss with the committee’s leadership and report back for further legislative action.
The upper chamber also invoked its legislative powers targeted at breaking the police siege of the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly. It asked its committee on police affairs to ascertain the situation.
The committee had earlier on Wednesday been directed to investigate the development and report back within 48 hours.
The resolution followed a report by Senator Bassey Akpan (representing Akwa Ibom East district) that the siege had not been called off.
“Mr. President and distinguished colleagues, yesterday I reported that the police laid siege to the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly and regrettably they are still there as I speak. Mr. President, this action is not right. It is undemocratic and therefore tyranny. I was informed that the reason for the police action was to pave the way for the disaffected five members of the state Assembly to impeach the Speaker and the governor, Udom Emmanuel,” Akpan said.
Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu then drew his colleague’s “attention to what the law says.”
He explained: “Section 8 says: ‘A member of a legislative house shall not be obstructed or hindered from gaining entrance into a legislative chamber. (This includes the House of Assembly.) Any person who hinders the movement of a member of a legislative house into the chambers or premises of a legislative house or who interferes with lawful order given by an officer of a legislative house in performing his official functions or who creates any disturbance, which interrupts or is likely to interrupt the proceedings of a legislative house, commits an offence, and is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding N100,000 or a term of imprisonment of six months or both.’ ”
He added: “The police authorities need to know that whoever is stopping the legislative house in Akwa Ibom or its members from sitting is risking six months imprisonment. The Speaker of that parliament can by this law arrest everybody trying to stop them from doing their work. That is what our law provides.”
Agreeing, Saraki hit the gavel in confirmation and directed that the police vacate the complex or face the wrath of the law.