JUST IN: Constitution Amendment: Southern, Northern Senators renew hostilities

Less than one year after the inauguration of the 10thNational Assembly, Senators from the North and their counterparts from the South are heading for a collision in a battle of supremacy. While the Southern offensive is led by lawmakers from the South West, the Northern front is led by former governors from North West and North East....READ FULL ARTICLE

A lawmaker from the South-West, who has attended some of the meetings where issues that will redefine the country were discussed, told Saturday Sun in confidence that the renewed power struggle has the endorsement of major leaders from the South, who are bent on taming the growing influence of some senators in the upper legislative chamber.

He warned that If Southern senators don’t work hard, the ongoing constitution review exercise may be frustrated by angry Northern lawmakers. He said the Senate President, Godswill Akpabio and other Southern leaders must up their game to ensure that the needed two-third majority is secured to effect any amendment in the constitution.

He also disclosed: “Angry senators who were beaten in their own game are planning to pay us back during the constitution review exercise. We know their plans and we have worked out how we intend to beat them to it. We need 73 senators. In the South, we have 51 already. We will work hard and get 22 from the North to enable us carry the day.

“This is beyond personal ambition. This is about stopping some desperate people from destabilising this chamber. There are important bills we need to pass and luckily, the chairman of the Constitution Committee is an experienced senator from Kano State. He knows what to do.”

The new constitution review exercise, Saturday Sun has gathered, will address issues such as independent candidacy to contest for an elective office; creation of state police; federal structure and power devolution; fiscal federalism and revenue allocation; judicial and electoral reforms; immunity for presiding officers of the National and State Assemblies; full local government fiscal autonomy; state creation agitations; among others.

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Members of the committees may also face the challenge of revisiting the age-long quest to separate the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation/state from the office of Minister/Commissioner for Justice; change in procedure for the enactment of an entirely new constitution, which includes a referendum; inclusion of basic education and primary healthcare in fundamental and justiciable human rights.

Other issues are inclusion of electoral offences as a ground to disqualify candidates from future elections; mandatory presentation of the yearly state of the nation address to a joint session of the National Assembly by the President; and removal of presidential assent to constitution amendment bills.

Saturday Sun was reliably informed that issues like State Police; resource control; creation of more states; federal structure and power devolution; fiscal federalism and revenue allocation may form the new battleground between the north and the south.

While agitation for some of these issues, especially resource control and the establishment of State Police has been championed by Southern leaders over the years, leaders from the north have not been too favourably disposed to resource control and state police. Some Northern Senators have openly disclosed that they would never support such agitation.

Meanwhile the power struggle in the Senate started weeks before the emergence of Godswill Akpabio as President of the Senate and Chairman of the National Assembly.

While the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Presidency had settled for Akpabio, the North, led by former governors from the ruling APC and opposition parties opted for a Northern candidate.

Since then, power within the senate has taken different forms and shapes, with threats from some of the lawmakers to remove Akpabio before his first anniversary in office in June.

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Last Tuesday was the climax of the power struggle, when Abdul Ningi, senator representing Bauchi Central and Chairman of Northern Senators’ Forum was suspended for three months, after which he resigned as head of the northern Senators.

The Senator representing Katsina Central, Abdulaziz Musa Yar’Adua, has since replaced Ningi as Chairman, Northern Senators Forum.

Though the suspension of Ningi was based on his claims that the 2024 budget was padded with over N3 trillion, Saturday Sun gathered that a bigger clandestine plot to instigate senators against Akpabio, was primarily responsible for his suspension.

Leader of the Senate, Opeyemi Bamidele made an allusion to it, when he spoke on the floor of the Senate on Tuesday. He gave a pointer to the cold war between Northern and Southern senators since Akpabio’s emergence.

“We must never accept any apology from Senator Ningi. It is ridiculous to do so. He lied deliberately. Mr Senate President, you’re occupying that seat 40 years after a South-South person occupied it.

“The last time a Southerner was there was during Obasanjo and they were being changed every time. It was only stable when it returned to the North. David Mark spent eight years, Saraki completed his four years, Lawan spent his four years.

“Don’t be deceived, the losers of the June 2023 Senate President election are still angry. Some have accepted but a few haven’t. They have plotted to remove you before June 2024.

That is why you must not allow this deliberate mischief by Ningi to go away. He did it on purpose. He knew he was lying, he set the public against you, he will do it again. We must apply our sanction.”

After the face-off on the floor of the senate, the Southern senators, led by lawmakers from the South West, pushed for the resuscitation of the Southern Senators’ Forum. The move, it was gathered, was led by Bamidele, Adeola Olamilekan and Jimoh Ibrahim.

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On Wednesday, Adetokunbo Abiru, a first time senator from Lagos State, was named as the new Chairman of Southern Senators’ Forum, thereby consolidating power in the South West.

Already, the Leader of the Senate is from the South West. Senate Committee Chairman on Appropriations is from the South West. The geopolitical zone has now clinched the chairmanship of Southern Senators’ Forum.

The lawmaker from the South West who confided in Saturday Sun also disclosed that the three lawmakers who spearheaded the suspension of Ningi were carefully chosen from the South West. He said the inclusion of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu by Northern senators in the on-going power play, birthed the personal involvement of lawmakers from the South West.

The lawmaker said if plans by Northern senators had succeeded, Akpabio would have been removed, which, he aid, would have resulted in the senate being destabilised.

“What happened on Tuesday was a counter coup. They had planned to create a crisis in the Senate and create a fertile ground to remove Akpabio. We got wind of it and beat them to their own game. That was the first time we did that. We will do it again if given the chance.

“The truth is that, when we met, we had decided to allow senators from the three geopolitical zones in the South to participate. Some people grew cold feet and the plan was going to fail.

South West lawmakers decided to take up the game. If you observed closely, some senators from the North joined us from the South. That was the first time.

“We need to keep the momentum. We need to remain united. Hopefully, we’ll remain as one until the end of this 10thNational Assembly,” he told Saturday Sun.…READ FULL ARTICLE 

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