Defection: Senate leadership puts off action

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As the Senate resumes plenary today, indications emerged yesterday that the leadership may have deferred action on proposed defection of some members from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC).
The leadership has also decided to stay action on the report of the Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions, which declared the defection of Senator Robert Ajayi Boroffice from the Labour Party (LP) to the then Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), now APC, as illegal.
Before Senate went on recess, 22 nPDP Senators, were said to have concluded plans to move to the APC this month when the chamber resumes legislative business.
To “test the waters,” the report of the Senator Ayo Akinyelure-led Ethics Committee, which was put in abeyance, was dusted and included in reports for consideration when the Senate resumes this week.
Less than 24 hours after Daily Sun broke the story yesterday, the leadership reportedly changed its mind on the report. Checks showed that as at last week, the leadership had agreed to go ahead with the report of the Ethics Committee on Senator Boroffice’s defection with the belief that this may stop the proposed defections in the chamber after reports had indicated that Senators who wanted to defect to the APC were deterred with threats to declare their seats vacant.
Besides, the leadership may have decided to tread softly as a suit instituted by the 22 nPDP senators at a Federal High Court in Abuja,  to stop the PDP, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the National Assembly from declaring their seats vacant, will come up for hearing today.
The judge fixed January 22 for hearing on the matter. The court order, which was issued by Justice A.R. Mohammed, said the decision was sequel to a motion filed by 79 lawmakers in the National Assembly, including 22 senators, seeking an order restraining the defendants from declaring their seats vacant.
Regardless, the chamber was expected to act on a petition from the Ondo State House of Assembly on Senator Boroffice’s defection from the LP to the ACN (APC). The petition was routed directly through the Office of President of the Senate, Senator David Mark, who in turn forwarded the petition to the Ethics Committee for consideration.

Going by Senate rules, Mark cannot bring a petition to the floor but can send such petitions directly to the relevant committee for further legislative consideration. The report would be submitted at plenary and any recommendations emanating from such investigation will be debated on the floor and resolutions emanating therefrom are binding.
The committee worked on the petition and declared Senator Boroffice’s seat illegal.
When the matter was initially brought to the floor, a senator from Oyo State challenged the report on the premise that the petition was not formally submitted to the house.
That threw a spanner into its consideration but Mark quickly reminded his colleague that he cannot interprete the rule as only the Senate President is empowered to do so going by the Senate Standing Orders (2011, as amended).
 aAConsideration of the report was held in abeyance until it surfaced on the Notice Paper on Monday, January 20, a copy of which was sighted by Daily Sun. The report has been listed on the Notice Paper for Thursday, January 23 with Senate Chief Whip, Senator Bello Hayatou Gwarzo as sponsor.
Gwarzo is Akinyelure’s deputy. The Notice Paper reads: “That the Senate do consider the report of the Ethics Committee in respect of a petition from the Labour Party and Ondo State House of Assembly on Sen (Prof.) Robert Ajayi Boroffice (Consideration).
But latest developments yesterday, showed that there’s “rapprochement” between the leadership and aggrieved members of the party over the planned defection.
“The report is there on the Notice Paper but nothing much may come out of it, for now. We want to know whether the planned defections will still take place. If it does, we know what to do…”
Meanwhile, Senate is still waiting on President Goodluck Jonathan for the list of new ministerial nominees, more than a week after the Presidency said the list would get to the Upper Chamber for clearance. It was learnt yesterday that the list has not  been received from Aso Rock.

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