There was an uproar in the Senate on Tuesday following the announcement of two opposition senators to fill the vacant minority positions by the Senate President, Godswill Akpabio.
The seats of the Senate Minority Leader and Minority Whip became vacant after the Court of Appeal sacked the former occupants, Senator Simon Mwadkwon (PDP, Plateau North) and Darlington Nwokocha (LP, Abia Central) respectively.
The courts nullified the election of Mwadkwon and ordered a rerun while Nwokocha was removed after the declaration of PDP’s Augustine Akobundu as the authentic winner of the February 25 election in the senatorial district.
The PDP senators had last week held an emergency meeting on the replacement for the principal positions of Senate Minority Leader and Minority Whip. Senator Garba Maidoki (PDP, Kebbi South), who briefed journalists after the closed-door meeting, had said the opposition lawmakers settled for the North Central geo-political zone to produce the Minority Leader.
During Tuesday’s plenary, Akpabio announced the duo of Abba Moro (PDP, Benue South) and Osita Ngwu (PDP, Enugu West) as Minority Leader and Minority Whip respectively.
According to the Senate President, the new Minority Leaders had the majority support of their colleagues in the opposition.
He said 41 minority senators signed the document endorsing Moro as Minority Leader while 30 backed Ngwu for the Minority Whip position.
However, the announcement did not sit well with other parties in the minority caucus, especially the Labour Party.
Raising a point of order, Senator Okechukwu Ezea (LP, Enugu North) protested the absence of his party in the minority leadership, describing the arrangement as an injustice against other minority parties.
“How can the PDP take three minority leadership seats? This is unfair, unjust, and unacceptable,” he said.
Ezea’a point of order degenerated into a rowdy session with LP lawmakers rejecting their party’s exclusion in the minority leadership.
Amid the uproar, Senator Tony Nwoye (LP, Anambra North) accused Akpabio of picking minority leaders for the opposition parties
“How can you be choosing minority leaders for us? Are we your slaves?” Nwoye queried.
Lawmakers from the ruling party made frantic efforts to pacify their colleagues from LP, some of whom approached Akpabio for consultation.
After about 15 minutes, the Senate President addressed the opposition lawmakers and dismissed claims of his interfering in the affairs of the opposition.
Akpabio said he only announced the names forwarded to him by the opposition caucus and that it would be unfair not to respect the voice of the majority.
He, therefore, urged the opposition caucus to always put their house in order before forwarding any name to him.
“All we need to produce a leader is a simple majority. What’s the reason for not agreeing with the position of the majority?
“Fourty one minority senators signed for Abah Moro and 30 signed for Osita Ngwu. They have the majority. It will be unfair for me not to announce them after getting a majority of support. My job is not to work with individual opinion but with the majority of positions,” the Senate President said.
Efforts by Senator Adamu Aliero (PDP, Kebbi Central) to convince Akpabio to stay action on the seat of the minority whip failed as the Senate President ruled him out of order.
Aliero explained that the opposition caucus resolved that Moro should be the Minority Leader, but was yet to decide on the position of the Minority Whip.
But Akpabio referred him to Senate Standing Rule 52(6), which says “it shall be out of order for any senator to speak on any issue that has already been decided.”
Akpabio subsequently ruled Aliero out of order.