Frankly, the coordinated invasion of the Senate by “unknown thugs” (remember ‘unknown soldiers’?) on Wednesday is condemnable in the strongest of terms. The consequent ‘kidnap’ of the mace was quite embarrassing, if not totally disgraceful. Yet it is instructive to note that the suspended senator at the centre of the crisis, Ovie Omo-Agege, has denied knowledge of the invasion and stealing of the mace.
As conspiracy theories work, every detail surrounding the invasion and stealing of the mace points in the direction of the suspended senator––some media outfits even went as far as reporting that he did lead the thugs, something I consider preposterous–– although there are no concrete evidences to proof that YET in law. In any case, following the senator’s denial, it is left for the authorities to look into the case and come out with findings, especially as a PREMIUM TIMES report even showed that the security operatives were part of the entire shenanigan. To avoid jumping the gun, one could as well await the details of the report.
The bigger issue is in the debate on the constitutionality or otherwise of the senate’s penchant for suspending elected lawmakers, as we continue to witness especially in this 8th assembly. While Nigerians remain divided on the suspension of Senator Omo-Agege, particularly because of the partisan concerns surrounding his suspension, it is important that we dispassionately debate this practice for sanity to prevail in the polity.
As a layman, I find the practice of suspending lawmakers based on the whims and caprices of power brokers in the house rather improper, largely because it denies a vast number of Nigerians quality representation as the constitution demands. It is more worrisome when these suspension orders are directed at lawmakers considered antagonistic to the interest of certain individuals in the hallowed chamber and not necessarily in the overall interest of the nation. But a layman’s conjecture is no rule.
However, Femi Falana, has continued to argue, quite rightly, that it is unconstitutional for any legislative chamber to suspend or sack a member. The Lagos-based lawyer argued that ONLY a competent court of law can remove or suspend a member of the legislature whether at the local, state or federal government level. Mr Falana even cited the case of Dino Melaye, now a sidekick of the senate president, when he and others were suspended in 2011 as members of the House of Reps. Senator Omo-Agege, perhaps drawing inspiration from Falana’s legal analysis, also made similar point.
The entire melodrama is worrisome because if the Senate, the highest lawmaking body in the country, is acting in contravention of the court, as the arguments launched against its serial suspension of members have shown, then there is fire on the mountain. Not even when, already, the executive has been serially accused, sometimes wrongly, of not obeying court orders; while the judiciary itself is going through reforms after years of rot.
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