There was chaos in the Senate during plenary today when the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, refused to allow Sen. Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom North-West Senatorial district to contribute to a point of order, citing non-complying to sitting arrangements.
Another Senator from Akwa Ibom State, Albert Akpan (PDP, Akwa Ibom North-East) had raised a point of order accusing the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state of plotting to cause mayhem in the forthcoming general election.
Hardly had Se. Akpan began his speech than other APC Senators began to shout him down in the background though Akpan managed to finish his point of order.
Sen. Akpabio who recently defected from the PDP to the APC, also raised a point of order, apparently to respond to Akpan but Saraki, however, said Akpabio could only speak from the seat allocated to him.
The Senate President who noted Sen. Akpan’s statement, asked the Leader of the Senate, Ahmed Lawan, to proceed with other items on the Order Paper, stating that the former Minority leader could not speak because he was not sitting down on his appropriate seat.
“Former Minority Leader, you know you can’t speak from there. You can’t. Please, go to your seat; when you get to your seat, I’ll recognise you,” Saraki said, and thereafter, asked the Senate Leader to proceed with other items on the Order Paper.
But Lawan, in his defense of Akpabio, said there was no sitting arrangement in the Senate and any Senator could speak anywhere he sat.
“As it stands today in this chamber, there is no organised sitting arrangement. If he decides to sit there, let him. There is no microphone there. Let us not take the Panadol for his headache. Let me advise that even though we have only six, seven months to go, let’s do what is right.”
Lawan added that the Clerk of the Senate allocated the sit to Sen. Akpabio, a statement that Saraki refuted, saying that he had directed the Clerk to allocate seats to lawmakers.
The lawmakers proceeded on a shouting match with each Senator trying to defend his party, turning the plenary into a rowdy session.
Amidst the noise, however, Saraki asked Sen. Akpabio to find a seat with a microphone to make his contribution but his statement fell on deaf ears as the chamber got even noisier with some Senators rising from their seats to confronts others from opposing parties.
The rowdy session which lasted for a while was about to be brought to a close when Sen. Emmanuel Paulker (PDP, Bayelsa) got up to speak and added fuel to the raging fire.
“Mr. President, Senator Akpan came under Order 43 which is Self-Explanation. You cannot contribute. Akpabio you cannot,” he said and the new Minority Leader, Sen. Biodun Olujimi could be heard shouting: “You were not recognised. Keep quiet! What is your problem?”
Order 43 of the Senate Standing Rule states that ‘by the indulgence of the Senate and the leave of the President of the Senate, a Senator may make a personal explanation. The statement shall be submitted in detail to the President of the Senate. There is no contribution to be made by any other Senator.’
Next to speak was the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, who stressed that ‘there was no need for bickering,’ but he was shouted down and cut short by opposing lawmakers.
After several minutes of disorderliness, Sen Akpabio stood up to explain that the seat was allocated to him by the Clerk.
“I was seeking your attention to re-appraise you of Order 11. The seat was allocated to me by the Clerk and I expect that you were notified. The embarrassment I got today was uncalled for. I demand an apology, not just written but verbal too.”
He was cut short by more noise from the lawmakers. This time the APC lawmakers were demanding an apology from the Senate President.
“He should apologize. Even the PDP apologized to Nigerians. What’s the big deal?” Sen. Ali Ndume said.
After another moment of arguing, Sen Apkabio apologized.
“In view of the situation of the Senate today, I want to apologize to my colleagues if I raised my voice earlier and to say that until the Senate is well constituted and the seats are well arranged, I want to hold my peace.”
Later on, the Senate President also tendered what seemed like an apology, noting that his intent was not to shut out the former Minority Leader up but was following the rules of the House.
During the disruption that lasted several minutes, Sen. Dino Melaye was seen going about, engaging APC senators in a war of words. Senator Kabiru Marafa and some APC senators also rose to engage Melaye.
Efforts by the Ekweremadu to intervene in the matter failed as the chamber became noisier.