The Senate on Thursday, suspended Sen. Ovie Omo-Agege (Delta-APC) over a “dissenting comment’’ on decision of the Upper Chamber on adoption of conference report on INEC Commission Act (2010) Amendment Bill.
The suspension, which would last for 90 legislative days, followed a report of the Senate Committee on Ethics Privileges and Public Petitions presented at plenary.
Presenting the report, Chairman of the committee, Sen. Sam Anyanwu, said the committee’s probe followed a Point-of-Order raised by Sen. Dino Melaye (Kogi-APC) on the matter.
According to Anyanwu, Melaye drew Senate’s attention to a media briefing by Omo Agege, faulting senate’s adoption of the conference’s report on Feb.14.
He said that Melaye further intimated the senate that the media briefing by Omo Agege indicated that the resolution of the senate was targeted at President Muhammadu Buhari.
Anyanwu added that following the committee’s investigation into the matter, it was resolved among other things, that Omo-Agege be suspended for 181 legislative days.
”We observed that after Omo-Agege admitted on the floor of the senate by apologising to the leadership, he changed his mind and took the senate president and the entire senate to court.
“Responding during the probe, Omo Agege said that he would not be able to make any presentation because he had taken the matter to court.
“He asked that the matter be postponed until it was discharged by the court.
”So, the committee after critically observing the matter and the implication for today and the future, recommended that Sen. Ovie Omo-Agege be suspended for 181 legislative days,” he said.
Contributing, Leader of the Senate, Ahmed Lawan, pleaded with the senate to accept Omo-Agege’s apology by withdrawing his suspension.
”It is always our wish that we treat this chamber as a family, that when members err we call them to order.
”The report correctly indicated that Omo-Agege, after saying what was perceived as offensive, said it was courageous for him to apologise.
“I think it will be more courageous for the senate to accept the apology and warn him,” he pleaded.
Lawan appealed to the lawmakers to compel Omo-Agege to withdraw the court case while his suspension was being withdrawn.
Also, Sen. Kabiru Marafa (Zamfara-APC), pleaded with the senate to forgive the member.
However, he expressed concern over the establishment of the Presidential Support Group, which Omo Agege was part of, saying it would bring division to the senate.
”I align with the submission of the leader, but I don’t want us to end the way we started.
”I am against the suspension of any member and formation of any group like the presidential support group.
”I am for the president and I will vote with my conscience, but after what we have gone through and we agreed to dissolve the `Like Minds’ and `Unity Group’, they are forming presidential support group,’’ he said.
He added that ”the best title I have is being a senator and I don’t want anybody to destroy the institution.
”They should dissolve the group because they are the greater enemy of the president.’’
However, Deputy Leader of the Senate, Bala Na’Allah, said there was need for the senate to take a concrete decision on the matter to serve as deterrent to others who may want to take the senate to court over internal matters.
”We always pray to God to help us do those things that will promote the unity of the country, and I think that is what we should do.
”It is uncharitable for anybody to say a thing like that, though he apologised.
”For anybody to have the privilege of being elected, it is an obligation to consider and reconsider what will come out of our mouth.
”I disagree with Sen. Lawan’s position. There must be discipline and people should bear the consequences of their actions,’’ he said.
In his remarks, President of the Senate, Dr Bukola Saraki, said it was important for lawmakers to protect the legislature as an institution.
He admonished senators to desist from actions capable of ridiculing the institution.
He said though there were calls to show compassion in the case against Omo-Agege, there was also need to ensure discipline.
Consequently, Saraki pleaded with the lawmakers to reduce Omo-Agege’s suspension from 181 legislative days to 90 days.
This, according to him, will be dependent on Omo-Agege’s withdrawal of the case from the court.
He also called for the disbandment of the Presidential Support Group in the senate.
”Some of us present ourselves to be holier than others. There must be discipline but at the same time there must be compassion.
“We must show that such group be suspended and the court case must be withdrawn. It is on that basis that the issue of leniency will come to play.
”If you permit me I would say that the number of days should be reduced to 90 days. We must send out a strong message,” he said.
The senators, therefore, voted for the suspension of the member for 90 legislative days and the disbandment of the group.
The senate on Feb.14, adopted the Conference Report of Independent National Electoral Commission Act (2010) Amendment Bill, which re-ordered the sequence of general elections.
But, Omo-Agege, at a news conference on the same day, allegedly said that the amendment of the bill was targeted at Buhari.