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HomeNewsNingi’s Suspension: Angry Senators Regroup Against Akpabio 

Ningi’s Suspension: Angry Senators Regroup Against Akpabio 

Tinubu’s requests, constitution review may suffer setback in Senate

ABUJA, Nigeria – Barely one week after senators predominantly loyal to the Senate President, Godswill Akpabio, instigated the suspension of Abdul Ningi for three months, angry lawmakers who feel ignored and shortchanged in the festering crisis are regrouping, reports Daily Sun.

Last Tuesday, the Senate led by Akpabio and three South West senators, suspended Ningi for accusing the National Assembly of padding the 2024 budget to the tune of over N3 trillion, despite attempts by some Northern lawmakers to rescue him.

Ningi, in an interview with the BBC Hausa Service, had claimed that Tinubu was operating two national budgets, one approved by the National Assembly, and the other unknown to the Parliament.

The ongoing realignment by the aggrieved senators, Daily Sun gathered, is to seek a revenge and extract their pound of flesh from the main protagonists who spearheaded the suspension of Ningi, despite appeals.

Those leading the regrouping, it has also been gathered, are former governors, predominantly from the North, and Southern lawmakers who have been ignored by Akpabio since his emergence as Senate president.

Another category of lawmakers likely to join the fray, it was further learnt, are those who supported the hasty suspension of Ningi but are facing serious backlash from their constituents, especially Northern minority senators.

Already, a senator from Niger State, Sani Musa, has explained his role in the suspension saga, following serious backlash from Northern leaders and his constituents.

In a statement he made available to newsmen, he insisted on his statement against Senator Ningi during the debate which he said should not be seen as a betrayal, but words of a responsible representative and a nationalist, who is committed to transparency and fair representation.

Musa said he has shown absolute commitment to promoting interests of the North even in his capacity as chairman, Senate Committee on Finance, adding that his commitment was still unwavering till this day. “In my capacity as the chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance and an active member of the Northern Senators Forum, I have consistently supported and advocated for the interests of the North. However, it is imperative for me, as a responsible representative, to be kept informed and included in matters that concern our region and our nation.

“I remain steadfast in my dedication to serving my Senatorial district, the North, Nigeria, and the Senate with integrity and accountability. It is my sincere hope that we can work together to ensure the interests of all stakeholders are upheld.”

Though other lawmakers, who have been threatened by their constituents, are yet to openly recant, it was learnt that they have reached out to Ningi and may explain their roles openly in the coming days.

Some of them have already rushed to national television stations to explain their roles while giving details about the share they got from the 2024 national budget.

Daily Sun has learnt that one of the possible consequences is the frustration of any serious request from President Bola Tinubu, especially issues surrounding the constitution review.

One of the key requests expected from President Tinubu is the creation of State Police. With recent developments in the upper legislative chamber, the chances the bill would scale through are slim. The ongoing constitution review exercise, Daily Sun gathered, would also address issues such as independent candidacy to contest for an elective office; federal structure and power devolution; fiscal federalism and revenue allocation; judicial and electoral reforms; immunity for presiding officers of the national and state assemblies; full local government fiscal autonomy; state creation agitations; among others.

Members of the committees may also face the challenge of revisiting the age-long quests to separate the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation/state from the office of minister/commissioner for justice; change in procedure for the enactment of an entirely new constitution, which includes a referendum; inclusion of basic education and primary healthcare in fundamental and justiciable human rights.

Other issues are inclusion of electoral offences as a ground to disqualify candidates from future elections; mandatory presentation of the yearly state of the nation address to a joint session of the National Assembly by the President; and removal of presidential assent to constitution amendment bills.

Chief Whip of the Senate, Mohammed Ali Ndume from Borno State, has already kicked off the offensive against certain components of the proposed amendments.

Ndume who was one of those opposed to the suspension of Ningi, said the Nigeria Police at presently constituted, should be strengthened to bring about enhanced and effective policing of the country.

Ndume, in an interview after the episode that happened on the floor of the Senate, said his opposition to the establishment of state Police was a personal opinion, stating that if put on the floor of the Senate, he would vote against it.

The senator appealed to the Federal Government to recruit more into the Nigeria Police, maintaining that the ratio of police personnel to the populace according to international required standard was grossly inadequate at the moment in the country.

“I won’t vote for state police if it comes up in the constitution amendment process because it would be abused by governors. I support that they should take away all their police (officer).

“One senator will be going around with 10 policemen, seven, members of House of Reps, everybody. That is for those who are mobile. Some even give security to their wives, others give security to their children. I am against that,” he said.

Daily Sun reliably gathered from senators that the outburst by the Senate Leader, Opeyemi Bamidele, which has been described as demeaning for his exalted position, has further widened the gulf.

One of the senators said Bamidele has lost face with some ranking senators, especially former governors and those from the North, who many have claimed, were targeted by the Ekiti lawmaker during his no-hold-back remarks.

Bamidele, Adeola Olamilekan and Jimoh Ibrahim, all from the South West, led the push for the suspension of Ningi last Tuesday. However, Bamidele’s outburst sealed Ningi’s fate.

Bamidele had said: “We must never accept any apology from Senator Ningi. It is ridiculous to do so. He lied deliberately. Mr Senate President, you’re occupying that seat 40 years after a South South person occupied it.

“The last time a Southerner was there was during Obasanjo and they were being changed every time. It was only stable when it returned to the North. David Mark spent 8 years, Saraki completed his 4 years, Lawan spent his four years.

“Don’t be deceived, the losers of June 2023 Senate President election are still angry. Some have accepted but a few haven’t. They have plotted to remove you before June 2024.

That is why you must not allow this deliberate mischief by Ningi to go away. He did it on purpose. He knew he was lying, he set the public against you, he will do it again. We must apply our sanction,” an angry Bamidele had noted.

The outburst by Bamidele, who by convention, is supposed to calm angry lawmakers, is still reverberating in the polity. How the damage control would be handled in the coming days will foretell how far the division in the Senate will last for.

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