*Saraki closes plenary over quorum
By Ikechukwu Okaforadi and Musa Adamu
Poor attendance in plenary session by senators since the conduct of party primaries in October, have continued unabated, even getting worst.
This is even in the midst of yet to be concluded works on the passage of key budget documents like the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF), Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP), among others, by the federal lawmakers.
It has degenerated to the extent of threatening the expected submission of the 2019 Appropriation Bill to the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari, expected to happen few weeks from today.
A brazen absenteeism from sitting by the lawmakers shockingly manifested yesterday when less than twenty senators attended the plenary, while ninety senators were glaringly absent during the session.
This, therefore, forced the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, to adjourn the plenary session for the third time since August, citing the inability of the lawmakers to form the constitutionally required quorum of 37 members out of 109 as the reason for the adjournment.
Recall that the Senate had closed plenary in July to observe a two months recess, which was later extended by three weeks by the leadership, and later on 24th of October, they adjourned again and resumed on the 6th of November.
Unexpectedly, after barely one week of resumption, they adjourned again yesterday for another one week break, due to poor attendance and consequent inability to form a quorum, which may still be extended next week by the leadership of the parliament.
Yesterday, barely three minutes into the session that began at about 10.55 am, the Senate Minority Whip, Senator Philip Tanimu Aduda (PDP FCT), rose through order 10(3) of the Senate Standing Rules to draw the attention of his colleagues to the lack of quorum and the need for the adjournment.
He said since the Order states that “a session of the Senate can only be held when the required quorum of 37 members out of 109 is formed”, the Senate should adjourn the sitting till next legislative day.
“We are less than 10, Mr. President. I want to move that since we have not formed quorum we may therefore adjourn; but in doing so, I want to say that the Senate is empty.
“On that note, the Senate may wish to extend the period of oversight functions, if the Senate so wishes, by another week till Tuesday November 020,” he suggested.
The Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu seconded the motion by saying, “I rise to second the motion moved by senator Aduda; but let me add that we are more than 10 but certainly not up to 38. We are somewhere between 15 and 20. Just for the record, we are not less than 10 but less than 20”.
Accordingly, the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, put it to voice votes and got a resounding support for adjournment by the few that were around, that the session be adjourned till next week.
After adoption of the motion, Saraki said, “It is important that our members, who are not here, we should communicate to them; those on oversight to finish what they have during the week – in the area of oversight.
“Some of the findings from the oversight are important; and it is important that the exercise is done diligently and we should ensure that it is completed by the end of this week. That is in line with order 10 (3)”.
To this end, the Senate Leader, Ahmed Lawan (APC Yobe North), said “Having adopted this motion, it is mandatory that we stand down all the items on the Order Paper to the next legislative week, precisely next week Tuesday, November 20, 2018”.
Some of the senators who attended the yesterday plenary were: Senate President, Bukola Saraki, his Deputy, Ike Ekweremadu, Senate Leader, Ahmed Lawan and Deputy Minority leader, Emmanuel Bwacha, Senators Philip Aduda, Abu Ibrahim, Rafiu Ibrahim, Joshua Lidani, Emmanuel Paulker, among few others.