Commotion at 9th Senate inauguration over standing rules

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There was an uproar in the Senate on Tuesday over the method to be adopted for the election of principal officers of the Ninth Assembly.
The Clerk of the Senate, Mohammed Sani, after reading President Muhammadu Buhari’s proclamation letter to members of the Senate, announced that open ballot will be used for voting exercise.
This led to an uproar as Senators opposing the use of the open ballot engaged those in support of the method in a shouting match.

After reading the proclamation letter of President Muhammadu Buhari for the inauguration of the 9th National Assembly, the Clerk of the National Assembly, Mohammed Sani-Omolori, said the modalities of the day were “clearly spelt out in our Standing Orders 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 of the Senate Standing Order 2015 as amended as the case may be.”

Sani-Omolori said he would, therefore, proceed to the roll call by the Clerk of the Senate, Nelson Ayewoh.

But before Ayewoh could begin the roll call, several of the newly elected members of the new Senate protested, saying a court had set aside the 2015 standing rules in place of the 2011 rules.

The High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, sitting in Bwari, by an ex parte order, on Monday, had struck down the Standing Orders 2015, through which Senator Bukola Saraki became the President of the eighth Senate in 2015.

The 2011 standing rules called for an open ballot system in the election to the top Senate offices, while 2015 allowed for a secret ballot system.

Sani-Omolori resorted to using the gavel several times to restore order.

He said, “I need to remind (you) that the only business of today is the election and oath-taking. And by virtue of the fact, no question is entertained. No motion shall be made. However, as a mark of respect, I think your question is whether I received any court order and my answer is no.”

When the rowdiness continued, Sani-Omolori added, “Distinguished senators-elect, may I remind all of you that we are here in furtherance of a fundamental constitutional duty over and above all of us. And we all must abide by the constitution.

“I have answered your question: I have heard it; I have not received it. I do not have a reason not to comply with court orders if I receive them and that should suffice. And like I said, I only answered this question out of respect to you. I will therefore not entertain any question further. Clerk, please go ahead.”

With that, the inauguration continued without further protests by senators-elect.

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