Fred Itua, Abuja
Senators elected on the platform of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), yesterday, slammed on their All Progressives Congress (APC) counterparts, over claims that they were not party to a case filed at the Supreme Court; by the leadership of the Red Chamber, seeking judicial explanation on President Muhammadu Buhari’s suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen.
The senate PDP caucus advised the APC caucus to stop spreading misleading information about how Senate’s decision to file a case in court was taken and who authorised such a decision.
Minority Leader, Biodun Olujimi, who spoke on behalf of the caucus, while reacting to a statement credited to the Majority Leader, Ahmad Lawan, wherein he dissociated the APC caucus from the decision to approach the Supreme Court on president Buhari’s action, disclosed that it is usually the prerogative of the presiding officer to decide whether an issue concerning the chamber should be referred to the court for adjudication and that this position was supported by precedents.
Said Olujimi: “I am surprised that a few of my colleagues in the APC caucus are spreading disinformation that they were not party to the decision to file a case seeking interpretation of the provision of the constitution, concerning the president’s decision to suspend the CJN.
“Those who are saying this are just being mischievous. They knew such a decision was not meant for debate on the floor of the Senate. It is the prerogative of the presiding officer and, in this particular case, majority of the people in the Senate leadership suggested and supported the idea. There is no precedent of when decision on whether to resort to court is referred to plenary. And, there are several cases that Senate has been and still involved in.
“Incidentally, our colleagues in the APC, who are spreading this falsehood are those who have been in the Senate for many years and they know the rules, conventions and practices. That is why I consider their current position as mischievous.
“What do they stand to lose in our seeking judicial interpretation of the law? I believe as democrats and lawmakers, it should be our interest to strengthen the law and support the independence of the judiciary. This recourse to the Supreme Court will only strengthen our understanding of the law and clear ambiguities about the provision of the constitution which we all swore to protect.
“It has always been my position that Nigeria is greater than any person or party. Therefore, as legislators, we should always take position in the interest of the country and not allow partisan, party, group or individual interest to push us into taking a stand that will be counter to national interest.
“As members of the Eighth Senate, we have always agreed among ourselves to stand for Nigeria even when it is against the preference of our party. My colleagues in the APC caucus should return to this agreement. It is Onnoghen today, it may be somebody else tomorrow.”
On Monday, Lawan, had in reaction to the Supreme Court case, on behalf of Senate APC caucus, said: “It has come to the notice of the APC caucus that Senate has approached the Supreme Court for interpretation on the suspension of Justice Walter Onneghen by the president.
“For the records, Senate never met to take such a resolution and, at no time mandated anyone to approach the Supreme Court on this matter on its behalf.
“Consequently, the Senate APC caucus dissociates itself from the said request for the legal interpretation of the suspension,” Lawan said.