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INEC budget: Saraki, Dogara reportedly plan joint session to avert impeachment

INEC budget: Saraki, Dogara reportedly plan joint session to avert impeachment

- Senate president Bukola Saraki and his loyalists have allegedly come up with a new strategy to avert his impeachment

- He and his PDP loyalist senators reportedly teamed up with Dogara to hold joint plenary on INEC budget consideration

- The House of Reps, however, described the joint plenary claims as “pure imagination”, saying a joint session as reportedly planned could not be sustained by any standing rules of the National Assembly

Senators loyal to the Senate president, Bukola Saraki, have allegedly perfected a strategy to stop his impeachment and that of his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu.

The Punch reported that apart from keeping vigil at the National Assembly to prevent the All Progressives Congress (APC) senators from sitting, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) members in the Senate have mapped out an arrangement to keep the red chamber save for Saraki until September 25 and beyond.

The newspaper further said that Saraki reached out to the speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, on Sunday, August 12, night to suspend any form of reconvening on Tuesday, August 21, as earlier agreed by both presiding officers.

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Some senators who allegedly spoke on condition of anonymity said the sudden change of mind was to save Saraki from impeachment because it was discovered that many of his loyalists had travelled to Saudi Arabia on pilgrimage.

A senator from the northcentral geopolitical zone was quoted to have said: “Our calculation was that the APC senators can never get two-thirds of the majority of the entire membership of the Senate to carry out any impeachment, but we had to be careful when they started arguing that the two-thirds could also be based on the numbers of senators at plenary.

“We were aware that many members of the House of Representatives got notice of resumption last Saturday, so both presiding officers met and agreed that the resumption should be postponed indefinitely.”

The Punch added that its investigations further revealed that Saraki and Dogara agreed that only members of the committee on electoral matters in both chambers should be recalled to hold joint meetings with officials of the Independent National Electoral Committee between Wednesday, August 15 and Friday, August 17.

The committees of both chambers would thereafter hold a joint meeting with INEC officials to consider Buhari’s request.

The joint Senate/Reps committees on Appropriation, Loans and Debts were also reportedly involved in the timetable as the members were also recalled to deliberate on the Eurobond request.

The two presiding officers allegedly agreed not to reconvene until the reports are ready.

Holding Joint plenary, gathered, is the latest strategy which is expected to keep the seats of Saraki and Ekweremadu safe till the end of September.

“Since the reports of the presidential requests were jointly treated by committees of the two chambers, it would be proper for the passage to be done at a joint sitting.

“Besides, everybody would be at the joint session to discuss the INEC budget and the Eurobond request, so no motion for impeachment would be moved because it is not permitted in such arrangement,” a senator from the southwest geopolitical zone who also spoke on condition of anonymity was quoted to have said.

However, the House of Representatives has responded to claims that the Senate and the House planned to reconvene and sit at a joint session the same day to consider the report on the 2019 elections budget and other financial proposals by President Muhammadu Buhari.

The House described the claims as “pure imagination” and not a possibility because a joint session as envisaged could not be sustained by any standing rules of the National Assembly.

The chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Abdulrazak Namdas, who gave the official position of the House in an interview with The Punch, said there were no precedents or rules to make a joint session under the circumstances possible.

Namdas explained that what the rules covered was for each chamber to sit separately and consider a report.

He said: “This is pure imagination and honestly, we don’t know where this one is coming from. This has never happened before; that the Senate and the House will reconvene and sit together, instead of doing so in their separate chambers.

“We are not aware of this and it’s not a possibility. Recall that even when the two chambers hold a joint session to receive the annual budget presentation by Mr President, it is for the purpose of taking the address only.

“The two chambers revert to their separate ways to work on the budget and consider the report separately. It is only when there are differences between what one chamber has passed and the other one that we set up a conference committee for harmonisation.

“If it was possible to be done in a joint session, what is the need of the conference committee, which is a provision of our rules? There is no rule on a joint session in the circumstances envisaged, and therefore, there will be none.”

He added that the claims were part of the “ongoing bid to continue to paint the National Assembly in a bad light" and urged Nigerians to discountenance it.

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Meanwhile, had previously reported that Ovie Omo-Agege, the senator representing Delta central senatorial district, insisted that Saraki must not remain as Senate president after his defection from the APC to the PDP.

Omo-Agege said Saraki ought to do the honourable thing by stepping down as Senate president otherwise he would be humiliated.

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