By Gideon Njoku
There is trouble in the National Assembly of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Only a few days after its inauguration, and before members have even sat down for plenary, both the Senate and the House of Representatives are rolling in controversy, and entangled in court cases.
At the House, allegations of vote buying has continued to dog the election of Femi Gbajabiamila as Speaker. At least, one civil society group is threatening to go to court over that and other controversial issues.
Added to that, the defeated President of the Senate candidate, and former Senate Leader, Senator Muhammad Ali Ndume, has dragged the NASS to court. Ndume is angry over the Open Secret Ballot system adopted during the just concluded election of the NASS presiding officers. He has, therefore, asked the Federal High Court, Abuja, to set it aside.
Ndume’s lawyer, Gboyega Adeyemi, on his behalf, is asking the Court to restrain the NASS from applying the same system in the election of the remaining principal officers/ members, scheduled for as soon as members return from a-two week break.
Ndume’s argument is that “The purported proclamation by the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, adopting the Open Ballot system of voting for the selection and nomination of the principal members, is contrary to the extant Standing Order 2015.”
He raised two questions for the determination of the court.
One: whether by the provisions of Section 60 of the Constitution which gives the “Senate or the House of Representatives the power to make their own Rules, Procedure, including the Judiciary and the Executive arms of Government of Nigeria, can validly, lawfully, and/ or morally change, amend and distort the extant Senate Standing Order, 2015 (as amended), except the Senate itself in the manner provided in the Order/Rule.
The second question is: “Whether having regards to the clear provisions of the extant Senate Order, 2015 (as amended) which provides for secret ballot in the election, selection and nomination of the principal members of the Senate, the Senate, without amending the subsisting Standing Order, can adopt open secret ballot for the election of its principal members or officers.
Adjourned to July 3, for hearing, joined in the suit are the Clerk of NASS and, the Sergeant of Arms.
It will be recalled that Ndume was defeated for the position of the office of the President of the Senate by Senator Ahmed Lawan who scored 79 votes to Ndume’s 37 votes, on June 11, when the NASS was inaugurated.
After the result was announced, Ndume, who defied his party and the Presidency to contest against Ahmed, the prefered candidate, shook hands with him, and congratulated him. Everybody thought that the gesture was a sign of peace. Apparently, it was not.