There is apprehension on what will be the configuration of the leadership of the Senate after plenary resumes on September 25.

This follows Tuesday’s defection of Senate President Bukola Saaraki from the All Progressives Congress (APC) to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

The development has created a constitutional issue of who controls the Senate as the PDP with 51 senators (Saraki inclusive) remains a minority party as against 53 senators of the ruling APC with simple majority.

The Senate rule demands that the Senate President among other principal officers must be elected from the party with majority members in the upper chamber.

Saraki’s decision to dump the ruling party has therefore thrown open the leadership of the Senate as APC senators on which platform he and other principal officers were elected have demanded his resignation.

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Speaking on the legal implications of Saraki’s defection, a constitutional lawyer, Hammed Omikunle told Bounce News that there are still some hurdles before Saraki despite his exit from the APC.

He said Saraki will still need to write to the Senate also, informing the chamber of his defection.

He noted that the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, will preside over the session where Saraki’s letter will be read.

He said that “after a careful consideration of the provisions of Sections: 40, 45, 65, 66 & 221 of the 1999 constitution (as amended) and the Electoral Act, 2010, he holds the view that “there is no provision in our law, especially the Constitution of Nigeria, prohibiting defection of elected officers, in this case,  Saraki from APC to any other political party of his choice, for the protection of his interests.

“That the issue of being a member of a political party or association is a provision of the Constitution and so can only be restricted by the constitution itself and there is no such provision in our constitution restricting such right, which is a fundamental right contained in chapter IV of the constitution.

Omikunle also cited  Section 50 (1) (a) , which states that there shall be “a President and Deputy President of the Senate, who shall be elected by the members of that House from among themselves.”

He argued that the Constitution does not specifically states that members of minority parties cannot seek election into the position.

Saraki could rely on the provision to retain his seat until June 2019 when the Ninth Senate would elect its presiding officer and new principal officers.

He added that defecting to another party was not one of the ways a Senate President could lose his position.

He cited Section 50 (2) of the Constitution which says “The President or Deputy President of the Senate or the Speaker or Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives shall vacate his office:

a) If he ceases to be a member of the Senate or of the House of Representatives, as the case maybe, otherwise than by reason of a dissolution of the Senate or the House of Representatives; or

b) When the House of which he was a member first sits after any dissolution of that House; or

c) If removed from office by a resolution of the Senate or the House of Representatives, as the case may be, by the votes of not less than two-thirds majority of the members of the House.

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