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Senator Abaribe’s Bill Divides Senate

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On March 17, 2021, a Bill which seeks to establish an Armed Forces Service Commission on Wednesday divided the Senate as they were locked in heated debate.

The Bill titled: “A Bill for an Act to give effect to Section 219 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to provide for the establishment of the Armed Forces Service Commission and for other related matters, 2021” was sponsored by Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe (Abia South).

Leading the debate, Sponsor of the bill, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, said the Commission would ensure that the composition and appointment of the service chiefs of the armed forces reflect federal character in a manner prescribed in section 217 (3) of the 1999 constitution.

While supporters of the Bill argued that it was merely to give effect to a constitutional provision which empowers the National Assembly to create the Armed Forces Service Commission, APC Senators in their contribution said that the Bill was targeted at whittling down the powers of the President.

APC Senators like Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege, Abdullahi Adamu, Adamu Aliero and Mohammed Bulkachuwa opposed the Bill, while PDP Senators like Emmanuel Bwacha, Chukwuka Utazi and James Manager supported the Bill.

After the debate, the bill were put to a voice vote by Senate President Ahmad Lawan.

“The nays had it” Lawan banged the gavel.

Quickly, Abaribe stood up and cited order 73, which says that any Senator can challenge the ruling of the presiding officer. He therefore called for voting on the bill.

But Lawan interjected and said the ruling was not his personal opinion. He said, “It is not my opinion that the nays had it. I didn’t rule inappropriately.”

But Abaribe insisted that it is his right to call for voting on the bill, saying, “I’m only saying give me my right and my right is that all our members should get up and vote.”

At this point, Senator James Manager (PDP, Delta) advised the Senate President to allow voting to take place.

After about seven minutes in limbo, the Senate went into a closed door session.

When the Senate reconvened, Lawan asked Abaribe to withdraw the bill and he did, saying he would review it and present it at a more appropriate time.

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