Tuesday April 30 is a day that Senator Ahmed Babba Kaita, representing Katsina North Senatorial District in the National Assembly, will not forget in a hurry in his legislative sojourn given the altercation between him and the President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, during plenary, CHUKWU DAVID reportsb
Kaita represents Katsina North Senatorial District on the platform of the ruling All Progressives Party (APC) and Daura, which is the home town of President Muhammadu Buhari, is in the senatorial district. This means that the senator represents Nigeria’s number one citizen in the Red Chamber.
With this huge task on his shoulders vis-a-vis the peculiar nature of Nigeria’s politics and governance, which is highly influenced by ethno-religious biases and other considerations, Kaita is always making his contributions on the floor of the Senate to be seen by all to be defending the President in all issues of national concerns.
However, it was a different ball game last Tuesday. The lawmaker got to the nerves of the President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, who promptly applied his prerogatives as the first among the 109 senators of equal rights and powers to address and call his colleague to order, when he failed the Katsina born politician obviously derailed.
The bone of contention was a personal explanation made by Senator Shehu Sani (PRP, Kaduna Central), who raised a point of Order 43, to draw the attention of the apex legislative chamber, to the kidnapping of about 40 travelers along the Kaduna-Abuja expressway, including the Chairman of Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), Dr. Mohammed Abubakar Mahmoud, on Monday April 29.
While making his explanation, Sani expressed serious concerns that in spite of assurances by the Federal Government, particularly the Acting Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Adamu, that sufficient security measures had been taken to end rampant kidnapping on that route, the security situation had not changed.
In his further lamentation, Sani urged the Senate not to be tired of speaking against the insecurity currently escalating and menacing the country. He also urged the chamber to continue to bring the situation to the attention of President Buhari, whose primary duty is to maintain law and order and protect lives and property of citizens.
His words: “Mr. President, I stand here to announce what has happened on the 29th of April 2019. Around 3.30 pm, bandits blocked the road along Kaduna-Abuja expressway and kidnapped over 40 people.
“Among them was the Chairman of UBEC, Dr. Mohammed Abubakar Mahmoud. He was a three-time member of the Kaduna State House of Assembly. He was kidnapped along with his daughter, and his driver was killed instantly.
“The kidnapping of Dr. Mohammed and others was reflective of the fact that all security measures taken along that road are not actually working. Kidnapping along Kaduna-Abuja express road has been an issue that we discuss here daily. We must not give up bringing the attention of those authorised to secure the country to do what is needful.
“We must recognize that the Inspector-General of Police has launched Operation Puff Adder along that road in the last three to four weeks. The Police also gave assurances that the road is clear; people can move around and do their normal businesses.
“Unfortunately, it is a fact with what has happened, the road is as dangerous as it has always been. Kaduna has unfortunately become the home of kidnapping. That route has become one of the most dangerous routes in the country today.
“It is unfortunate that all the solutions and all the actions taken have not actually produced any tangible result in terms of securing that road. A nation like Nigeria with resources and personnel to ensure the safety of that route has failed in her responsibility.
“That route has seen so many people kidnapped. Lawyers, doctors, engineers, politicians and clergies have fallen victims of the kidnapping menace along that route. It is very unfortunate that a nation like ours cannot secure a route that leads to a capital city.
“As a Senate, we must always high light and bring things like this to spotlight. If this is not a failure, I don’t know what is called failure. All suggestions and recommendations that have been made in this hallowed chamber have never worked in any way. They will tell you that the way is clear, but when you go there, you see nothing.
“It is time for us to make another resolution in bringing the attention of Mr. President that he must do everything possible in securing the lives of people in the country.”
Immediately Sani finished his presentation, Senator Babba Kaita (APC, Katsina North), raised a point of order, citing the same Order 43 raised by Sani. He said that he wanted to make a personal explanation on the incident of kidnapping that took place along Kaduna-Abuja road.
In his preliminary statement, he said that he was going to give account of the incident, and accused Sani of misleading the Senate with his presentation.
It was at that point that it occurred to Saraki as the presiding officer, that as a matter of parliamentary rule and practice, he should first of all make a pronouncement on Sani’s personal explanation before entertaining any other contribution either on the same issue or another.
The President of the Senate also quickly realised that Kaita was about to lead him to breach the rules of the Senate, by allowing a debate on a point of order bordering on personal explanation, which Order 43 of the Senate Standing Orders 2015 (as amended) forbids.
So, he quickly interrupted Kaita and insisted that he must rule on Sani’s submission before listening to any other view on the matter, if need be.
In his ruling on Sani’s point of order, Saraki noted that the chamber extensively debated on a similar issue of insecurity in the country penultimate week, resulting in the Senate inviting the Acting Inspector General of Police (IGP) to appear and brief it on efforts by the police to curb kidnapping and other security challenges in the country.
He therefore, said that Sani’s point of order would be part of what the Senate would be discussing with the IGP, who is billed to appear this week, noting that there was no need making fresh resolutions on the issue.
Having finished with Sani, Kaita resumed his explanation, but as soon as he dwelt on Sani’s point of order, Saraki interjected and reminded him that he was breaching the Senate rule by not notifying him before making his submission.
Kaita, however, responded: “Mr. President, I am standing here before the Senate to give an account of the unfortunate incident that happened on the Kaduna-Abuja road. Mr. President, taking a cue from what Shehu Sani has said here, I think he is misleading the Senate.”
Immediately, Saraki cut in saying: “Shehu Sani came under order 43 for personal explanation. According to rules under personal explanation, there can’t be any debate. So, let me finish on his order before you come up because I need to rule on that and make a pronouncement on that.
“Senator Shehu Sani has made some personal observations concerning the kidnapping going on along the Kaduna-Abuja road. We made similar observations last week and based on that, we have invited the IGP to appear before us here in this chamber, so that we put heads together and discuss about the series of kidnappings and other security challenges going on in the country.
“That will be an appropriate time to take up some of these issues Shehu Sani has raised. When the IGP comes, we will find a holistic approach to tackling these rampant security issues particularly on the Kaduna-Abuja road.
“Senator Kaita, you also came on personal explanation, but again, if you read what personal explanation on order 43 says, it states that the terms of the proposed statement must be submitted in detail to the President of the Senate. You know that you have not complied with that. So, I have to rule you out of order.”
At this point, Kaita protested, accusing the President of the Senate of denying him his right and opportunity to speak on the matter, saying: “You are denying me the opportunity to talk on this matter Mr. President.”
Saraki, however, made it clear to him that he was not denying him his right or the opportunity to speak because he had not complied with the rules guiding debate on issues in plenary.
“I am not denying you any opportunity; you are not following the rules, when you follow the rules I will let you talk. Leader of the Senate,” he said.
Surprisingly, Kaita insisted on speaking, but this rather got the President of the Senate angry, as he felt that his colleague was trying to blackmail him to allow him speak on an issue in outright contravention of the Senate rules.
This compelled Saraki to burst out in rage, admonishing as well as ordering Kaita to go and learn the rules of the Senate before he could be allowed to speak on any issues.
Saraki said: “You cannot speak. No! no! no! no! When you are in the Senate, you behave according to the rules, the rules are there, you have to follow the rules. When you learn the rules, then I allow you to speak.”
He then hit the gavel on the table, which signified that he had ruled on the matter raised by Kaita and called on the Leader of the Senate to call the next item in the Order Paper for consideration.
Again, Kaita pestered and persisted further to be allowed to speak, thereby getting the President of the Senate, who then urged the lawmaker to go and learn the rules in order to conduct himself more appropriately during plenary sessions.
“Gentleman, listen to the rules, educate yourself, the rule says you must inform the President of the Senate before you speak and you have not done that. So, you have not followed the rules; when you learn the rules, I will allow you to speak”, Saraki insisted.
He then hit the gavel the third time, and called on the Leader of the Senate to drive the chamber on to other pending items on the Order Paper for the day.
This time, Kaita, who was still itching to speak and attempting to disrupt the proceedings through his persistence, got the message raw and hot through the harassing and seeming hostile tone with which the President of the Senate ended the imbroglio.
What actually baffled spectators during this drama was the fact that Sani is the one representing the area of Kaduna, where the kidnappings have been taking place, yet Kaita, who is from Katsina State, accused him of misleading the Senate in his presentation.