There was palpable tension in the Nigerian Senate following a controversial ruling by the Senate President Ahmad Lawan on a bill that seeks to create the Armed Forces Service Commission, with the sponsor of the bill prevailed upon to step it down.
The bill, sponsored by the minority leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe seeks to among other things address the “lopsided appointment” and ensure that the composition or appointment of the country’s service chiefs reflects the federal character of Nigeria in the manner prescribed in section 217 (3) of the 1999 Constitution.
The document also recommends the president pick from among the best and most qualified, most educated and most experienced members of the Armed Forces for appointment as Chief of Defence Staff, Chief of Army Staff, Chief of Air Staff or Chief of Naval Staff.
The bill by the lawmaker comes barely a month after the Senate confirmed the new set of service chiefs appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari.
More than ten lawmakers took turns to deliberate upon the bill, with some supporting the legislation, and others rejecting it outrightly.
Senators Francis Alimikhena, Ibrahim Oloriegbe, Adamu Aliero, Adamu Abdullahi, Mohammed Bulkachuwa and Danjuma Goje wanted the bill killed immediately. While the Leader of the Senate, Abdullahi Yahaya; the Deputy Minority leader, Emmanuel Bwacha, Opeyemi Bamidele; Istifanus Gyang, Chukwuka Utazi; and James Manager all supported the proposed law.
But deliberations over the bill led to an uproar that forced Lawan to call for a closed session during plenary on Tuesday.
After putting the bill to a voice vote, the Senate President ruled against the bill. But an obviously unsatisfied Mr Abaribe demanded a division or physical votes by all lawmakers referring to Order 73 of the Senate Standing Rule.
The section of the standing rule permits for a physical vote on an issue should a lawmaker be unsatisfied with the ruling and/or opinion of the Senate President or chairman of the plenary.
The demand by Abaribe launched the chamber into a rowdy session as some lawmakers opposed the order. The lawmakers, thereafter, went into an executive session.
After several minutes of the closed session, the Senate resumed plenary with Abaribe withdrawing his order and stepping down the bill.
“In order to preserve the dignity of this hallowed chamber, I wish to withdraw my order 73,” a seemingly prevailed upon Abaribe said.
“And for us to be able to do further consultations on the bill that I have proposed I wish also to step down the consideration of this bill until a more appropriate time,” he said.
By Abel Ejikeme