The Senate was thrown into chaos Wednesday as lawmakers argued over sitting arrangements.
The confusion erupted after the President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, refused to allow former minority leader, Godswill Akpabio, contribute to a point of order earlier raised by Bassey Akpan.
Mr Akpan raised a point of order accusing the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Akwa Ibom State of plotting to cause mayhem in the forthcoming general election.
Even though APC senators began to shout in the background, Mr Akpan managed to finish his point of order.
Mr Saraki, thereafter, noted Mr Akpan’s statement and asked the Senate Leader, Ahmed Lawan, to proceed with other items on the Order Paper.
Although he noticed Mr Akpabio raising his hand, Mr Saraki said he would not allow him make contribution because he was not in his appropriate seat.
“Senator… eh… former Minority Leader, you know you can’t speak from there. You can’t. Go to your seat, when you get to your seat, I’ll recognise you,” he said.
He, thereafter, asked the leader of the Senate to proceed with other items on the Order Paper.
But the senate leader, Ahmed Lawan, stood up to defend Mr Akpabio.
“If he decides to sit there, let him. There is no microphone there. Let us not take the panadol for his headache. Let me advise, that even though we have only six, seven months to go, let’s do what is right,” he said.
He added that the Clerk of the Senate allocated the sit to Mr Akpabio – a statement Mr Saraki refuted stating that he directed the Clerk to allocate seats to lawmakers.
The lawmakers began to shout at each other with each person trying to defend his party.
Amidst the noise, Mr Saraki asked Mr Akpabio to find a seat with a microphone to make his contribution. His statement fell on deaf ears as the chamber got even noisier and some senators rose from their seats to confronts others of the opposition party.
The rowdiness lasted for a while after which Emmanuel Paulker (PDP, Bayelsa) got up to speak.
“Mr President, Senator Akpan came under Order 43 which is Self-Explanation. You cannot contribute. Akpabio you cannot!,” he said.
Meanwhile Biodun Olujimi could be heard shouting “You were not recognised. Keep quiet! What is your problem?!”
Order 43 of the Senate Standing Rule states that “By the indulgence of the Senate and the leave of the President of the Senate, a senator may make a personal explanation. The statement shall be submitted in detail to the President of the Senate. There is no contribution to be made by any other senator.”
Again, more noise.
Next to speak was the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, who stressed that “there was no need for bickering.” He was, however, cut short by opposing lawmakers.
“There should be equity. You cannot discriminate against us,” the Senate Leader shouted.
After several minutes of rowdiness, Mr Akpabio stood up to explain that the seat was allocated to him by the Clerk.
“I was seeking your attention to re-appraise you of Order 11. The seat was allocated to me by the Clerk and I expect that you were notified. The embarrassment I got today was uncalled for. I demand an apology, not just written but verbal too.”
Mr Akpabio was, however, cut short by more noise from lawmakers. This time the APC lawmakers were demanding an apology from the Senate President.
“He should apologise. Even the PDP apologised to Nigerians. What’s the big deal?,” Ali Ndume said.
After another moment of argument, Mr Akpabio apologised.
“In view of the situation of the Senate today, I want to apologise to my colleagues and I raised my voice earlier and to say that until the Senate is well constituted and the seats are well arranged, I want to hold my peace.”
Mr. Akpabio, a former governor of Akwa Ibom State, is a first-time senator. He was elected to the upper chamber on the platform of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party.
But he defected to the governing All Progressives Congress weeks ago. He also resigned his position as minority leader of the chamber.
In contrast, Mr. Saraki was elected to the Senate on the platform of the APC but he soon fell out with the party after he emerged senate president against the wish of the party and its leadership.
That left him in constant confrontation with the party and President Muhammadu Buhari, culminating in his return to the PDP from which he joined the APC in 2013.
Mr Saraki sought the PDP presidential ticket but lost in the primary to Atiku Abubakar who is expected to be the main challenger to President Muhammadu Buhari in next year’s election.