The Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, on Tuesday, explained why the Senate refused to declare the seat of a senator, Orji Kalu, vacant while he (Mr Kalu) was in prison.
He said preserving Mr Kalu’s seat and his position was not only extraordinary but “the right and just thing for the Senate to do.”
The former Abia State governor and Senate Chief Whip was convicted and sentenced last December for embezzling N7.1 billion of state funds by the Federal High Court.
Mr Kalu, who stood trial alongside Ude Udeogu, a former director of finance and account in Abia, was sentenced by Justice Mohammed Idris, who as of then had been elevated to the court of appeal bench, in a legal tussle that started in 2007.
But, on May 8 this year, the Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision by a seven-member panel led by Justice Amina Augie, held that Mr Idris was wrong to have presided over the matter having been elevated to the appeal court.
The apex court then ordered a fresh trial for the suspects.
Mr Kalu was consequently released from the Kuje Correctional Centre having spent about six months there.
The former Senate spokesperson, Godiya Akwashiki, earlier told journalists that Mr Kalu’s seat would not be declared vacant except he (Mr Kalu) has explored all the legal options available to him without success.
“The Senate has no reason to declare his seat vacant and Mr Kalu still has the opportunity to appeal the case,” he had said.
In a statement by his media aide, Ola Awoniyi, Mr Lawan gave this explanation to leaders from Abia State who paid him a courtesy visit.
Mr Lawan reportedly told his guests that “no one could convince the lawmakers to give the seat to someone else because it was not vacant.”
“He (Kalu) was on several appeals and until he exhausted all the opportunities available to him, that seat remained his seat. Similarly the position of the Chief Whip, we didn’t even appoint an acting Chief Whip. The Deputy Chief Whip continued to play that role until he was released.
“We came under pressure, of course. But we thought the right thing to do was to keep that seat, that position until he was able to get his judgement. It would have been premature, unjust and unfair to declare his seat vacant or his position to be given away because he was in that situation.
“So we didn’t do anything extraordinary really. We did what was right, what was just, what was necessary.”
He commended the leaders for the unity and understanding among them and their followers having observed the bi-partisan composition of the group.
“Our people need us to give them leadership. They need us to give them good governance. They want to have a better life and particularly in Abia state, you have a lot of business people. They would like to see their businesses grow and do well.
“Once the leaders are united, it makes it much easier for the followership to remain united and supportive so that reaching the promised land can be quite easy,” he said.
The leader of the delegation, Chris Adighije, said the visit was to appreciate the Senate and its leadership for their concerns for the former governor.