The Senate is one of the chambers in Nigeria’s bicameral legislature, the National Assembly.
The National Assembly is the nation’s highest law-making body, whose power to make laws is summarized in chapter one, section four of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution, as amended.
Sections 47- 49 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, states inter that “There shall be a National Assembly (NASS) for the federation which shall consist of two chambers: the Senate and the House of Representatives.”
The Senate is headed by the President of the Senate, assisted by the Deputy President of the Senate. These Presiding officers serve as political heads. There are one hundred and nine members in the Senate representing 109 senatorial districts in the country.
Senatorial Districts are evenly distributed among the thirty six states with each state having three senatorial districts, while the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja has just one senatorial district.
Since 1999, when Nigeria returned to democracy, after many years of military rule, the Senate has played an integral role in contributing to the growth of the nation’s political space. Since that time, the nation has had five Senates. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), held sway for Sixteen, out of the eighteen years since the return of the country to democracy.
The All Progressives Congress (APC), only took over in 2015, after securing majority seats. Since it took over however, the Senate has been inundated with a number of controversies. Despite the boisterous posture of the current Senate, some lawmakers, are perceived to have performed below the bar, while many others have completely gone into oblivion, by consistently missing sittings, both in the chamber and at the committee levels. Below are some of the lawmakers.
David Alechenu Bonaventure Mark, was born in 1948. He is a retired Army Brigadier General. Prior to his political career, Mark served as a military governor of Niger State and was a former Minister of Communication. Mark is the longest serving lawmaker in Nigeria’s political history. He has been in the Senate since 1999.
After presiding over the affairs of the Senate for eight years as President, Senator Mark has suddenly resorted to keeping a low profile at the Red Chamber, since his fourth reelection to represent Benue South Senatorial District. He manned the Senate president’s seat between June 2007 and June 2015.
Following the failure of his party, (the PDP) to secure the majority number of seats needed to retain his position as Senate President, Mark has gone into political obscurity.
Senator Mark’s frequent absence and sudden silence in the Red Chamber, assumed a worrisome dimension during the well-reported confirmation hearing of ministers-designate in October 2015. Throughout the duration of the screening exercise, Mark maintained a loud silence and refused to participate.
Section 63 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), provides that the Senate and the House of Representatives shall each sit for not less than 181 days in a year. This provision is applicable to lawmakers who are also expected to fulfill this constitutional obligation.
Senator Mark’s name was conspicuously omitted when the Senate president, Bukola Saraki announced the names of the various standing committee chairmen in late 2015.
Ripples Nigeria observed that since the emergence of Saraki as Senate President on June 9th, Senator Mark has been keeping mum and maintaining a solitary posture among his colleagues.
Unlike his colleagues that participated actively since the PDP lost its majority seats to the ruling APC, Mark has not uttered a word on the floor of the Senate, even as he has not contributed to debates on pressing issues in the country.
At the peak of the massacre of natives of Agatu, in his senatorial district, Mark refused to move a motion on the floor of the Senate to draw the attention of lawmakers to it. Instead, he resorted to issuance of press releases.
Similarly, unlike his colleagues that frequently move from seat to seat to exchange pleasantries and friendly banters with other lawmakers on the floor of the Red Chamber before commencement of sittings, our correspondent has observed that Mark is always confined to his seat the few times he has attended plenary.
Beyond his defeaning silence, it has equally been observed that Mark has abandoned the reserved seat meant for him as the longest serving Senator in the chamber.
At the Senate, the sitting arrangement of the Senators is usually based on their ranking. For instance, a high ranking Senator sits after the majority or minority leader. This depends on the lawmaker’s party affiliation.
Instead, Mark sits at the last row on the side where the seats of Senators who are of the PDP are located. He is the last Senator to enter the chamber whenever he attends and the first to exit, long before the end of the day’s plenary.
Again, unlike the other lawmakers, Mark enters the chambers through the back door and always in company of two policemen and few aides. He boycotts the front door, apparently to avoid probing eyes of onlookers and security checks.
He has not attended one committee meeting, sponsored a bill, moved a motion or seconded any. He does not belong to any committee and neither a chairman or a deputy of any.
Buruji Kashamu was born on the 19th of May 1958. He is a Senator from Ogun State. He represents Ogun East in the current 8th National Assembly. Senator Kashamu is the vice chairman of the Senate Committee on States and Local Government.
Like Senator Mark, Kashamu is a member of the opposition PDP. He seldom attends plenary and does not contribute to bills or motions on the floor of the Senate. Apart from Senator Mark, Kashamu is another Senator who has neither raised any motion, sponsored a bill or seconded any since he was sworn-in in June, 2015.
Kashamu’s woes in the Senate, have been further compounded by his running battle with the Nigerian Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA). He is currently fighting the battle of his life, to prevent the NDLEA from extraditing him to the United States of America for trial.
Occasionally, he attends committee meetings, but avoids the prying eyes of the media. He barely grants press interviews and abhors any form of controversies with his colleagues.
Reprieve came his way recently, when the Senate ordered the NDLEA and other security agencies not to extradite him to the United States of America until all court processes concerning the matter are resolved.
The Senate, in arriving at the decision, noted that the NDLEA and the office of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) have been orchestrating plans to arrest and take Senator Kashamu to the United States of America over alleged drug trafficking offences.
Senator Jonah David Jang is a retired Air Commodore. Officially, he was born on the 13th of March 1944. He was the Governor of Plateau State from 2007 to 2015. He had previously served as Military Governor of Benue and Gongola sTate’s. He was elected a Senator in 2015 to represent Plateau North in the Senate.
Although he has sponsored some motions in the Senate, he is however hampered by his old age. Sometimes, he dozes off on the floor of the Senate, while the day’s legislative business is still ongoing. He is a regular face in the chamber, but one of the few inactive. He seldom attends committee meetings and often comes to the chamber late.
Nasarawa North senator, Philip Gyunka. He is not an absentee lawmaker. He is however on the idle side. He rarely sponsors motions, bills or make contributions during debates on the floor. He is unpopular within the circle of lawmakers.
Senator Gershom Bassey, is the vice chairman of the Senate committee on Petroleum Resources (Upstream). He represents Cross River South Senatorial District. Taken on a one on one interaction, Senator Bassey exudes an uncommon intelligence. He is deep and vast on any issue.
However, he is not active on the floor. He hardly sponsors bills or motions. At the committee level, he is a brain box. He played a critical role when the committee worked on the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB).
Other Senators who barely make contributions on the floor of the Senate are Nelson Effiong (Akwa Ibom South), Jeremiah Useni (Plateau South), Joshua Dariye (Plateau Central), Abubakar Sani Danladi (Taraba North), Bashir Marafa (Taraba Central), Mustapha Sani (Niger South) and Tijjani Yahaya Kaura (Zamfara North), among others.
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