Indication that commencement of debates on the 2019 budget presented by last year December by President Muhammadu Buhari may be delayed in the Senate due to the ongoing campaigns for the forthcoming general elections in the country, emerged on Tuesday following abrupt adjournment of plenary by the senators.
The senators abruptly adjourned for lack of quorum as only 10 were present in the chamber for only five minutes before they adjourn at 10.35 am.
President Buhari had while presenting the N8.83trillion budget to the joint sessions of National Assembly, pleaded for the early passage of the estimates.
The upper legislative chamber is consist of 109 senators and to form a quorum, 37 of them must be in attendance.
Senator Andrew Uchendu, APC-Rivers East had moved for adoption of votes and proceedings of sitting of Thursday, January 17, 2019 and was seconded by the Senate Minority Whip, Senator Philip Aduda, PDP FCT.
Shortly after approval of the votes and proceedings, the Majority Whip of the Senate, Senator Olusola Adeyeye, APC-Osun Central raised a point of order, drawing the attention of the leadership to the fact that they did not form quorum and should therefore adjourn till today.
He was seconded by the Deputy Minority Leader, Senator Emmanuel Bwacha, PDP-Taraba South, who stood in for the Minority Leader, Senator Biodun Olujimi, PDP-Ekiti South during plenary.
The Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, who presided over the plenary, agreed with the position of his colleagues and therefore called for the adjournment of the sitting.
Some senators, who came after the day’s sitting had been adjourned, expressed surprise at the development and later went to their offices.
Both the Senate Standing Rule Order 10(1) and Section 54 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) required 37 senators which is one-third of the 109 senators.
It states: “The quorum of the Senate shall be one third of the members of the Senate.
“At any time during the daily sessions of the Senate, a question is raised by any Senator as to the presence of a quorum, the presiding officer shall within fifteen minutes forthwith, direct the Clerk to call the roll and announce the result, and these proceedings shall be without debate.
“Whenever after such roll call, it shall be ascertained that a quorum is not present, the President of the Senate may direct Sergeant-At Arms to request and, when necessary, to compel the attendance of the absent Senators, which order shall be determined without debate; and pending its execution, and until a quorum shalt be present, no debate nor motion, except to adjourn or to suspend sitting shalt be in order”.
The lack of quorum was even worsened with absence of key presiding and principal officers like the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu who could have presided in the absence of the Senate President, Senate Leader, Ahmad Lawan and the Deputy Leader, Bala Ibn Na’Allah.
It was however gathered that the Senate President could not wait to Preside over the plenary because of the National Council of State meeting at the Aso Rock Villa, Abuja.
The 10 Senators in attendance include Bukola Saraki, PDP-Kwara Central; Olusola Adeyeye, APC-Osun Central; Emmanuel Bwacha, PDP-Taraba South; Francis Alimikhena, APC-Edo North and Philip Aduda, PDP-FCT.
Others are Senators Olugbenga Ashafa, APC-Lagos East; Sha’aba Lafiagi, PDP-Kwara North; Suleiman Adokwe, PDP-Nasarawa South; Gbolahan Dada, APC-Ogun West; and Andrew Uchendu, APC-Rivers East.