Senator Godswill Akpabio’s aspiration to be Nigeria’s Senate president appears threatened, following concerns yesterday that some senators-elect may have withdrawn their support for the APC-backed candidate, Senator Godswill Akpabio.
The development came as a senator-elect from Kano State, Sumaila Kawu, cautioned President Bola Tinubu against interfering in the election of presiding officers of the two chambers of the 10th National Assembly.
There were indications that senators-elect who were hitherto expressing support for Akpabio, are reportedly withdrawing on account of issues connected with his relationship with the National Assembly when he held sway as Minister of the Niger Delta.
Three years ago, at a public hearing of an investigative panel in the House of Representatives, which was set up to probe corruption allegations at the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, Akpabio reportedly fingered the lawmakers as major beneficiaries of contracts.
Some of the senators-elect hinted that they were having a rethink on Akpabio’s bid over accusations that he was disrespectful to the institution of the legislature when he, as the Minister of Niger Delta, openly accused National Assembly members of hugely benefiting from large contracts in the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, without proof.
“It is important that people who have gone to court, people who genuinely did jobs should be paid for their jobs. For me, I am not against it because, of course, who are even the greatest beneficiaries? It is you people.
”I just told you that we have records to show that most of the contracts in the NDDC are given out to members of the National Assembly,” the then-minister had said.
His utterances before the panel have now come back to haunt him.
Deputy Director-General of Akpabio/ Barau Campaign Organisation, Senator Opeyemi Bamidele (APC, Ekiti Central), had on Monday, appealed to senators-elect to support Akpabio’s bid.
A senator-elect who pleaded anonymity, confirmed the withdrawal of support for Akpabio, querying how he could preside over a National Assembly he once despised.
He said: “I have withdrawn support for Senator Akpabio. It is not only me. Many of us have withdrawn our support and it will show on the floor.
“I used to have very high regard for Senator Akpabio as a person but I cannot support him to be the Senate President.
“How can he (Akpabio) come and preside over an institution which he once described as a cesspit of corruption after benefitting from the same institution?”
On his part, Kawu said: “The constitution is explicit about how the president and deputy president of the Senate shall be elected. For instance, Chapter 2 of the 9th Standing Orders of the Senate 2022 (as amended) stipulates the procedures for the selection of presiding officers of the Senate.
“Similarly, Section 50(1)a of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution (as amended) states that, ‘there shall be a President and Deputy President of the Senate, who shall be elected by the members of that House from among themselves.
“Also, section 50(1)b stipulates that, ‘A Speaker and a Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, who shall be elected by the members of that House from among themselves.
“It is therefore clear that the election of these Presiding Officers is purely an internal affair that concerns only members of the National Assembly and therefore, they should be allowed to decide who among them would occupy the positions in order to avoid repetition of the past mistakes – we may all recall the incidences of the 7th and 8th National Assembly.”