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Bill seeking establishment of armed forces commission raises dust in the Senate

THERE was shouting match in the Senate today over a bill that seeks to create an Armed Forces Commission.

The rowdy session was caused by division among the lawmakers over the bill, which the sponsor, Enyinnanya Abaribe, said would help deepen federal character in the army.

But at the plenary session the presentation of the lead debate for the bill for a second reading by Abaribe generated heated debate.

 The bill, which was read for the first time in the Senate in March 2020, seeks among other things, to address the “lopsided appointment” of heads of security agencies by the president. 

This comes barely a month after the Senate confirmed the new set of service chiefs appointed by President Buhari.

In his presentation, Abaribe said the function and powers of the Commission shall be to ensure that the composition or appointment of Service Chiefs of the Armed Forces reflects Federal Character of Nigeria in the manner prescribed in section 217 (3) of the 1999 Constitution.

It will also recommend  the president to pick from among the best and most qualified, most educated and most experienced members of the Armed Forces for appointment as Chief of Defence Staff, Chief of Army Staff, Chief of Air Staff or Chief of Naval Staff.

A total of 13 lawmakers thereafter took turns to deliberate upon the bill.

While some supported the legislation, others rejected it outright.

Senators I.D Gyang, Bamidele Opeyemi, James Manager and Emmanuel Bwacha supported the bill while Messrs Ibtahim Olorigebe, Abdullahi Adamu, Adamu Aliero rejected it.

Those that rejected the bill argued that it will create disunity and that the timing is wrong. 

After a voice vote, with resounding ‘ayes’ and ‘nays’, the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, ruled against the bill.

A seemingly unsatisfied Abaribe thereafter stood up and called for physical votes by all lawmakers referring to Order 73 of the Senate Standing Rule. 

He also accused the Senate President of causing the confusion that ensued from the voice vote.

Order 73  permits for a physical vote on an issue should a lawmaker be unsatisfied with the ruling and/or opinion of the Senate President or chairman of the plenary.

This launched the chamber into a rowdy session as many lawmakers opposed the order. 

This was followed by a moment of verbal exchange between  Lawan, Omo-Agege and a few others.

For about ten minutes, lawmakers were seen moving from one seat to another arguing inaudibly.

 Abaribe, however, insisted  that “everyone present must get up and vote.” 

The lawmakers, thereafter, went into an executive session, which is still underway.

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