Members of the All Progressives Congress caucus at the Senate have alleged that the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, withheld their defection letters from the Peoples Democratic Party sent to the upper chamber.
The APC senators further alleged that Saraki, who read out the letter in which 13 lawmakers defected from the APC to the PDP and another one to the African Democratic Congress on July 24, refused to read the letters from those who dumped the opposition party for the ruling party.
The Senate President has however denied the allegation, challenging those who claimed to have written to him to declare their defections to publish their letters.
Speaking to SUNDAY PUNCH on Saturday, an APC senator accused Saraki of ignoring the defection letters.
“Saraki has been proving smart by not reading letters of defections from the PDP. Until that was done, those affected have technically not defected. He is not reading the letters and it is deliberately so. As a result, in the records of the National Assembly, PDP is 57 while we are 48.
“We have met and discussed this issue. We will resolve that on the day of resumption, a point of order will be raised on the matter, that the letters must be read,” the lawmaker said.
Another source in the Senate, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said both Uzodinma and Raji-Rasaki remained PDP members in the record of the Senate.
The source said, “Up till now, they have not declared their defections officially in the Senate. Technically, Senator Fatimah Raji-Rasaki is still in the PDP. Senator Hope Uzodinma too and so also is Sonny Ogbuoji. They have to write and their letters must be read to members on the floor.
“Look at the isolated cases of John Enoh (Cross River; PDP to APC), Yele Omogunwa (Ondo; PDP to APC), Ovie Omo-Agege (Delta; Labour Party to the APC) and Andy Uba (Anambra; PDP to APC), who defected between 2016 and 2018, they wrote the Senate to announce their defections.”
On July 24, Saraki read letters from 14 former members of the APC announcing their defections from the ruling party. While 13 of them were announced to have defected to the PDP, one moved to the ADC, a party inspired by former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
Reacting to the allegation, Saraki, who spoke through his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Yusuph Olaniyonu, denied keeping defection letters.
He said, “There is no senator whose letter is still pending. It is a lie, we don’t have such letters. When did they write and send the letters? Did they show you the copies? They need to make available the acknowledgement copies.”
Another senator in Saraki’s camp who spoke on condition of anonymity said, “It is a lie. Uzodinma is a liar. The Senate President would have read his letter if he wrote any at all. There is no reason why Saraki will not read defection letters.
“Such letters are usually read at the opening of the plenary—immediately after executive communications (letters or bills from the President) have been read to the chamber. It usually comes as a special announcement.”
On Saraki’s plan to declare the seats of the PDP defectors in the Senate vacant, Olaniyonu said he could not talk on it because it was beyond his brief.
When contacted, Akpabio’s media aide, Mr. Anietie Ekong, said only his boss could speak on the threat to his Senate seat after the defection.
He said, “Can you give me a little time? Let me clarify with him. I will get back to you. We are still in Akwa Ibom and not back to Abuja. I need to go and see him to know his reaction to that.”
Ekong has yet to get back to one of our correspondents as of press time on Saturday night.
But another Akpabio’s aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not permitted to speak on the issue, said his principal had not committed any offence by defecting from the PDP to the APC.
He added that the Senate could not declare Akpabio’s seat vacant because of defection, noting that if that happened then all defectors including Saraki would lose their seats.