The Punch reports that state governors elected on the platform of the All Progressives Congress have resolved to do all within their powers to ensure that Senator Ike Ekweremadu is removed as the Deputy President of the Senate. It was learnt that this was the fallout of the two-hour meeting the governors had with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on Tuesday.
The Chairman of the Progressives Governors Forum and Governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha, had initially told State House correspondents at the end of the meeting that the governors had decided to intervene in the crisis in the National Assembly, without giving details of their intervention.
But a source at the meeting told one of our correspondents that the consensus at the meeting was that it was an aberration for Ekweremadu, who is a Senator from the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, to continue in office as Deputy President of the Senate. The source stated:
“The governors sympathised with the President (Buhari) for working with a National Assembly that is largely seen as unfriendly. Particularly, they observed that in the absence of the President of the Senate, the next person is his deputy. They therefore agreed that it was an anomalous situation for a PDP person to continue as the Deputy President of the Senate.”
“They sought and got the President’s permission to intervene in the matter in their own way. They argued that the truth of the matter is that rarely is there any Senator that emerged without the backing of their governors, hence the governors have some levels of influence on the federal lawmakers.”
Okorocha had, on Monday, said Ekweremadu should get ready to vacate his seat as the Deputy Senate President. Okorocha had added that a candidate of the APC, Benjamin Uwajumogu, who contested in the last Saturday’s rerun senatorial election in Imo State, would displace Ekweremadu as soon as he joined the Senate. The governor had said:
“The position of Senator Ike Ekweremadu as the Deputy Senate President is at the moment under heavy threat because in no distant time, the APC senator-in-waiting from Imo State, Benjamin Uwajumogu, will take over the seat on the grounds that it is an aberration that a PDP senator from the South-East is deputy to an APC Senate President because, before now, APC could not produce a Senator from the South-East zone.”
Our correspondent further learnt that Buhari at the meeting approved the release of N2bn each to all APC states. Another source, who attended the meeting, said the decision was based on what happened during the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan. The source claimed that Jonathan had, before leaving office, released N2bn each to the PDP states at the time from the Ecological Fund.
He was alleged to have exempted APC states and PDP states, whose governors were at loggerheads with him, from the gesture.
“That issue was brought to the President’s attention and he has ordered the release of N2bn each to the APC states that did not benefit during Jonathan’s administration,” the source said.
To further cushion the effects of the downturn in economy on the states, Buhari was also said to have, during the meeting, approved that 50 per cent of money spent by states on federal roads be released to them. Okorocha had, while briefing State House correspondents after the governors’ meeting with Buhari, said the state governors from the ruling party were concerned about the incessant happenings in the National Assembly and had resolved to look into the matter.
The two chambers of the National Assembly have continued to witness crisis since inception following the emergence of leaders, who were not the preferred candidates of the ruling party, the APC. Crisis is currently brewing in the House of Representatives following an allegation by a former Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Appropriation, Abdulmumin Jibrin, who accused the leadership of the House of padding the 2016 budget to the tune of N40bn. Okorocha added:
“We have come to reassure Mr. President that the APC governors are solidly behind him in his fight against corruption; his fight against insurgents and all his laudable projects.”
“We are concerned about the incessant happenings in the National Assembly and we have taken it upon ourselves to look into the matter; that is the crisis in the National Assembly.”
“We are going to look into the matter because we need a strong and vibrant National Assembly to make things move fast in the country.”
Okorocha defended the recent decision of the Nigeria Governors Forum for six state governors to travel to Germany for what they called “vocational training.”
“There is nothing like jamboree trip. We are going to Germany because we cannot do everything here without exchanging ideas. Everything you do in your home and your business, you share ideas. So, we want to see how they have done what they have done to succeed. It is the aspiration of Nigeria to be like other countries of the world,” he said.
When asked if the trip would be funded by states, some of who owed workers’ salaries, Okorocha responded:
“So, who will fund it, you!?”
Despite the continued hardship in the states, the governor stated that a lot of improvement had been recorded in some states. He noted that what the states were getting from the Federation Account was close to what they were collecting when crude oil was selling above $100 per barrel. Other governors, who attended the meeting, included those of Kaduna, Kwara, Zamfara, Benue, Kano, Sokoto, Plateau, Niger, Ogun, Borno, Osun, Edo, Kogi, Adamawa, Nasarawa and Kebbi.
The meeting was also attended by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo; Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal; and the Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari, among others. Ekeweremadu, however, declined to speak on the plans being hatched by the APC governors to remove him as the Deputy Senate President. One of his aides, who was contacted by one of our correspondents on Tuesday night, said he had no comments until he was well informed on the matter.