The Senate was thrown into a rowdy session on Wednesday after Senate President Bukola Saraki prevented Godswill Akpabio from speaking from a seat not assigned him.
Akpabio, a former minority leader, has defected to the All Progressives Congress (APC) from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Consequently, his former seat is now occupied by PDP senator, Olujimi Abiodun.
A Senator representing Akwa Ibom north-east, Albert Akpan, had accused the APC in Akwa Ibom of plotting to foment trouble in the state.
Akpabio sought to respond to the allegation using the microphone of a senator representing Borno south, Ali Ndume. The senators sit side by side but the microphone on Akpabio’s seat is not functioning.
However, Saraki insisted that Akpabio should move to another seat where there is a working microphone.
The Senate president refused to allow him to speak using the microphone attached to Ndume’s seat.
Saraki’s directive to Akpabio plunged the Senate into a rowdy session.
After there was a little calm, Ahmed Lawan, Senate leader, said Akpabio should be allowed to speak.
“You recall that I raised this issue. Let us not take the panadol for his headache, he chose to sit there, if he decides to go to a mic and speak we should oblige him but let me advise that even if we have only six, seven months to go let’s do what is right. Some of our colleagues have moved from APC to PDP,” Lawan said.
“Some of our colleagues may or have moved from APC to PDP, PDP to ADC. We may allow our colleagues to choose where they want to sit but that is not the practice in a legislature. We have a standard.”
Responding, Saraki said: “Leader I have to stop you because the clerk has been directed by myself to allocate seats for people to sit and the clerk will confirm that to you.”
The Senate president directed Nelson Ayewoh, clerk to the Senate, to put the names of senators on their respective seats next week.
But Akpabio was still protesting and Saraki said: “Senator you cannot speak from there.”
“There should be equity in this place, you cannot discriminate against any senator,” a senator could be heard saying as the rowdiness resumed.
When calm was again restored, Saraki said: “What I said is that senator Akpabio should go to a seat where there is the microphone, not that he should not speak.”
In response, Akpabio said: “The seat I am sitting on was allocated to me by the clerk, I sat next to senator Kwankwaso until I was led by the sergeant-at-arms that this is my seat. So the embarrassment I got from your desk is totally unnecessary.”
At this point, Saraki asked the clerk to speak and offer some clarification.
“Last week when he came, where senator Dino was sitting before because there is a microphone there,” Ayewoh said.
“The second time he came he, he said he will prefer to sit here and I told him that there is no microphone there but he said he will still prefer to sit there. He said to me this morning that he wants to sit there and I said he can sit there.”
The former minority leader demanded an apology saying: “I represent a constituency, I know my contributions to Nigeria. We can’t run the Senate on a partisan basis.”
But Saraki said: “Senator Akpabio, it is not being partisan. All you had to do was move to a place with a microphone. Now that you are in a place with a microphone, you can go ahead and make progress.”
Akpabio then apologised and said he will hold “his peace” until the sitting arrangement is reorganised.