The siege to the National Assembly complex by operatives of the Department of State Services, DSS yesterday was inspired by constitutional disputations as to the requirements for the removal of a presiding officer of the Senate. Until recently, there had been no argument as to what the constitution as stipulated in Section 50(2)(c) meant.
That section which reads that a presiding officer, shall be removed “from office by a resolution of the Senate or of the House of Representatives, as the case may be, by the votes of not less than two-thirds majority of the members of that House.” It had been understood to mean that the provision expressly requires two-thirds of the 109 members of the Senate. That was the precedent that had been used in the removal of the only two presiding officers of the National Assembly in the history of the Fourth Republic; Senator Evan Enwerem (November, 1999) and Senator Chuba Okadigbo (August, 2000).
However, opponents of Senate President Bukola Saraki faced with the difficulty of overcoming the majority he holds in the chamber had in recent times resorted to further exploitation of Section 50(2)(c) on how to remove him from office. The anti-Saraki forces sought to push the claim that what was required was not two-thirds of all the members but just a simple two-thirds of those present. It was in that light that efforts were made understandably with presidency officials to convene a session where his supporters would be denied entry and only his traducers allowed in whereby the impeachment move would be made.
That understandably was in the mind of those who condoned off the National Assembly complex yesterday. However, that interpretation of the constitution was yesterday debunked by Delta born lawyer, Jesutaga Onakpasa. In a statement yesterday, he said:“Indeed, that the Constitution uses the phrase “’the members’” with respect to the removal of the Senate President or his deputy or the Speaker or his deputy, as opposed to the phrase: “’all the members’” that is used elsewhere in the Constitution, does not, in law, mean that a sitting of the Senate or House of Representatives that manages to form a quorum can then go ahead to remove the leadership by two-third majority.”
“Having formed a quorum, such sitting must further be attended by such numbers of members that the number of those voting in favour of removal adds up to two-thirds of the entire membership of either House. “So for the removal of the Senate President or his deputy, for instance, you would at the very least require “73 senators sitting and all 73 of them voting to impeach” “In law, both phrases “all the members’” and “’the members’” mean one and the exact same thing.
“Since in ordinary standard English, “’the members’” has the same meaning as “’all the members’” as opposed to “some of the members”, imputing any difference in meaning between the two is entirely superficial and turns more on the professional incompetence and inadequacy in use of English language on the part of the person claiming the existence of such difference in meaning than on any even remote actual difference residing therein. “If the Constitution had intended that the phrase “the members” should mean anything less than the totality of the membership of either House, it would have specifically said so. “As such, in the strict contemplation of law, the difference between “all the members” and “the members” does not exist at all.”