The Senate Thursday ordered the Department of State Services (DSS); the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami and Femi Falana (SAN), counsel to the detained #RevolutionNow Convener, Omoyele Sowore, to submit their memoranda to its committee’s secretariat within 24 hours over the alleged invasion of the courtroom of Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu of the Federal High Court, Abuja, by DSS operatives earlier this month.
Others expected to submit memoranda to the Senate panel before the close of work today are: the Executive Secretary of the National Human Rights Commission, Tony Ojukwu; Office of the Chief Judge of Federal High Court and Justice Ojukwu.
Chairman of the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, Senator Opeyemi Bamidele, while giving the directive, said the panel was unable to proceed with the scheduled investigative hearing after the Senate had suspended all activities in honour of Senator Benjamin Uwajumogu who died in Abuja on Wednesday.
“We are not able to proceed with the hearing because we lost one of our colleagues yesterday. He was on the floor of the Senate two days ago. We need to show concern for the departed soul. Therefore, you are to avail us with memoranda within 24 hours. We have contacted the Office of the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court to give us perspective of what happened including the presiding judge. We’ll like to have the memoranda before the close of work on Friday.”
Present at the botched investigative hearing were the Director-General, DSS, Yusuf Bichi; Solicitor-General of the Federation, Dayo Apata and a representative from Falana Chambers. The Senate had last week directed its Committee on Judiciary to investigate the alleged invasion of the courtroom in a bid to re-arrest Sowore, few hours after he was released.
The Senate also yesterday suspended Order 13 of its Standing Rules to enable it to sit today to carry out legislative duties before going on Christmas break. Order 12 of the Senate Standing Rules stipulates that the upper chamber will hold plenary thrice a week namely Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. The Senate had to suspend the order to based on the point of order raised at plenary by the Senate Leader, Senator Yahaya Abdullahi, to formally announce the death of Uwajumogu.
Coming under Order 43, which gives room for personal explanation, Abdullahi said: “Mr President, with your kind permission, I rise to announced the death of Senator Benjamin Chukwuemeka Uwajumogu who passed on to the great beyond yesterday (Wednesday) the 18th day of December, 2019. It is a very sad day for the entire Senate.
“He was 51 years old which means that I am 17 years older than him. So you can see the kind of loss Nigeria suffered. He was one time speaker of the Imo State House of Assembly, a senator per excellence in whom we share and went through a lot in the Eighth Senate. He made all contributions you people are all aware of. But here we are today.”
“Mr. President, it was a loss that have shocked all of us. May the God Almighty grant his soul and also take care of those he left behind. Uwajumogu was Chairman of Employment and Labour Committee. And going by our tradition and convention, Mr. President, distinguished colleagues, I will like to move three motions. First, for the Senate to observed one-minute silence in honour of this our great colleague. And secondly, to adjourn this Senate and indeed, the National Assembly in respect of the deceased. And thirdly, to ask this Senate, to suspend our Rule 13 in order for us to conclude legislative work before we proceed on Christmas and New year break,” Yahaya said.
Senate Minority Leader, Eyinnaya Abaribe, who supported the motion, described the late Uwajumogu as a good man, adding that death will never take away his name from them. Senate President, Dr Ahmad Lawan, put the request to voice vote before the Senate observed a minute silence in Uwajumogu’s honour. He, therefore, adjourned sitting till today.
Speaking while signing the condolence register at the National Assembly lobby, Lawan said Uwajumogu’s death was not only a loss to the Senate but Nigeria at large. “Nigeria has lost a great man and his constituency would definitely feel the loss. Well, this is a huge loss not only to the Ninth Senate but to the entire country,” he added.
On his part, Deputy Senate President, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, said Uwajumogu’s death was a painful one. “Ben is not just a colleague, he was a brother and a comrade. It is a personal loss, just when he was settling down this thing happen. He was with me in my office on the eve of his demise. We spent about two hours. I pray God grant the family he left behind the fortitude to bear the loss,” Omo-Agege added.
In his reaction, Chairman, Senate Committee on Cooperation and Integration in Africa/NEPAD, Senator Chimaroke Nnamani, described the demise of Uwajumogu as devastating and a huge loss to the country.
He stated that his sudden death has created a vacuum in the political arena, especially in the South-east.
According to him, Uwajumogu was a distinguished parliamentarian who was passionate and indeed committed to the peace and unity of Nigeria.