The Senate leadership on Tuesday pushed through an amendment to its standing rules.
According to the amended rule, only ranking members can stand for and be voted to the positions of President and Deputy President of the Senate.
This development comes just two weeks after many suspected an impeachment attempt against Senate President Godswill Akpabio in the 10th Senate.
The amendment was approved during a session attended by senators, who endorsed a motion presented by Senate Majority Leader Opeyemi Bamidele.
As a result of this amendment to Section Three of the Senate Standing Orders, which previously required a senator to have served one term or four years to vie for the Senate President or Deputy Senate President position, first-term senators are now excluded from eligibility for these top leadership roles in the Senate.
The motion was titled “Amendment of the Standing Orders of the Senate pursuant to Order 109 of the Senate Standing Orders, 2022 (As Amended).”
The modified Rule 3 of the Senate Standing Orders now specifies that any senator aspiring to contest for the Senate President and Deputy Senate President positions must have completed at least one term in the Senate.
However, critics of this amended rule argue that it contradicts the 1999 constitution (as amended) in Section 50(1), which simply states that there should be a President and Deputy President of the Senate, elected by the members of the House from among themselves.
Additionally, the Senate revised its rules to establish nine additional Standing Committees, increasing the total number of Senate committees from 74 to 83.
During the inauguration of the 10th Senate in June, former Zamfara State governor Abdulaziz Yari received 46 votes, while Godswill Akpabio received 63 votes in the race for the Senate Presidency.
Approximately three weeks ago, the office of the Senate President raised concerns about a plot to remove Akpabio from his position.
In response, the Northern Senators Forum issued a disclaimer, condemning what they viewed as Akpabio’s attempt to create division among senators and President Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
Human rights groups have declared the Senate’s amendment to its rules, particularly regarding the election of the Senate President and Deputy, as unconstitutional.
Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, the Executive Director of the Human Rights Writers Association (HURIWA), criticized the amendments, stating that they are unconstitutional and against Section 42(1) of the Constitution, which prohibits government policies that disable a specific category of citizens from participating or benefiting.
He further argued that the requirement for only senior members to contest for Senate leadership positions is impractical in Nigeria, where the turnover rate of legislators in the national assembly is not as stable as in the United States or the United Kingdom. HURIWA urged affected senators to challenge these amendments through litigation, as they are seen as self-serving, lacking progressive ideals, and unconstitutional.