Spokesman of the senate, Ajibola Basiru has stated that the senate held plenary for only 66 days owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to section 63 of the 1999 Nigerian constitution, “the senate and house of representatives shall each sit for a period of not less than one hundred and eighty-one days in a year”.
But in 2021, the senate only held plenary for 66 days, contrary to the provision of the law.
Reacting to this issue on Sunrise Daily, a Channels Television programme, on Tuesday, the senate spokesperson said the leadership of of senate had made it clear from the beginning of 2021 that plenary would only be held twice in a week.
He said though it used to be thrice in a week, the senate had to reduce the days of plenary because of the rampant cases of COVID-19.
“There is COVID-19 pandemic, and as at 2020 when the pandemic started, there was a general lockdown in the country that we could not sit for six months,” he said.
“We are lucky that in 2021, we were able to sit. But from the beginning of the year, it was made very clear that we would only sit on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
“So, if people who talk about the senate not sitting up to the time are oblivious of the challenge of COVID-19, so be it.
Bashiru said the decision to reduce the numbers of days for plenary does not contravene the provision of the constitution in any way because it was a matter of emergency.
He said legislators could not hold virtual plenary sessions because provision has not been made for them in the rule of the house.
“When you have a law and you have situations of emergency not in contemplation of that law, I think it sounds reasonable that you should be able to act timeously,” he said.
“The national legislators needed to act within the reality of the time. This is not a matter of only Nigeria, it is a global phenomenon.
“So, if COVID-19 is not a compelling reason to adjust our calendar and sittings, people who think rules have been breached can take the matter to court for adjudication.
“We couldn’t have virtual sitting because it is not yet part of what we have provided for under our rules.
“It suffices to say that the work of the national assembly is not limited to plenary, we have committee assignments, we have oversight functions and we have constituency work.
“We had to adjust our calendar administratively to ensure that we comply with the COVID-19 demands.”