How Electoral Act Amendment Bill Splits Senate

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Senate in session

*As 59 Senators Kick Against Sequence Of Elections

Senate almost erupted in crisis on Wednesday over passage of the 2010 Electoral Act (Amendments) Bill, as Pro-Buhari Senators staged a walk out against new sequence of 2019 elections inserted into it.

The aggrieved senators led by Senator Abdullahi Adamu (APC Nasarawa West) declared that a total of 59 of them are against section 25(1) of the act which reordered sequence of elections earlier announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission ( INEC) last year by fixing National Assembly election first , followed by Governorship and State Houses of Assembly Election and Presidential election last.

The Senators said they opposed the amendment of the Electoral Act on the basis that the re-order sequence of election was aimed towards subverting the interest of President Buhari in the 2019 presidential election.

Trouble started on the amended electoral act after presentation of reports on it by the Chairman of the Senate conference committee on it,  Senator Nazif Suleiman ( APC Bauchi North ) to the Senate for consideration .

Being a confluence committee report, the Senate President, Bukola Saraki put motion for adoption of the report straight for voice votes by the senators without subjecting it to any debate .

Tension further heightened when at the voice votes, those who shouted nay did it louder than those who shouted ayes!, but  Saraki in his ruling said the ayes have it.

Angered by the development, Senator Ovie Omo Agege ( APC Delta Central) raised a point of order to call for division but was also overruled by Saraki .

But in another spirited effort to nullify the passage of the act, Senator Kabiru Gaya (APC Kano South) rose through another point of order to argue that it was against the Senate rules for a conference committee report to be adopted without being debated at the committee of the whole .

Gaya’s argument was however punctured by Saraki who referred him to rule 53(6) of the senate’s standing order which prevents the upper legislative chamber from revisiting any matter that had been ruled upon .

“I’m just entertaining all these points of order being raised over the just passed 2010 Electoral Act ( Amendment) Bill for the sake of understanding ourselves better on an issue which is of national and not selfish interest “, he said .

Apparently not satisfied with the explanation , another senator,  Abdullahi Adamu  disrupted the proceedings further with another point of order  by arguing that the sequence of election included in the act was illegal .

According to him, section 76 of the 1999 constitution vests  the power to organise, conduct and fix dates for elections on INEC which in spirit , also includes order of elections as earlier announced by the electoral body.

His argument however infuriated the Senate President who declared that section 25(1) of the electoral act which deals with sequence of elections has nothing to do with organising, conducting and fixing dates for elections, upon which he ruled him out of order and called on the Senate Leader, Ahmad Lawan ( APC Yobe North) , to proceed with next item on the order paper .

Feeling humiliated with Saraki’ s ruling, Abdullahi Adamu and Nine other senators immediately stormed out of the chamber to the Senate’s press centre to express their displeasure over  the issue .

The senators who were Abdullahi Yahaya ( APC Kebbi North), Ibrahim Kurfi ( APC Katsina Central), Abu Ibrahim ( APC Katsina South ), Abdullahi Gumel ( APC Jigawa North) , Binta Marshi Garba ( APC Adamawa North), Ali Wakil ( APC Bauchi South),  Andrew Uchendu ( APC River East) and Benjamin Uwajumogu ( APC IMO North), declared in their separate submissions that the passed electoral act will not see the light of the day since according to them, it was targeted against President Muhammadu Buhari.

Specifically Senator Abdullahi Adamu who led the group said they already have 59 signatures of senators against the act based on section 25(1) inserted into it .

” Though we are 10 here now, but we can assure you that as at this morning ( yesterday), not less than 59 senators have expressed their opposition to the illegal sequence of elections included in the act .

” Perhaps that was the reason why the senate president rufused to follow the due process when report on the act was to be adopted in the senate .

” Section 25(1) of the act reordering the sequence of elections from the one earlier released by INEC last year , is a law targeted at an individual which to us is totally in bad faith and will not be allowed to stand”, he said .

Another member of the group, Senator Ovie Omo Agege said he won his election in 2015 on the platform of Labour Party and not APC but as as a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, it would be wrong for him to keep quiet when wrong things are being done .

Senator Binta Marshi Garba in her own submission said the hurriedly passed electoral act was nothing but handiwork of an individual who may be thinking that he is holier or greater than the state .

“An individual cannot be holier than the state and besides, power is transient and is given by God “, she said .

She added that those behind the new sequence of elections are more or less enemies of the country by not considering the economic implications it entail because if INEC based on economic problems at hand mapped out two layers of elections, why coming up with three segmented sequence of elections ?, she queried .

However the Senate’s spokesman, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi and Chairman, Senate committee on INEC, Suleiman Nazif in a counter press briefing, said the act was not targeted at anybody .

According to them, aside the contentious section 25(1) of the amended act , six other core areas of electoral processes were worked upon with so purpose of deepening democratic process in the country .

“We did it in the best interest of Nigerians and not for any selfish agenda “, Sabi said .

When asked that what would the senate do if the president refuses assent to the act , he said ” when will get to the bridge , we shall determine how to cross it “.