Ahead of the 2019 general elections, big cracks emerged in the Senate last week over the adoption of a new sequence of elections which places that of the National Assembly first and the Presidential election last. TAIYE ODEWALE examines what led to the cracks and possible scenarios that may play out in the weeks or months ahead.
The genesis of the controversy surrounding the sequence of elections for the 2019 polls started last month in the House of Representatives with adoption of a new one different from the one earlier rolled out by the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission ( INEC), Professor Yakub Mahmud in November last year .
The INEC had slated the Presidential and National Assembly elections for February 16, 2019 while the Gubernatorial and State Houses of Assembly elections are to be held on March 2nd 2019.
But the House of Representatives in its own amendments to the 2010 electoral Act, included section 25(1) into the act by reordering the sequence of the elections to start from that of the National Assembly, followed by governorship and state assembly election before the Presidential election which was not so with the one earlier passed by the Senate in March last year.
And then the Senate
Build up to the crack in the Senate over the new sequence of elections started about two weeks ago when its committee set up for harmonisation of differences in the electoral act separately passed by the two chambers, adopted the new sequence of elections proposed by the House of Representatives.
In adopting the reordered sequence of election contained in the House of Representatives version of the amended electoral act, the Chairman of the committee, Senator Suleiman Nazif (APC Bauchi North), put it to voice votes of the 12 members present to which they all shouted ayes!
Senator Nazif in his remarks after the adoption of the new sequence of election said the bill did not in any way violates any provisions of section 76 of the 1999 constitution which empowers INEC to fix dates and conduct elections.
He said the words empowering INEC to that effect were duplicated in the bill just as powers confers on the National Assembly by section 4 sub section 2 of the Constitution were exercised in relation to rescheduling of elections.
Also commenting, the Chairman of the House Committee on INEC, Hon Edward Pwajok, said what the House did and concurred to, by the Senate was very necessary in giving credibility to the electoral process in the country.
“The sequence of election provision in the bill is not targeted at anybody but aimed at further given credibility to the electoral process by way of giving the electorates the opportunity to vote based on individual qualities of candidates vying for National Assembly seat”, he said .
He added that if the bill is not assented to by the President, the lawmakers who based on national interest, adopted it, will surely used constitutional provisions at their disposal to make it see the light of the day.
“On whether it would be assented to or not by the President as far as we are concerned remains in the realm of conjuncture for now but if such eventually happens , we ‘ll know how to cross the bridge”, he said.
Only NASS can reorder election
Making further clarification on the sequence of election, a member of the Committee, Senator Dino Melaye (APC Kogi West), said while date for election is the prerogative right of INEC, extant laws of the land gives schedules for such elections as sole responsibility of the National Assembly.
“So contrary to reports and comments by some Nigerians on the reordered sequence of election, National Assembly have not overlapped its boundaries”, he said.
Other members of the committee like Senator Shehu Sani (APC Kaduna Central), Gilbert Nnaji (PDP Enugu South), Abiodun Olujimi (PDP Ekiti South), Peter Nwaoboshi (PDP Delta North) etc, also commented in support of the reordered sequence of elections.
Trouble started 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.
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, along with nine other aggrieved 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.
59 senators against it?
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 (Wednesday last week), 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 refused 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.
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.
Not targeted at anyone
However, the Senate’s spokesman, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi and Chairman, Senate committee on INEC, Suleiman Nazif, said the act was not targeted at anybody.
“We did it in the best interest of Nigerians and not for any selfish agenda “, Sabi said.
But whether the legislative fireworks on the amended electoral act continues in the Senate or not, it has already created a crack among the senators which may be very difficult to cement ahead of the 2019 polls regardless of whatever scenarios that played out later on the new sequence of elections in terms of Presidential veto of the bill or attempt to override such veto later , by the legislators which would require 2/3 of their votes , 73 in the Senate and 240 in the House of Representatives.
Only my c’ttee can approve El-Rufai’s $350m loan – Sani
By Aliyu Askira
The senator representing Kaduna Central senatorial district, Shehu Sani, at the weekend in Kaduna, declared that the fact that the House of Representatives Committee on External Loan has approved the state government’s $350 million loan request did not amount to the government securing the money, as only the Senate Committee on External Loan has the final approval that will enable the state access to the loan.
The senator who expressed the desire to contest the governorship of the state in 2019 or seek re-election into the senate, said should the electorate reject him, however, he would go home peacefully without regrets.
He asked Nigerians to judge the performance of the ruling APC from 2015 to date and tell in clear terms whether the administration at federal, state and local government levels has changed their lives for the better or not, explaining that “this is the only yardstick they will use in voting in 2019, adding that “those that are not performing will definitely be rejected but those that have done their best will be returned to office for second term.”
Recently, the human rights activist cum politician, pointed out that the Kaduna state governor, Mallam Nasiru El – Rufai, described him in the media as some body that is not used to money. This, he said, is true because he was “not part of the PDP government that looted our treasury.
“I am always amazed when I hear politicians claiming that they did not perform in office because the country’s economy is bad. I don’t believe this because the country is now selling more than two million barrels of crude oil daily at $60 per barrel; so tell me, how can somebody say Nigeria has no money? As for me, Comrade Shehu Sani, I gave people cars, money and houses before I even became a senator.
“In the cause of my fight for the restoration of democracy in Nigeria, I was several arrested by the military junta and thrown into prison. At a point, I shared the same prison cell with Late General Shehu Musa Yar’adua and former President Olusegun Obasanjo, and as such, I know the benefit of democratic government and the ills of military dictatorship,” he said.
Speaking on his row with his fight with the state governor, SShehu Sani vowed never to support a government that sacked 22,000 teachers, more than 4,000 local government staff and over 4,000 district heads.
“You see, the calculation is simple; if families of the 30,000 sacked workers reject the governor in 2019, he is as good as a loser. You cannot come from nowhere, after spending 13 years in PDP and now engage everybody in a fight and think that you will get a second term,” he said.