APC Senators Disagree As Senate Adopts Revised Poll Timetable
The adoption of the report by the Senate and the House of Representatives Conference Committee on the Amendment to the Electoral Act caused division in the ranks of the All Progressives Congress caucus in the upper chamber of the National Assembly on Wednesday.
The House of Representatives passed the bill without hitch.
Some members of both chambers of the National Assembly constituted the committee.
Trouble started when the Chairman of the Conference Committee, who is also Chairman of the Senate Committee on the Independent National Electoral Commission, Senator Suleiman Nazif, presented the report at the plenary on Wednesday.
After the presentation, Senate President, Bukola Saraki, put the adoption of the report to voice vote, saying there is no need for debate as on it as it was from a conference committee which had harmonised the versions of the two chambers.
“Let me remind us all on what the procedures are for conference reports. It is very simple. You either adopt the report or you reject the report. So, I am going to make it simple and put the question,” Saraki said.
Senators, who kicked against the bill, said it was self-serving and targeted at the President Muhammadu Buhari’s re-election bid.
But those in support faulted them, saying it was not the first time in the nation’s history that National Assembly polls would be coming first in the order of elections.
They noted that in 1979 under military regime, the Senatorial election was held on July 7; presidential election, August 17, adding that in 1992 the House of Representatives and Senatorial elections were held on July 7; presidential election, June 12, 1993. In 1999, they said the Houses of Assembly, House of Representatives and Senatorial elections were held on February 20, and presidential election February 27.
At plenary, Senator Abdullahi Adamu’s argument against the bill was truncated by Senate President Bukola Saraki.
Adamu led nine other senators out of the chambers to address reporters. The group said the amendment was in bad faith.
Ruling Adamu out of order, Saraki said, “Thank you for the point you raised. As you know, we have ruled on this. And as you also know, there are many bills that we have passed and if there are issues, there are mechanisms within the system through which issues have been raised. With all due respect, I will say it is noted.”
At that point, several members began to scream, “Point of order!”
The senators, who claimed that 59 of them were against the amendment, were Abdullahi Adamu (Nasarawa-West), Abu Ibrahim (Katsina-North), Abdullahi Gumel (Jigawa-North), Ali Wakili (Bauchi-South), Binta Masi Garba (Adamawa-North), Ovie Omo-Agege (Delta-Central), Umar Kurfi (Katsina-Central), Andrew Uchendu (Rivers-East), Benjamin Uwajumogu (Imo-North), and Abdullahi Yahaya (Kebbi-North).
Reporters’ request for their full list was not met by the senators by press time.
One of them, Senator Andrew Uchendu, noted that the amendment was in conflict with Section 132 of the Constitution which gave INEC the power to fix dates for elections.
The Rivers State lawmaker said the country had enormous problems to contend with and should be spared of additional problems.
Senator Omo-Agege, who called for division of the House at plenary, was overruled by Saraki.
He insisted that the amendment was contrary to constitutional provisions.
he protesters cited irregularities in the signatories to the report.
Adamu said, “We feel very strongly that the process by which the so-called conference committee report was laid and considered was rushed.
“We are against what happened. Incidentally, if you take note of the report that was laid – the report that was circulated – the chairman and the co-chairman did not sign it. We don’t know why they did not sign the report.
“Normally, if we are going through due process, we need to know why they didn’t sign it, or do we have different reports submitted over the same bill from the same committee?”
Alleging that the report was biased, Adamu stated that the bill needed better attention while its passage must be fair.
He said, “Why do you want to do a law to address just one particular problem. This is a very partisan report; you could see it from the body language, the utterances and the gesturing that it is a pre-determined thing by a political party that is threatened by the APC government.”
Also, Omo-Agege said, “Thirty six people in the House of Representatives cannot determine the faith and the destiny of 360 people in the House, which is now carried over to a Senate of 109. If a conference committee is set up to reconcile the differences, the least we are owed is for this amendment to Section 25 (of the Electoral Act) to be deliberated upon.
“We did not even dissolve into the committee of the whole. We were not even given the opportunity to consider this.
“Today, we have 59 senators who are opposed to the inclusion of this Section 25 in the Electoral Act. If that division (which he called for) was allowed 59 senators would have voted to delete that purported amendment to Section 25 of the Electoral Act.
“You don’t make a law targeted at one person. The perception out there is that this Section 25 was included to target Mr. President,” he stated.
The Senate however insisted on the adoption of the report, stating that it had passed due process.
Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi said there was nothing personal about the amendment, adding that it was done in the country’s interest as well as to deepen democracy.
He said those opposed to the amendment were exercising their democratic right but insisted that the right thing should always be done.
The National Assembly, Abdullahi said, was working to strengthen the electoral process and also to ensure the conduct of credible elections in the country.