A group of senators from the ruling All Progressives Congress has rejected the Senate adoption of the conference committee report on an amendment to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Act.
Specifically, the senators said they were opposed to the amendment to section 25 of the Act which re-arranged the order of the 2019 elections.
The House of Representatives was first to amend the Electoral Act to change the order of the 2019 general elections putting the election of federal lawmakers first before that of the state lawmakers and state governors, with the last being the presidential election.
The senators, 10 in number, left the chambers to address the press while plenary was still on.
They described the amendment and process of passage as ‘illegal’, vowing that it would not stand.
The leader of the dissenting group, Abdullahi Adamu (Nasarawa-APC), questioned the conduct of the senate president, Bukola Saraki, in the passage process.
“We are part of the whole body of senators who oppose the process by which the so-called conference report was laid and considered as rushed. I had the opportunity (to speak), I was heard but the Senate President said my observation was being noted.
“The reliance upon the relevant statutes, some of which have actually not been signed to the best of our knowledge, and we did challenge that anybody who has the signed copy should produce it there so as to check doubting Thomases. We believe the process was rushed. There is no need for the rush. Give everybody the opportunity. There is no reason for just two people to speak on the issue. It’s not the tradition of the Senate.”
He alleged that the process was pre-determined as even the Chairman of the Senate Committee on INEC did not sign the report.
“We are against what has happened. We are not the only ones. If you take note of the report that was circulated, the chairman and co-chair did not sign. We don’t know why they didn’t sign.
“Why do we want to make a law that addresses one particular issue targeted at a person. This is very partisan. You could see from the body language, from the utterances that it is a pre-determined thing by a political party that is threatened by the APC government. Whatever incumbency gave to anyone we are denying that one. We are not part of this endorsement.”
Ovie Omo-Agege, Delta-APC, said the bill would not have been passed if the presiding officer had allowed a division.
He also alleged that the House of Representative did not form a quorum when the issue was considered.
“For some of you who are familiar with what transpired in the House of Reps, only 36 members were on the floor when this so-called amendment to section 25 of the Electoral Act was introduced. The position we took is that 36 people cannot determine the destiny of 360 people in the house, which is now being carried over to 109 in the Senate. The least we are owed is for this so-called amendment to be deliberated upon and our rule is clear.
“We have 59 senators who are opposed to the inclusion of section 25 of the Electoral Act. If that division was allowed today, 59 senators would have voted to delete that purported amendment to section 25.”
Binta Garba, Adamawa-APC, said the amendment is not healthy for the current economic situation in the country.
“Now we are having an economic crisis in our hands and instead of us to look at the welfare and wellbeing of our people, we are looking at selfish interest in the long-run. It is not because of Mr President. What happens tomorrow if you are the president, will you now want to amend again to suit yourself? Why I’m not in support is that the economic crisis we have on the ground, we must look into it. Only God knows how much it will cost.”
Similarly, Ali Wakili, Bauchi-APC, said the new arrangement is not ‘well’ for the economy.
“Why did they wait until after the INEC has come out with the timetable? If we look at the cost-benefit to the economy, four elections in one month will be too staggering. It is not well for the economy, politics, and security.
“We had inside this chamber considered conference reports and we dissolve into the house, look at it clause by clause, raise observations and return it back to the House of Reps, why must it be different in this case?”
Kurfi Umaru (Katsina-APC) described the amendment as illegal.
“This is absolutely wrong. We are lawmakers, elections are for INEC, so why should we bother ourselves with the election? This thing they are doing is absolutely illegal. There is no way they can achieve.”