Senate, Reps adopt change in INEC’s election sequence
President’s loyalists walk out of Chamber, threaten litigation
Senate orders MDAs to submit 2018 budget in one week
Spirited efforts made by senators loyal to President Muhammadu Buhari to block the adoption of the Conference Report of Senate on the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill 2015 were yesterday resisted by Senate President Bukola Saraki who ruled them out of order.
In protest, the pro-Buhari senators, who felt that the reordering of the sequence of 2019 elections was targeted at the President, walked out of the Red Chamber.
The Senate was thrown into turmoil over the consideration and controversial adoption of the Conference Report of its Committee on Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill 2015.
The crisis erupted between those considered to be pro-Buhari senators and others who are supposedly not supporting his re-election bid in 2019.
The Conference Committee of the Senate and the House of Representatives had adopted the report last week, approving the reordering of the sequence of the 2019 general elections, contrary to what INEC had arranged.
The House of Representatives’ Committee on Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill had, in its amendments to the 2010 Electoral Act, included Section 25(1) into the Act by reordering the sequence of the elections to start from the National Assembly, followed by governorship and state assembly elections before the presidential election, which is now to come last.
Presenting the report for Senate consideration, the Chairman of the Joint Committee of the Senate and the House on INEC, Suleiman Nazif, explained that the Conference Committee harmonised some differences in the two versions of the bill as passed by both chambers as well as adopted the new agreed positions.
“The committee met and deliberated on the two versions of the bill. After exhaustive deliberations, the committee noticed seven areas of differences in sections 36 (3), 49(2), 53(2), 63(4), 78(4),” he said.
The lawmaker further explained that, the committee, in considering the House version in sections 25(1) and 8 (9A, a and b) dealing with sequence of elections and political parties primaries, unanimously adopted the provisions in its entirety to ensure orderliness.
Being a confluence committee report, 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, and yet 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 overruled by Saraki.
Omo-Agege, in his point of order, argued that the committee had no power to reorder the sequence of elections, saying that the action was unconstitutional and should be revered by the National Assembly.
He alleged that it was only 36 Reps out of the 360 members of the House of Representatives were present in the Chamber the day the amendment of the Electoral Act was carried out there while the Senate did not form quorum on the day it was passed in the Red Chamber.
He said: “The Electoral Act that is being amended today is a product of well-considered research by the INEC committee in the Senate; it went through full deliberation on the floor, and it was passed.
“Thirty-six people in the House of Reps cannot determine the fate and the destiny of 360 people in the House, which is now carried over in the Senate of 109. Yes, if a conference committee is set up to reconcile the differences, the least we are owed is for this amendment to section 25 to be deliberated.”
His efforts, however, ended in futility as Saraki could not reverse his position.
In another spirited effort to nullify the passage of the report, 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, knocked off by Saraki, who referred him to rule 53(6) of the Senate standing orders, which prevents the apex legislative chamber from revisiting any matter that had been ruled upon.
“Distinguished colleagues, 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,” Saraki said.
Obviously not satisfied with the explanation, another senator, Abdullahi Adamu (APC, Nasarawa), disrupted the proceedings further with another point of order, with which he argued that the sequence of elections 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 in INEC, which in spirit, also includes order of elections as earlier announced by the electoral body.
But rather than providing solution to the disagreement, the argument offended Saraki, 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.
Just as he did to other speakers who were antagonistic to the adoption of the report, the President of the Senate 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.
The pro-Buhari senators felt humiliated by Saraki’s ruling, provoking Adamu and nine other senators to immediately storm out of the chamber to the Senate Press Centre where they expressed their grievances and total opposition to the action of the President of the Senate in midwifing the adoption of the report in a manner they said lacked due process.
The senators who walked out of the chamber and went to brief journalists included: Abdullahi Yahaya (APC, Kebbi North), Ibrahim Kurfi (APC, Katsina Central), Abu Ibrahim (APC, Katsina South), Abdullahi Gumel (APC, Jigawa North), Binta Masi Garba (APC, Adamawa North), Ali Wakili (APC, Bauchi South), Andrew Uchendu (APC, River East) and Benjamin Uwajumogu (APC, Imo North).
They all took turns to speak against the adoption of the controversial report, declaring it as a constitutional breach which would not see the light of the day since according to them, it was targeted against President Muhammadu Buhari.
Adamu, who led the group, said that they already had 59 signatures of senators against the act based on section 25(1) inserted into it.
He, however, did not provide proof that the group actually secured 59 senators on its side.
“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 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.
At this point, Omo-Agege said that he won his election in 2015 on the platform of Labour Party and not APC, but that as a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, it would be wrong for him to keep quiet when wrong things were being done.
The senators claimed that many members of the Conference Committee did not sign the document, including the chairmen from the Senate and the House, brandishing the signature page.
Also, contributing at the briefing, Senator Binta Garba said that the hurriedly passed Electoral Bill was nothing but handiwork of an individual who might be thinking that he was 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.
Meanwhile, in a swift reaction to the briefing of the aggrieved senators, Senate’s spokesman, Aliyu Sabi, and Chairman, Senate Committee on INEC, Suleiman Nazif, said the amendment was not targeted at anybody but carried out in national interest.
According to them, aside the contentious section 25(1) of the amended Act, six other core areas of electoral processes were worked upon with the aim of deepening democratic process in the country.
“We did it in the best interest of Nigerians and not for any selfish agenda,” Sabi said.
Asked what the Senate would do if the president refused assent to the Bill, he said: “when we get to the bridge, we shall determine how to cross it.”
Nazif denied the allegation that he did not sign the report, showing the document’s signature page to prove that he endorsed the report.
He said: “I am not aware if the sequence of election is being targeted at anybody. What I know is that as Chairman of the Committee on INEC on the Senate, I have a responsibility and I chaired the concurrence committee of both the House and the Senate.
“But politics is dynamic. What I know is that there are reasons for elections, people have different reasons for why elections should start from the top to down and from down to top. In the past, we have had elections from the top to down. I don’t know if anybody questioned that. In the past also, we have also had elections from down to top. I don’t know if anybody questioned that.”
Court grants Jang bail with N100m surety
- I hold no grudge against my oppressors, says ex-gov
A High Court sitting in Jos, the Plateau State capital, yesterday granted bail to the immediate past governor of the state, Senator Jonah Jang and a former cashier in the Office of the Secretary to Plateau State Government, Mr. Yusuf Pam, with two sureties each in the sum of N100 million and N50 million respectively. Jang is facing a 12-count charge bordering on alleged corruption and misappropriation.
The former governor is alleged to have misappropriated over N6 billion, two months to the end of his tenure as governor of Plateau in 2015. According to the charges, the former governor also embezzled over N4 billion from the state coffers through Pam Yusuf, who was a cashier in the office of the Secretary to the State Government.
Yusuf, who is a co-defendant in the suit against Jang, is also facing another case of allegedly enriching himself to the tune of N11 million. Counsel to the accused persons, Robert Clarke (SAN) had, on May 16, in a written application during their arraignment, prayed the court to grant his clients bail based on self-recognition, after both accused persons, Jang and Pam, pleaded not guilty to the crime. This was as the former governor yesterday said he was not holding any grudge against his oppressors.
While responding to the prosecuting counsel, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), prayed the court not to grant the accused persons bail, stating that section 341 (2) of the 1999 Constitution said an offence which attracts an imprisonment of more than three years, was not bailable. Presiding judge, Justice Daniel Longji, while ruling on the bail application by the lead accused counsel, Clarke, said the first accused and former governor was to provide two sureties with the sum of N100 million only, among which one must be a first class traditional ruler within the jurisdiction of the court.
On the second accused, Mr. Yusuf Pam, a former cashier in the Office of the Secretary to the State Government, Justice Longji also granted him bail to provide two sureties in which one must be a permanent secretary in the civil service or anybody of that rank.
Justice Longji also directed the first and the second accused to submit their international passports to the chief registrar of the court. The judge had, however, adjourned the case to 17th, 18th and 19th of July, 2018 for definite hearing. Meanwhile, Jang yesterday said in a statement that the burden he was carrying in his heart was not of grudges against those against him. He said: “The burden I carry in my heart is not of grudges against those against me, but of gratitude for those who have endured difficult conditions to stand with me through this ordeal.
“I am convinced beyond doubts that your labour of love shall not be in vain. May God bless you for remembering me in my hour of distress.” Jang, who was the former governor of Plateau State from 2007 to 2015, said: “For over a week, I was kept in detention by the EFCC, deprived of the inalienable right to personal freedom and association.
” The senator said his lawyers had instituted a case at the FCT High Court and that he would pursue the matter to its logical conclusion. According to him, “If the laws of our country are still potent under the current circumstances, my detention constitutes a gross abuse of the fundamental rights guaranteed me as a law-abiding citizen as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended.
“Where the constitution provides for an accused person to be charged to court within one day, I was held by the EFCC for over a week in flagrant disregard to the letters and spirit of the supreme document which legitimises the very existence of our country.”
PDP leaders face trial over $115m campaign funds
- Party chair, guber candidate, ex-dep gov, lawmaker sent to prison
- Jonathan’s ministers granted bail
- Court grants ex-gov, Jang, bail
- Police teargas Shekarau, Wali’s supporters in Kano
Some leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) yesterday faced trial over their involvement in the sharing of $115 million campaign funds from former Petroleum Minister, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, for the 2015 elections.
In Kano, two ministers under former President Goodluck Jonathan – Ibrahim Shekarau and Aminu Wali were arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over alleged money laundering.
Shekarau, a former governor of Kano State and Minister of Education, together with former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Wali, and one Mansur Ahmad were tried on a six-count charge bordering on conspiracy and money laundering to the tune of N950 million.
In Edo State, the state chairman of PDP, Chief Dan Osi Orbih, and former governorship candidate of the party in the 2016 governorship election in the state, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu and three others were arraigned before Federal High Court sitting in Benin over their alleged complicity in N700 million campaign funds.
The court subsequently remanded Orbih, Ize- Iyamu, former Deputy Governor of the state, who is now a chieftain of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr. Lucky Imasuen; a former member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Tony Azegbemi and one Efe Anthony.
There were sporadic gunshots at the premises of Kano Federal High Court during the trial of Shekarau, Wali and a former commissioner, Mansur Ibrahim. Trouble started in the court premises when hundreds of Shekarau’s supporters thronged the premises, trying to break the gate, but were resisted by riot policemen, who opened fire, shooting sporadically into the air to scare off the people.
The riot policemen, after dispersing the supporters, went ahead to release teargas canisters that sent lawyers and some politicians running helter-skelter. The court, however, granted bail to Shekarau, Wali and one Mansur Ahmad.
Counsel to the EFCC, Mr. Johnson Ojoghame, told the court that the defendants had, between March 26 and 27, 2015 in Kano, conspired between themselves and received various sums of money without going through financial institutions. He told the court that the money was issued out to the defendants by the PDP and former Petroleum Minister, Mrs. Diezani Alison- Madueke.
The prosecutor said that the offences contravened sections 18 (a) of the Money Laundering (prohibition) Act 2011 as amended and punishable under section 16 (2)(b) of the same Act and Section 15(1) of money laundering Act.
The trio had pleaded not guilty to the charges. Their counsel, Mr. Ologunolisa Sam (SAN), made a written bail application in respect of the defendants under Section 163 of the Criminal Justice Act 2015.
He said: “The defendants were, early in May 2016, invited by the EFCC and at no time were they found wanting when they were granted bail. “If granted bail, the defendants would not jump bail, nor commit any offence and would not tamper with police investigation.”
The Judge, Justice Zainab Abubakar-Bage granted the defendants bail in the sum of N100 million each with two reliable sureties in like sum. She said that the first surety should have landed property within the jurisdiction of the court while the second surety should not be below the rank of a director.
The judge ordered the defendants to surrender their international passports and two recent passport size photographs to the Deputy Chief Registrar of the court. The case has been adjourned to June 26, for trial. In Benin, Orbih, Ize- Iyamu, Imasuen, Azegbemi and Anthony were arraigned and docked before Justice P. I. Adjokwu over alleged money laundering to the tune of N700 million campaign funds for the 2015 general elections. The accused had been in the custody of EFCC for the past 11 days.
The arraignment of the PDP chieftains and APC stalwart had sparked off protest by youths and women support groups, who stormed the precincts of the Federal High Court premises in solidarity, demanding for unconditional release of political leaders. Apart from the hundreds of the protesters outside the entrance gate of the court, elders and leaders of the opposition PDP from the 18 local government areas and the three senatorial districts of the state, also stormed the court premises in solidarity for their leaders, who had been having a running battle with the EFCC. Some of the protesters carried placards of various inscriptions, such as “Nigeria belongs to us all”, “Free Ize-Iyamu”, “EFCC release Pastor Ize-Iyamu” and “No gentleman in corruption,” among others.
The protesters, under the aegis of the Adoko Solidarity Movement, led by its Coordinator, Mrs. Florence Ogbeide, said the detention and prosecution of the accused were devoid of justice and not in line with democratic tenets, and therefore called for their release. In the suit number FCH/ B/51C/2018, and filed by the anti-graft agency, the name of the former Chairman, Board of Trustee of the PDP, Chief Tony Anenih was listed.
The accused were arraigned by the EFCC on an eight-count charge of money laundering. However, the five accused persons pleaded not guilty when the charges were read to them by counsel to the EFCC, Larry Peters Aso. Justice Adjokwu later granted bail to the five accused persons in the sum of N10 million each and a surety in like sum, who must be Grade Level 16 public servants or above, and should deposit the Certificate of Occupancy of their building with the Deputy Chief Registrar of the court. Earlier in their arguments for bail applications, counsels to the accused, Charles Edosomwan (for Ize-Iyamu); Dr. O.G Izevbuwa (Mr. Imasuen); Kehinde Ogunsumi (Azegbemi); Ferdinand Orbih (for Chief Dan Orbih) and Prof. Jim Akhere Akhere, pleaded that their clients be granted bail on self-recognizance.
On his part, counsel to the EFCC, Aso, noted that the bio-data of the suspects had not been captured and requested the court to order stringent bail conditions and money to ensure the defendants are in court. Justice Adjokwu, in her ruling, said she only exercised her discretion in granting the accused persons bail. The judge, however, ordered that they should be remanded in prison custody pending when they would have met the bail conditions. Edosomwan, however, pleaded that the accused persons be remanded at the EFCC custody pending when the bail conditions were met, but Justice Adjokwu said it was beyond her powers.
Justice Adjokwu adjourned sitting on the matter to July 4, 2018. According to the EFCC charge sheet, Ize-Iyamu and others were accused of taking possession and control of the sum of N700 million without any contract award, which they ought to have known to form part of proceeds of an unlawful act, to wit; fraud and corruption; and thereby committed an offence contrary to section 15(2)(d) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011 as amended in 2012, and punishable under Section 15(3) of the same Act.
Exposed! Nigeria’s Deputy Speaker in N1.1bn water contract scam (II)
In conclusion of this two-part story, MOJEED ALABI reports the details of the contract scandal involving the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Lasun Yusuff, who secures contract award from the same government he serves
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