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.”
Buhari: We’ll sell all recovered stolen assets
President Muhammadu Buhari has assured that the Federal Government under his leadership will sell all recovered looted national assets. Buhari said proceeds of the recovered assets will be paid to the nation’s treasury and utilized for developmental purposes.
Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, in a statement yesterday, said Buhari disclosed this when he received representatives of social groups in Daura Emirate.
The President assured that his administration will continue to pursue a robust, effective and legitimate anti-corruption campaign that safeguards the treasury and commonwealth of all Nigerians.
Buhari noted that many suspected looters of government’s resources had been denying ownership of their ill-gotten properties and assets across the country. He explained that he was not surprised by the increasing number of those denying ownership or disclaiming the properties traced to them by the various anti-corruption agencies.
The President also said that his government would not allow a repeat of what happened in the 1980s when buildings and other ill-gotten property seized by his military administration were returned to corrupt officials following his ouster as Head of State.
“Some years back, one of my schoolmates in the primary school who worked at a cottage company before his demise predicted that we will come to a situation when looters will deny their loots in Nigeria.
“So, as a civil servant, you have 10 houses in Abuja and even in Kaduna and abroad, the more you show them the properties, the more they will swear that it does not belong to them. “And we are still following the process, you know in a democracy, you have to follow due process and respect the rule of law.
“If you are following, you will hear that some of these looters were arrested, and for those who deny their loots, then instead of what happened before, this time around, we will sell those stolen properties and the proceeds will be deposited in government treasury. “If the money is in the government treasury, I will see who will come back after we left and reclaim them,” he said.
The president pledged that government would ensure availability of fertilizer and other farm inputs to farmers to sustain the successes recorded by the farmers in the previous farming seasons.
He said: “Please tell Nigerians that we are trying our best, and I thank God, the rainy season will blossom, we will try to add more money to farmers, and ensure the availability of fertilizer and other farm inputs.
“We will also continue to reconstruct roads and railways and provide electricity and we promise we will continue to do so.” Buhari told the groups that the APC-led government will consolidate on the gains and monumental achievements in the development of infrastructure across the country. “For most ordinary Nigerians, if you give them good roads, railway and stable electric power, they will be happy to carry on with their lives.
“We are doing so much for our country and we will continue to do more out of the fear of God,” the President said. The groups represented at the meeting were the Daura Emirate Coalition of Associations; the Amalgamation of Daura Emirate Political Associations; the Buhari Group; the Daura Emirate Development Forum; Women in Politics in Daura Emirate and the Daura Emirate Consultative Forum.
Herdsmen plotting to kill me – Ortom
…reconciles with Suswam
- Ajimobi orders arrest of killer herders
Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, yesterday raised the alarm over an alleged fresh plot by a group of herdsmen under the auspices of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) to attack and kill him.
The governor, who disclosed this while speaking with journalists in his office at the Government House, identified former MACBAN Coordinator in the state, Alhaji Garus Gololo, as the alleged leader of the killer herdsmen, which he said have been threatening his life.
Ortom said he had reported the planned attack on him to security operatives. He expressed optimism that the killer herdsmen will not succeed as God who gives and takes life is with him and cannot die in the hands of Fulani herders who are against him for promulgating the anti-open grazing law.
“There are threats to my life and I have reported that to the security agencies that one Gaurus Gololo and his team, who are members of MACBAN, are planning to attack me. But I always said life belongs to God.
It is God that gives and takes life. So, my life is not in the hands of any Fulani man who is not happy with the promulgation of the anti-open grazing law in the state.” Herdsmen recently attacked and destroyed Ortom’s farm house in Gbajimba, Guma Local Government Area of Benue State.
Meanwhile, the governor yesterday reconciled with his predecessor, Dr. Gabriel Suswam, whom he has not seen eye-to-eye with since assumption of office about three years ago.
The gesture, according to the governor, is for the common good and development of the state. This followed a reconciliatory meeting convened at the instance of paramount ruler of the Tiv nation, the Tor Tiv, Prof. James Ayatse, to mediate in the protracted face-off between the two politicians of Tiv extraction.
The peace meeting, which took place at the palace of the Tor Tiv, started about 5p.m. last Sunday and spilled over to the early hours of yesterday. In attendance were traditional rulers from both Sankera and Minda geopolitical axis from where the ex-governor and his successor hail from.
Although, journalists were barred from the meeting, sources privy to the discussions disclosed to New Telegraph that the Tiv monarch expressed deep sadness over the continued disagreement between the two illustrious Tiv sons, whom he said are supposed to be attracting development to their people instead of being at loggerheads, hence the need to hear from both sides and reconcile them.
Suswam, it was learnt, had told the Tor Tiv that when he handed over to Ortom in 2015, he told him to feel free to approach him on any issue concerning his government, but what followed was the setting up of a panel to probe him and noted that the panel came out with frivolous allegations against him and that the governor went ahead and reported him to the EFCC and ICPC while all his appointees were sacked.
But Ortom, the source said, denied ever petitioning the two anti-graft agencies on Suswam. The governor also said he did not detail the EFCC and ICPC to seize Suswam’s property, stressing that “they are doing that as part of their duty.”
Speaking with journalists on the outcome of the meeting in his office yesterday, Ortom said he personally agreed to put behind his animosity against his predecessor and work together for peace and development of the state.
He quoted the Tor Tiv as attributing some of the challenges confronting his administration to their inability to synergise and work together as a team. According to him, the monarch stressed the need for them to bury their hatchets and contribute their quota to the development of the state and Tiv nation in particular.
“The meeting was convened at the instance of the Tor Tiv and I was there, former governor Gabriel Suswam was also there and, principally, it was a peace meeting. The Tor Tiv told us he noticed that for a while, the relationship between me and that of the former governor is not good and he needed us as his Tiv prominent sons to work together, that whatever is our differences, we should sheathe our swords and work together for the common good of the people of Benue State.
“He also attributed some of the challenges we are having today in Benue as a result of our inability to synergise and work together as a team and we agreed to work together to see how we can make Benue better than where we are,” the governor said. Ortom debunked claims that the reconciliation was because of 2019 political calculations, saying for now he has suspended all political activities pending when the killings by Fulani herdsmen is put to rest and thousands of internally displaced persons return to their ancestral homes.
In another development, Oyo State Governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, has directed security agencies to begin the immediate arrest and prosecution of Fulani herdsmen caught carrying guns and other dangerous weapons across the state.
The governor gave the directive at a stakeholders’ meeting aimed at dousing the tension triggered by the incessant herdsmenfarmers clash, which was attended by the representatives of farmers, Fulani herdsmen, security agen-cies and other stakeholders, at the House of Chiefs, Secretariat, Ibadan. Ajimobi also directed the immediate registration of herdsmen and possibly their cattle to separate genuine pastoralists from criminal-minded herders, as well as the convocation of a monthly stakeholders’ meeting at the state and local government levels.
Besides, the governor said that a surveillance unit would be created under the Oyo State Joint Security Outfit, Operation Burst, to curtail the menace of cattle rustlers, murderous herdsmen and farmers who may take the laws into their own hands by poisoning cattle grazing on farmlands. He said: “Fulani people are good people; if not I will not allow my only son to marry a Fulani lady. We must separate criminals from the good people.
“Why will a herdsman be carrying gun? Henceforth, any herdsman found with guns should be arrested and prosecuted. Owners of cattle found grazing on farmlands and destroying crops should also be arrested and prosecuted. Any farmer that poison cattle should also be arrested and prosecuted.” Also, the Tor Tiv has pledged the support of the traditional rulers and the entire people of Benue to the Nigerian Army as its conducts Exercise Ayem Akpatuma – Cat Race in the state.
“We welcome the exercise. We believe it will help peace to return to Benue which has suffered series of attacks from herdsmen,” the traditional ruler said as he received the Chief of Army Staff, Lt-Gen. Tukur Buratai yesterday.
He, however, said the people were apprehensive of the exercise, recalling the clashes between the army and Tiv people at Zakibiam in the past and called for adequate enlightenment on the exercise. Ayatse said that the herdsmen attacks which affected Guma, Logo, Gwer West, Makurdi, Kwande, Katsina-Ala and Agatu Local Government Areas of the state had resulted in loss of lives, property and farmlands.
Senator Adamu hits ex-President: Obasanjo should be in jail
- Buhari: We’ll sell all recovered stolen assets
“President Buhari has not bothered to interrogate Obasanjo’s role in the Halliburton scandal for which some Americans are cooling their heels in jail. Perhaps Buhari might wish to look into the Siemens affairs in which the Obasanjo administration was indicted”
Senator Abdullahi Adamu (APC, Nasarawa West) has hit hard at former President Olusegun Obasanjo, saying that the former Nigerian leader is supposed to be in prison for allegedly perpetrating monumental corruption in office.
Adamu, a former governor of Nasarawa State (199-2007) on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), also faulted the anti-corruption war of President Muhammadu Buhari. He described the ongoing anti-graft war as selective, and such informed the reason Obasanjo was not committed to prison.
“Were the anti-corruption war of President Muhammadu Buhari total and blanket in nature, corrupt minded Nigerians like former President Olusegun Obasanjo is supposed to be cooling their feet in jail by now,” Adamu stated yesterday in Abuja at a press briefing.
The lawmaker, who was reacting to the recent letter issued by Obasanjo to Buhari on his performance in governance, said that he was in agreement with the former President’s submission that the anti-corruption war as presently being prosecuted, was selective, pointing out that Obasanjo was a beneficiary of the defective anti-corruption fight.
He said: “Chief Obasanjo said that President Buhari is selective in his anti- corruption war. I agree with him because if the President were not selective, Chief Obasanjo himself would be in the dock today on trial on charges of corruption arising from the corrupt practices in the pursuit of his third term gambit in the National Assembly in 2006.
“He (Obasanjo) knows as well as I and other leading members of the PDP he badly wanted it and initiated the process of constitutional amendment. He bribed each member of the National Assembly who signed to support the amendment, with the whopping sum of N50 million.
“The fresh mint money was taken in its original boxes presumably from the vaults of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and distributed among the legislators. “The money was not his, and it was not appropriated by the National Assembly as required by law. I, therefore, agree that in failing to make former President Obasanjo account for the money, President Buhari is waging his anti-corruption war selectively.
“Nor should we forget that President Buhari has also not bothered to interrogate Obasanjo’s role in the Halliburton scandal for which some Americans are cooling their heels in jail. Perhaps President Buhari might wish to look into the Siemens affairs in which the Obasanjo administration was indicted.”
Adamu, who was governor of Nasarawa State under Obasanjo, also discountenanced the former president’s low marks for Buhari’s government on economy and security, declaring that Buhari inherited most of the problems threatening the country, and not the making of his administration. “Every administration grapples with problems thrown at it by circumstances beyond its control. President Buhari inherited an economy that was unsteady on its feet.
“He also inherited the security problems such as Boko Haram, armed robberies and kidnappings. Yes, I agree that under his watch these problems should grow less, not more. But the solution to problems such as these is a slow and agonising process since he has no powers to simply make them disappear overnight,” he said.
The lawmaker, who was visibly infuriated, noted that Obasanjo nearly collapsed the system, claiming that his (Obasanjo’s) eight years in government almost ruined the hardearned democratic governance in Nigeria as a result of self-delusion and messianic mentality.
His words: “He waged his anti-corruption in a manner intended to rubbish all our reserved institutions such as the courts and the National Assembly in a way to be the only Nigerian without palm oil on his hands. “The courts quaked over his unconstitutional rampage. Chief Obasanjo left our democracy in a lurch.
He was like a wrecking ball. In 2007, he alone decided his successor in office contrary to the rules of the game, the repercussions and consequences of which are now history.” He further posited that the coalition Obasanjo started nurturing would not fly, saying that it would end as an exercise in political deception, stressing that if he didn’t desist from certain behavioural tendencies, he would end up being a national nuisance and irrelevant figure.
“His coalition for Nigeria is a red herring across supthe path of our constitutional government. He is free to form a political movement and pursue his ambition of being the power behind the throne, but such a national movement would achieve no discernible purpose in the economic management and the social administration of the country.
“I believe that Chief Obasanjo is too high and too big in the estimation of the people to permit himself the continued sickening indulgence in political skulduggery. I believe that the Nigerian people and the Nigerian state have been most kind to him.
“Chief Obasanjo has a moral obligation to make the country succeed in solving its myriads of problems. That, I believe, is one way he can give back to the country that has given him so much,” he stated.
He, however, said that similar reaction was not needed for the purported statement issued by former President Ibrahim Babangida since according to him, it was riddled in controversy of genuineness.
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