CHUKWU DAVID reports on the unending drama in the Senate over amendment to the Electoral Act that reordered sequence of elections, which has not only pitched the leadership of the upper legislative chamber against some members, but may lead to the suspension of those who kicked against the alteration
The trouble started in the Senate on February 14, when some senators considered to be pro-President Muhammadu Buhari rose from plenary and walked out of the Chamber over the amendments on the 2010 Electoral Act by the conference committee of the House of Representatives and the Senate.
Section 25(1) of the new amendment is what has generated the controversies currently tearing the apex legislative chamber apart. The section reordered sequence of elections in Nigeria, making the presidential election to come last, while that of the National Assembly comes first.
This angered the pro-Buhari senators, who in their own interpretation, concluded that the President was the target of the amendment because of his interest in re-contesting in the 2019 general elections. The senators alleged that the amendment was designed to frustrate Buhari’s ambition and cause him to fail at the poll.
The lawmakers with this view made desperate efforts to truncate the passage of the bill or at least, get that section, which they considered unfavourable expunged, but failed as the President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, used his discretional powers to ensure that the agitators did not have their way.
In a protest against the development, Senator Abdullahi Adamu and nine other senators immediately stormed out of the chamber to the Senate’s press centre, where they addressed the press, expressing their grievances and total opposition to the action of Saraki in midwifing the adoption of the report in a manner they said lacked due process.
The senators who walked out of the chamber to brief journalists include 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 will not see the light of the day as according to them, it was targeted against President Buhari.
While Senator Adamu, who led the group, said the controversial amendment would never be allowed to stand, Senator Omo-Agege, on his part, claimed that 59 senators had signed against the insertion of Section 25(1) into the Electoral Act, a claim they were not able to provide proof to back it up.
Consequently, the Senate asked it Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions to investigate Omo-Agege, who was more vocal than others on the day of their briefing. He has since apologised on the floor of the Senate, but his probe is still on-going.
The Senator also last week mandated the Ethics Committee to investigate Senator Abdullahi Adamu and some other senators, for allegedly plotting to throw the Senate into confusion and by so doing, see grounds to unseat Saraki.
The committee, which was instructed to be thorough with the investigation, was also asked to complete its assignment and turn in its report within a period of two weeks.
The Chamber took the decision following a point of order by Senator Obinna Ogba, who cited Order 43 of the Senate Standing Orders 2015 (as amended), drawing the attention of the lawmakers to a purported conspiracy by some disgruntled members to destabilize the entire Senate.
Ogba specifically said that Senator Adamu was the leader of the group of senators orchestrating to launch massive destabilizing measures on the Senate through several channels including demonstrations.
The lawmaker representing Ebonyi Central on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), hinted that the alleged anti-leadership senators were plotting to carry out the demonstrations, using civil society organisations, market women and other social groups.
He said that he had a documentary evidence to back up his claims on the alleged plot, noting that he had telephone conversations of Senator Adamu and other unnamed persons.
Ogba said that it would have been better for any aggrieved senator(s) to bring their grievances to the floor of the Chamber for consideration rather than going to form alliance with outsiders to unleash any form of attack on the parliament. He therefore, prayed the Senate to investigate the allegation, a motion which was overwhelmingly supported by members when it was put to voice vote.
His words: “I rise to bring to the notice of the Senate, that there is a plan by some people in this Senate under the leadership of Senator Abdullahi Adamu to destabilize this Senate.
In January, Isah Hamman Misau, made a comment here that there was a plan to remove the Senate president and the entire leadership.
“Now, I have reliable information that some people are already planning to distabilise the Senate, including the leadership by organising demonstrations. I believe that all of us are leaders and none of us should do anything that will distabilise the country or the Senate.
Anything that will distabilise our democracy, we should avoid it. “If there is any issue going on, you have an opportunity to raise it here. But not to go outside and start planning with civil organisations, market women and others to lead protests against the leadership of the Senate.
I want this matter to be investigated. I have evidence to show what I am saying. There is a telephone discussion going on between Senator Abdullahi Adamu and other people. “This is a very serious issue. When this issue was raised in January, we did not take it seriously. We must have to stand up and look into it. Waving it aside is not the best thing.
If have your permission, I want to lay the evidence in full.” In his remarks, the Deputy President of the Senate, Dr. Ike Ekweremadu, who presided over the session, said the parliament is what differentiates democracy and dictatorship, stressing the need to preserve the institution. He said: “The difference between military, autocratic or any oppressive regime and democracy is the parliament.
Once you remove the parliament, you are going to have problems. In whatever you do, we must continue to preserve the sanctity of the parliament. “I want to appeal that anybody who is interested in destabilising this country is not doing anybody any good. We have received this information. For whatever it is worth, we will refer it to our appropriate committee on Public Petitions to look at it and report back within two weeks.”
Meanwhile, Senator Adamu had reacted to the allegation and resolution to probe him. He denied leading or being behind any plot targeted at Saraki or the institution of the Senate, saying that he would appear before the committee when invited to defend himself.
He said that Saraki was like a son to him, stressing that it was not logical for anyone to say that he was planning to remove him from the highly coveted office, saying that doing that would amount to fighting a lost battle, in view of the fact that election year is very close.
He further expressed optimism that he would come out clean if invited by the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions because whoever raised allegation must produce evidence to the committee, stressing that he was not afraid of anybody.
His words: “I am not in anyway after Saraki. Saraki is like a son to me. I have every right to contest for the Senate President seat three years ago when the 8th Senate was inaugurated, but I never did because I wasn’t interested.
It is therefore, not logical for anyone to say I’m interested in the seat now, and will be planning to destabilise the Senate. To achieve what? For what purpose? It is not right for anyone to make such unfounded insinuations.
“We are almost three years in office, election year is drawing nearer, and I think any one thinking of upstaging the leadership of the Senate for any reason will only be fighting a lost battle because it is not what should naturally occupy the mind of any serious minded lawmaker now.
“I am not in anyway afraid of anyone who thinks I’ve offended him, I have the neck to carry my cross, but no one should cook up lies just to discredit me or any senator for that matter. If I’m asked to appear before the committee on Ethics and Privileges, I will come out clean because whoever raises the allegations will have to come out and present incontrovertible facts to prove the allegations.
Then, names of other so called collaborators will be made known, they will be confronted, evidence of such meeting will be produced, those accused will be asked to defend themselves, and recommendations will be made by the committee based on facts presented to it.
“As for me, let me repeat that I’m not in anyway after Saraki, I can’t be after Saraki, and I won’t do anything to upstage the leadership as being claimed because it’s a fruitless venture.
But if I believe strongly in a cause, I stand by it. If I’ve offended anyone by my strong stand on some issues in the Senate in accordance with my conviction, I stand by it anytime. But the issue of trying to cause disaffection in the Senate is a no issue at all.
Whatever we do in this world, we must be ready to bear our cross, I’m ready to bear mine. Anyone who knows me will say clearly that I’m not plotting to remove Saraki. Let them look for another thing to say.”
While there is the fear that the senators, who accused the Senate and indeed the National Assembly of amending the Electoral Act to stop Buhari’s second term bid might face suspension, Nigerians are watching and waiting for the unfolding drama to reach its climax.
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