THE relative peace that the 8th Senate has been enjoying in the last one year was threatened yesterday, following a rowdy session that erupted at the chamber as senators were sharply divided over a new amendment to the Electoral Act regarding election sequence in the 2019 general elections.
Indeed, 10 All Progressives Congress, APC, senators, who opposed the amendment, which they said was targeted at President Muhammadu Buhari, walked out of the chamber to address the press, while the plenary presided by Senate President, Bukola Saraki, was still on.
Led by the Chairman of Northern Senators Caucus and former governor of Nasarawa State, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, the 10 senators were peeved that their argument against the bill was truncated at the plenary by Senate President Saraki and vowed that the amendment would not stand.
The aggrieved APC senators included Binta Garba (Adamawa); Ali Wakili (Bauchi); Kurfi Umaru (Katsina); Andrew Uchendu (Rivers); Abdullahi Danbaba (Sokoto); Yahaya Abdullahi (Kebbi); Abu Ibrahim (Katsina); and Benjamin Uwajumogu (Imo).
They described the amendment and process of passage as ‘illegal’, vowing that it would not stand, with the leader of the dissenting group, Abdullahi Adamu, questioning the conduct of the Senate President in the process of passage.
This happened on a day the Senate confirmed seven people for appointment as Resident Electoral Commissioners, RECs, of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
The amended bill places the Presidential election as the last to be conducted, while that of the National Assembly will hold first, followed by governorship and state houses of assembly polls.
The bill has been passed and concurred with by the two chambers of the National Assembly and is in the process of being forwarded to President Buhari for assent.
With this arrangement, it is feared in some quarters that President Buhari and other presidential candidates in the 2019 general election may be made to sweat for their election.
How the rumpus started
At yesterday’s plenary, the division occurred soon after the adoption of the Conference Committee Report on the amendment to the Electoral Act.
This followed the consideration of the report on a Bill for an Act to amend the Electoral Act No. 6, 2010 and Electoral Act (Amendment) Act 2015 to provide for a time line for submission of list of candidates, sequence of elections and political party primaries, use of technological devices among others.
Chairman of the Joint Committee on INEC, Senator Suleiman Nazif (APC, Bauchi North), who presented the conference report on behalf of the 12 senators and House of Representatives members, said “the Conference Committee recommends that the Senate and the House of Representatives do consider and approve the conference committee report on a bill for an act to amend the electoral Act No. 6, 2010 and electoral (Amendment) Act 2015.”
Other members of Conference Committee are Senators Shehu Sani (APC, Kaduna Central); Dino Melaye (APC, Kogi West); Peter Nwaoboshi (PDP, Delta North); Biodun Olujimi (PDP, Ekiti South) and Hope Uzodinma (PDP, Imo West).
Members from the House of Representatives are Pwajok Edward Gyang as co-chairman; Onyenwife Gabriel; Bassey Eko Ewa; Mohammed Tahie Monguno; Mohammed Soba and Ajayi Adeyinka.
Speaking further, Nazif said the Electoral Act No 6, 2010 amendment bill 2017 was passed by the Senate on Thursday, March 30, 2017 and in the House of Representatives it was passed on Thursday, February 1, 2018, adding, “however, some differences were noticed in the two versions of the bill as passed by both chambers.
“Consequently, a conference committee was constituted in the Senate on Wednesday, January 4, 2018 and the House of Representatives also on Wednesday January 24, 2018 to reconcile areas of difference that appeared in the two versions.
“The committee met and deliberated on the two versions of the bill. After exhaustive deliberations, the committee noticed seven areas of differences in section 36 (3), 49(2), 53(2), 63(4), 78(4).”
The Senator explained that in considering the House version in sections 25(1) and 8 (9A, a and b) dealing with sequence of elections and political parties primaries, the committee “unanimously adopted the provisions in its entirety to ensure orderliness.”
APC senators kick
Opposing the amendment, Senator Kabiru Gaya (APC, Kano South) said: “Mr President, we appreciate your concern on the opinion of both sides. I will like to raise this issue on point of order 87(c) which stipulates that the conference committee shall deliberate only between the Senate and the House of Representatives.
“The conference committee shall not insert in its report, any matter not committed to it by either the Senate or the House of Representatives. Mr President, this report on sequence of elections was never discussed in the Senate. So why are we bringing it here?”
Also, Senator Abdullahi Adamu (APC, Nasarawa West), said: “I am raising a Constitutional Point of Order. Section 76 of the constitution with reference to the matter in discussion which stipulates that election to each houses of the National Assembly shall be held on the date to be appointed by INEC.”