The Senate on Wednesday turned down President Muhammadu Buhari’s request to amend the Electoral Act, 2022, which specifically asked for section 84(12) to be outrightly deleted from the act.
This followed the failure of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill to scale through second reading on the floor during plenary.
The proposed law, “A bill for an Act to Amend the Electoral Act 2022” was overwhelmingly rejected during its second reading
Before a voice vote on the bill, for which the nays had it, several lawmakers spoke against going ahead to amend the Actt and urged that the Senate abide by a court ruling, which stopped the National Assembly from tampering with the electoral law.
President Buhari had, in a letter to the National Assembly last week, asked the federal lawmakers to amend the Act, by deleting Section 84 (12), which, according to him, constitutes a “defect” that is in conflict with extant Constitutional provisions.
The section required political appointees to resign their appointment before participating in primary elections.
A Federal High Court in Abuja on Monday barred President Buhari, the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and the Senate President from tampering with the Act.
The judge, Inyang Ekwo, in a ruling on an ex-parte application by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), said the Electoral Act had become a valid law and could not be amended without following the due process of law.
The Court maintained that the Electoral Act, having become a valid law could not be altered without following the due process of law.
But the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, on Tuesday, said the court ruling would not stop the National Assembly from amending the Electoral Act 2022.
He said the court ruling violated the provisions of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) on Separation of Powers
In the move to reject the bill Senator Adamu Aliero fired the first salvo for the bill to be stepped down after the Senate Leader, Yahaya Abdullahi, moved a motion for the bill to be read a second time.
Aliero, who came under a point of Order, drew the attention of his colleagues to the provision of Rule 52(5) of of the Senate Standing Order.
Order 52(5) provides that, “Reference shall not be made to any matter on which a judicial decision is pending, in such a way as might in the opinion of the President of the Senate prejudice the interest of parties thereto.”
He, therefore, advised the upper chamber to step down consideration of the bill pending the vacation of a court order delivered by the Federal High Court, Abuja, on Monday.
According to the Lawmaker, going ahead with the amendment of the Act was in clear conflict with the sub judice rule in law which prevents the legislature from deliberating or considering any matter already before a court of competent jurisdiction.
“Going ahead to consider the bill obviously will mean that we are disrespecting that order, and this is an institution of the Senate – the symbol of Nigeria’s Lawmaking body.
“We should not be seen to be disobeying the court order. No matter how bad that court order is, we should respect it.
“So, I’m of the opinion that we should stop considering this bill pending the time the court set aside that order, and I think I’m speaking the opinion of my colleagues here”, Aliero said.
The Senate President, while ruling on Aliero’s point of Order, insisted that the move by the upper chamber to amend the Electoral Act was in line with exercising its Constitutional duties amid following due process.
“To be specific to this particular request, for us in the Senate, it is to look at the request and follow our due process.
“Looking at the request does not mean granting the request. Members of the National Assembly are at liberty to review the request to see if the arguments by the Executive arm of government are convincing enough.
“If the arguments are not convincing enough, the National Assembly can deny the request, and that is how it is. We have no incumbrance from that order.
“So, it is for Senators here to decide to vote for this amendment or vote against it.
“I think we are not breaching any law, in fact, we are trying to promote democracy because to do otherwise may mean that one day someone will go to court and say that the Senate of the National Assembly should not sit.
“I want to appeal to all of us, that we are on the right course and my ruling remains that we are going ahead to consider the proposal which the Leader of the Senate is leading the debate.
“At the end of the debate, we are going to vote, and the vote will decide the fate of the bill.
“I’m sure all of us know that whatever we do here is to protect democracy and the sanctity of the upper chamber”, the Senate President said.
The Senate Leader, was then given the floor to lead the debate on the Electoral Act Amendment bill.
Contributing to the debate, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe (Abia South), kicked against the deletion of Section 84(12) of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill as requested by President Buhari.
He said, “There are certain things that we see which we think we don’t even have to come here to debate.
“One of those things is the fact that in every democracy, all over the world, there are certain rules which we don’t need to be told about.
“One of those rules is the fact that you cannot be a referee and a player on the same field. It is either you’re a referee or a player.
“So, every other place in the world where democracy is practiced including Nigeria, we don’t need to be told that if we want to run for office, we have to resign. That is a sine qua non that we don’t even need to debate.
“Yet here we are today in Nigeria, and people think they can sit in an office and contest an election and become candidates and continue to sit in that office until the date of election.
“So, how would we continue to debase democracy in this way?
“Mr. President, I think, a cursory look at this paper shows that this paper is dead on arrival. And I urge you my colleagues, to help us to continue to deepen democracy by insisting that this bill not be read a second time in any manner whatsoever.”
Smart Adeyemi (Kogi West), who was also opposed to the consideration of the bill said, “one of the hallmarks of democracy is Justice, Fairness and Equity.
“Indeed, Mr. President, it is a settled matter in law that you cannot be a judge over you own case.
“In any election, where people have the added advantage of holding executive power, either by proxy or directly or by appointment, for such people to have access and compete with others who came from the street, I think is an unjust society.
“Therefore, Mr. President, I disagree with all the arguments on the need to consider a decision that has already been settled.”
A move by the Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege, to sway his colleagues was unsuccessful.
The bill, when eventually put to a voice vote for second reading by the Senate President after its consideration, received a resounding ‘nay’ from Senators in the majority across party lines
During the voice votes, a drama had ensued as Lawan after calling out for votes was shocked that the Ayes was a lonely voice for which he decided to repeat the call asking his colleagues whether they did not hear him.
After the repeated call for votes the Nays still had it overwhelmingly
The Senate leader Yahaya Abdullahi while leading the debate said, “Permit to lead the debate on this very important bill seeking to amend section 84(12). The bill was read first time on Tuesday
“You may recall that the bill was passed into law and assented to by the President and commander in chief on the 25th February 2022, however the president expressed reservation on section 84(12) which states as follows, No political appointee at any level shall be a voting delegate or be voted for at the Convention or Congress of any political party for the purpose of the nomination of candidates for any election in cases where it holds earlier than 30 days earlier to the national election.
“This provision has been interpreted by as being interpreted by the executive arm government as introducing qualification and disqualification criteria that are ultravires to the Constitution by way of disqualification of serving political office holders.
“It is my humble opinion that this proposed amendment be looked into by this distinguished senate which can come out with an objective position that will strengthen our electoral processes as well as our democratic disposition.
Senate urges FG to withhold statutory allocation to LGC without elected officials
The Senate has urged the Federal Government to henceforth withhold statutory allocation to the Local Governments Councils(LGC) without democratically elected leaders
In the last three months of August, September and October the Local Governments received N702.647b out of N1.006 shared for the three tiers of government in the period under review.
The legality or otherwise of the Federal Governmemt’s power to enforce the Senate’s recommendation is left for legal experts to analyse
The Senate’s recommendation came after debate on the Urgent Need to halt the erosion of democracy: the dissolution of elected Councils in Benue State sponsored by Sen. Moro, Abba Patrick (Benne South)
The senate condemned the arbitrary dissolution of democratically elected Local Government Councils in Benue and other states in Nigeria
It also resolved to urge the Federal Government to review the Benue State governor’s dissolution of the elected councils and constitution of caretaker committees and reinstate the elected council executive forthwith.
The upper legislative chamber urged the governor of Benue state to adhere to his oath of office to obey the rule of law and defend the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
While leading the debate Senator Moro he was dismayed by the dissolution of Democratically Elected Councils in Benue State,
According to him, replacing the elected chairmen with Caretaker Committees to is an aberration and alien to the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended)
Quoting Section (1) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) he said it guarantees a system of local government by Democratically Elected Councils.
He insisted that it is the Constitutional responsibility of every state to ensure the existence of Local
Government Councils by law.
He indicated that there are subsisting court rulings directing the Governor, the House of Assembly, their agents, privies etc not to tamper with the tenure of the elected Councils
He therefore challenged the Governor/Government of Benue State to first appeale the outstanding judgments which has not been done adding that it is against the grain of the rule of law
Senator Adams Oshiomhole (Edo North) pointed out thatabout 16 states in Nigeria are currently without democratically elected council officials.
He urged the Senate to direct the Finance Minister to stop funding LGS without elected council officials.
Oshiomhole’s suggestion was supported by Senator Ali Ndume.
The senator representing Oyo North, Abdulfatai Buhari indicated that the Electoral Act should be amended to empower the Independent National Electoral Commission to conduct local government elections.
The President of the senate Godswill Akpabio also frowned at the establishment of multiple federal agencies but advocated the creation of the National Electoral Commission for Local Government so that governors would no longer have overbearing influence on council polls
Tinubu asks Senate to endorse $8.6bn, €100m loans approved by Buhari’s govt
President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has asked the Senate to give him the authorization to borrow $8,699,168,559 and €100 million to carryout critical projects across the country.
The president’s request was contained in a letter read at the commencement of plenary on Tuesday by Senate President Godswill Akpabio.
Tinubu, in the letter, explained that the request was part of the federal government 2022-2024 external borrowing plan approved by former President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.
He said the projects to be funded with the loan cuts across different sectors of the economy, and were selected based on economic evaluation and the expected contribution to the country’s development.
The letter reads, “I write in respect of the above subject and to submit the attached the federal government 2022-2024 external borrowing plan for consideration and early approval of the National Assembly to ensure prompt implementation of the projects.
“The Senate may wish to note that the past administration approved a 2022-2024 borrowing plan by the federal executive council (FEC) held on May 15, 2023.
“The projects cut across all sectors, with specific emphasis on infrastructure, agriculture, health, water supply, roads, security, and employment generation as well as financial management reforms.
“Consequently, the required approval is in the sum of $8,699,168,559 and €100 million.
“I would like to underscore the fact that the projects and programmes in the borrowing plan were selected based on economic evaluations as well as the expected contribution to the social economic development of the country, including employment generation, and skills acquisition.
“Given the nature of these facilities, and the need to return the country to normalcy, it has become necessary for the Senate to consider and approve the 2022- 2024 external abridged borrowing plan to enable the government deliver its responsibility to Nigerians.”
Niger Coup: Northern Senators ask ECOWAS to lift restrictions on Niger Republic
***Plead with Tinubu to restore electricity supply to Niger
The Northern Senators Forum on Monday called on President Bola Tinubu to as a matter of Urgency use his position as Chairman of ECOWAS to lift restrictions on Niger Republic in the interest of business and border community
They also demanded that Nigeria restore electricity supply to Niger Republic in line with the Nigeria-Niger treaty mandate.
The senators had in July on the heels of the military forceful take over of the democratically elected government in Niger, cautioned President Tinubu against use of Military power towards tackling the military coup, as they called for diplomatic options.
A communique issued at the end of their emergency meeting which was read by the chairman of the forum, Senator Abdul Ningi (Bauch Central) stated, “The forum on very strong terms condemn the spate of Military intervention in the democratic spaces in the West African subregion.
“The Northern Senators Forum in particular condemns the coup in Niger and urged the military junta in Niger to soften the relationship with the rest of ECOWAS military by setting free President Muhammed Bazoum and his immediate family to freely choose a country of his choice for asylum
They further urged the junta in Niger to bring about a transition time table that will last not more than two years.
They ask ECOWAS to lift restrictions on Niger Republic in the interest of business and border community.
“It is important that Nigeriens should not suffer because of the coup that took place just like we have seen what is happening in Gaza
“We ask the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Commander in chief of the Armed forces and of course the chairman of ECOWAS, President Muhammed Bola Tinubu to as a matter of humanitarian gesture restore electricity supply to Niger Republic in line with the Nigeria-Niger treaty mandate.
Ningi called on Nigerians and Nigerien to remember that they remain brothers, partners and Africans and above all, we remain human beings
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