By Nuel Suji – The Senate on Wednesday bowed to pressure on the amendment of Electoral Act 2010 which reordered the sequence of the 2019 general elections, just as the amendment bill suffered similar fate in the House of Representatives.
The development is coming on the heels of a brazen attack on chambers of senate by hoodlums who carted away the mace and the arrest of Ovie Omo-Agege, suspended Delta North senator and supporter of President Muhammadu Buhari.
The controversial amendment bill sponsored by Senator Suleiman Nazif had pitched the legislature against the executive arm of government as it was believed to be targeted against President Muhammadu Buhari’s re-election.
The bill is titled: “An act to amend the provisions of the Electoral Act No. 6, 2010 to make provisions for the sequence of elections in Nigeria, re-ordered the Independent Electoral Commission INEC’s preferred arrangement of holding the 2019 presidential poll first ahead of the National Assembly and governorship.
But the federal lawmakers re-ordered the sequence, bringing the National Assembly election ahead of others.
President Buhari had withheld his assent to the bill, leading to sharp division in the senate between those in support of the amendment and those against it.
Many senators who contributed to the amendment kicked against it, saying it is illegal and unconstitutional to take the power to fix sequence of elections from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Contributing, Sen. Kabiru Marafa (APC Zamfara) in said the bill will further divide the Senate.
“It is unnecessary, and we should not go to that. I don’t want us to finish the way we started,” he said.
Similarly, Senate Minority Leader, Sen. Godswill Akpabio said: “when we initially did the first one that the President sent to us, I believe strongly that the National assembly has the powers to fix sequence of election in the law as opposed to dates, all the judgments so far have talked about dates’’.
In his remarks, the Deputy President of the Senate, Mr Ike Ekweremadu, who presided said it was important for all Senators “”to be on the same page in matters such as this.
“We passed the Electoral Act and then we sent it to the President, the President returned that Bill with a number of observations.
“One of the observations he made was in respect of order of election, he also made observation with regards to local government elections which the National Assembly was given power under that Bill to make laws.
”The President has made observations in respect of some aspects of that Bill, he did not say that the Bill we passed was entirely useless.
”To save those noble provisions in the Electoral Act, it is important that we remove all those areas that the President had objected to and pass the remaining items as a separate Bill and send it back to him.
”Then we can now deal with the issues where he has issues as a separate Bill altogether, then we either defeat it or have it succeed.
“If it succeeds, we send it to the President, he decides what to do, if he brings it back, we also decide what to do.
“We need to clean up that Bill so that we will be able to save all those provisions that were already made in the elaborate bill,” Ekweremadu said.
The senators that kicked against the amendment are Tayo Alasoadura, Ahmad Lawan, Sola Adeyeye, Kabiru Marafa among others.
Meanwhile, Nigerian Police on Wednesday arrested suspended Senator Ovie Omo-Agege over the stolen of Mace by hoodlums in the chamber.
Omo-Agege was arrested after the plenary session and taken out of the National Assembly complex in patrol van of Nigerian Police Force.
The suspended Senator had entered the chamber went straight to his seat same time hoodlums entered into plenary session of the Senate taken away mace in the presence of Senators and Sergeant At Arm’s.
It was mild drama as the efforts to stop the hoodlums from taken away the mace was frustrated as the thugs drove out of the National Assembly with black tinted jeep.
At the resumption of the plenary session by the Senate, members of the House of Representatives stormed the chamber in solidarity with their colleagues in the Senate.
Speaking on behalf of the members of the House of Representatives, the Deputy Speaker, Hon. Yusuf Lasun said anybody that is fighting the legislature is fighting the democracy.
At the resumption end of his presentation, the joint session of National Assembly gave Policemen, Department of State Services 24 hours to restore stolen maze by the hoodlums led by Suspended Senator Ovie Omo-Agege.
Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu who presided in joint sitting by the members of the House of Representatives vowed to stand by the Democracy and defend it.
He added that there was an attempt to kidnap two senators in the chamber by hoodlums.
According to him, some armed thugs invaded the Senate chamber and forcefully taken away the maze of the Senate. They attempted to kidnap two of our colleagues but left.
“We are determined to conclude all matters slated on the Order Paper for today, even if it means us sitting until 6pm”, Ekweremadu.
Ekweremadu made remarks after Executive session which lasted for fifteen minutes
The session was held with the mace, the official symbol of authority firmly in place, and Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, presiding.
The Senate also decided that it will get to the roots of this sad assault on democracy and an obvious act of treason which the seizure of the mace by some armed hodlums represents.
The hoodlums severely attacked some members of staff of the National Assembly, particularly the Sergeant-at-Arms on Chamber duties.
Meanwhile, Senate has mandated the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Idris Kpotum Ibrahim and Director General of the State Security Services (SSS), Mallam Lawan Daura, to retrieve the mace stolen by the hoodlums within 24 hours.