20181214

How Buhari's Veto On Electoral Bill Is Dividing Senators

Which political party has the highest number of members in the upper chamber of the National Assembly?

The argument to determine the party with the majority members, it was learnt, was fueled by a surreptitious move to override President Muhammadu Buhari over his decision not to sign the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill 2018 into Law ahead of the 2019 election.

This became an issue yesterday between the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

But the Presidency and the APC are reaching out to the party’s caucuses in the National Assembly to block the purported plot to veto the President.

A source confided in The Nation that “it cannot be completely ruled out that some members may be mobilising to initiate the override process.”

Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu and Senate Leader Ahmad Lawan disagreed yesterday over the numerical strength of the two dominant political parties.

Ekweremadu is of the PDP. Lawan is of the APC.

The Majority Leader was emphatic that the APC has majority members in the Red Chamber, with 56 senators as against PDP’s 46.

But Ekweremadu, who presided at yesterday’s plenary, promptly countered Lawan’s claim, saying there was no established statistics to prove that the APC has the majority in the chamber.

The disagreement followed Lawan’s Point of Order to protest media reports, which the Yobe North Senator described as misleading.

Lawan, who stressed the need to set the record straight, faulted the reports about the subsisting numerical strength of the two dominant political parties in the chamber.

The Senate Leader pointedly dismissed reports that the confirmation of the spokesperson of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Presidential Campaign Organisation, Festus Keyamo, as a board member of Nigerian Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC), did not follow the due process.

Lawan said: “The media reported that APC has 57 senators while PDP has 58. For the record, APC senators are 56 while PDP senators are 46.

“Again, the media reported that majority of senators voted against the confirmation of Keyamo yesterday (Wednesday), but that you (Ekweremadu) ruled that the ‘ayes’ had it.

“I want to put it on record that when you put the first question, it was not clear whether the ‘ayes’ or ‘nays’ had it.

“But by the time you put the second question, it was clear that the ‘ayes’ had it.”

‎Ekweremadu, who appeared uncomfortable with Lawan’s submission, said: “The issue of how we vote is determined by voice vote, and it is based on the decision of the presiding officer.

“If anybody has issues with the ruling, we can call for division. But since nobody called for any division, it meant that senators were in tandem with the ruling. So, it won’t be proper for newspapers to report what is not correct.

“As regards the party configuration, I want to say there is no particular statistics for now. We cannot talk about the figures that each political party has because there is no such statistics. So, let it be on record that we have no such record now.”

The Nation learnt that what played out in the chamber between Ekweremadu and Lawan was “a game of wits to prepare the minds of senators for what may come in the days ahead, especially with the President’s refusal to sign the Electoral Act amendment.”

On Wednesday, Keyamo’s confirmation almost ran into a hitch over his National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) discharge certificate.

Ekweremadu, who also presided on Wednesday, was forced to repeat the voice vote before Kayemo was confirmed.

In a memo addressed to the leadership of the National Assembly last Friday, President Buhari returned the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill.

He said he did not sign in the best national interest.

The President’s letter was read in both chambers on Tuesday by Senate President Bukola Saraki and House of Representatives Speaker Yakubu Dogara.

Both leaders did not state the next line of action on the letter.



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