A senator who accused his colleagues of working against President Muhammadu Buhari’s re-election plans in 2019 has apologised.
Ovie Omo-Agege, Delta-APC, apologised for his controversial comments over the Senate’s passage of an amendment to the electoral act outlining a change in the sequence of elections.
The Senate on February 14 adopted the conference committee report on an amendment to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Act.
After the passage, a group of senators from the All Progressives Congress, APC, including Mr. Omo-Agege, rejected the Senate’s adoption of the report.
Specifically, the senators said they were opposed to the amendment to section 25 of the Act which re-arranged the order of Nigeria’s general elections.
The House of Representatives was first to amend the Electoral Act to change the order of the general elections, putting the election of federal lawmakers first before those of state lawmakers and state governors, and the presidential election last.
The aggrieved senators, 10 in number, including Mr. Omo-Agege, left the chambers to address the press while plenary was still on.
The aggrieved senators are Abdullahi Adamu, Nasarawa-APC; Mr. Omo-Agege, Delta-APC; Binta Garba, Adamawa-APC; Ali Wakili, Bauchi-APC; Kurfi Umaru, Katsina-APC and Andrew Uchendu, Rivers-APC.
Others are Abdullahi Danbaba, Sokoto-APC; Yahaya Abdullahi, Kebbi-APC; Abu Ibrahim, Katsina-APC, and Benjamin Uwajumogu, Imo-APC.
They described the amendment and process of passage as ‘illegal’, vowing that it would not stand.
A leader of the dissenting group, Abdullahi Adamu, questioned the conduct of the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, in the passage process. In a dramatic twist, Mr. Adamu was removed as head, Northern Senators Forum on Wednesday.
The angry senators had also claimed that the change in the sequence of elections was targeted at President Buhari and accused the senate president of breaching the Senate standing order by ruling out points of order and not allowing members to contribute before the passage.
Meanwhile, Mr. Omo-Agege had also said: “For some of you who are familiar with what transpired in the House of Reps, only 36 members were on the floor when this so-called amendment to section 25 of the Electoral Act was introduced. The position we took is that 36 people cannot determine the destiny of 360 people in the House (of Reps), which is now being carried over to 109 in the Senate. The least we are owed is for this so-called amendment to be deliberated upon and our rule is clear.
“We have 59 senators who are opposed to the inclusion of section 25 of the Electoral Act. If that division was allowed today, 59 senators would have voted to delete that purported amendment to section 25.
“You don’t make a law targeted at one person. The perception out there is that this Section 25 was included to target Mr. President.”
On Tuesday, Dino Melaye, Kogi-APC, drew the attention of the Senate specifically to the comments made by Mr. Omo-Agege on the election sequence.
The visibly angry lawmaker said, “Mr. President, my brother and colleague, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, addressed the media and I saw it on Channels and NTA last week, where he said the decision taken by this Senate is targeted at Mr. President.
“If decisions in this Senate is now being tele-guided and targeted at any particular person, then that is no longer democracy. That statement, to me, is wary. I personally campaigned and followed the president to 35 states of the federation; the only state I did not follow him to is Yobe State, where we didn’t even go to campaign.”
The Senate consequently resolved to look into the matter and asked its committee on ethics and privileges to investigate.
Reacting to this, Mr. Omo-Agege on Wednesday tendered apology to the Senate for his utterances.
“Mr. President, yesterday I wasn’t here, my colleague, my brother, senator Dino Melaye brought a motion under order 14 and 15. That motion arose as a consequence of debate on the sequence of election of the electoral act amendment which was passed at this senate on Wednesday. Mr. President, in the course of that debate, I did address the press at the press centre.
“Mr. President, with certain remarks I made in the course of that press interview, remarks my attention has been drawn to be offensive not just to senator Dino Melaye but to the entire Senate. Mr. President I rise today to apologise to the leadership and the entire Senate. Mr. President, I take it back.”
Ike Ekweremadu, deputy senate president, who presided over the sitting said notwithstanding, the Senate will wait for the report of the committee to be able to take a position
“My view is that it takes courage for a man to say sorry. In the circumstance, especially when the matter has been referred to the committee, what I suggest is that the committee quickly meet with him and then we’ll be able to have the report as quickly as possible so that we’ll be able to take a decision,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Senate spokesperson, Sabi Abdullahi, has outlined steps the chamber will possibly take on the matter.
“The Senate has a process and a procedure. It is actually tapping into the process and procedure that he rose under, order 43 to make the statement he has made and apologised. By apologising, he has owned up to the great error he has committed.
“Since the matter has been forwarded to the committee, the clear instruction arising from that personal explanation which was given by the presiding officer is that the Senate committee on ethics should take note of the personal explanation, engage him so that it will form part of their report.
“A process has started, it has to end, the ending of that process is that that committee will come back and report to the chamber that they have met him. By what he has done today he has shorten(ed) the process.
”At the end of the day, they will come up with their recommendation. What he has said will now have effect at the end of the day. It is the institution that he offended. Whatever it is that the committee will be recommending will be subject to the ratification and approval of the entire Senate,” the lawmaker said.