Rowdy session as Senate debates ‘militarisation of elections’ in Nigeria

Senator Dino Melayein Plenary
Senator Dino Melaye in Plenary

Amidst rowdiness, the Senate on Wednesday passed resolutions to check the roles of the military in the 2019 elections and “inconsistent application of electoral laws” by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

The deliberations leading to the adoption of four resolutions supporting the motion were marred by rowdiness as senators of the All Progressives Congress (APC) openly showed dissent to the debate.

The motion on the militarisation of the electoral process and alleged double standard of INEC was presented by Dino Melaye (PDP, Kogi West).

Mr Melaye prayed his colleagues to look into the matter to forestall future occurrences.

“The Senate is conscious of the need to grow our nascent democracy through the institutionalisation of procedures, application of civil laws and the restriction of excessive use of military force in the civil affairs of the state,” said Mr Melaye.

“The Senate is aware of the growing militarisation of our nations electoral process, and the inconsistent application of electoral laws by the institutional umpire, the lNEC, especially as witnessed in the recent national election 2019, where the pretence of the use of extreme military force akin to a war campaign was applied in electoral polling stations, and the declaration of ’inconclusive elections’, as a term – being used inconsistently, and partially at the whims of electoral officers in occasions that appear solidly as similar cases;

“The Senate is concerned that this extreme militarization of a democratic electoral process and the inconsistent application of electoral laws by INEC matters of national elections pose serious threats to our democracy, and has security implications that must be nipped in the bud;

“The Senate is persuaded that the nation is on the edge of a precipice, and our democracy can be saved for future posterity if only we can build strong institutions that can operate within established laws, and with our military forces restricted to their traditional roles of defending the nation.”

Giving a further explanation on the motion, Mr Melaye bemoaned the number of deaths recorded during the conduct of the election and the high-handedness of the military.

“In the midst of all these, it is pathetic that there is no presidential broadcast or statement from the leader of this country. This is a national calamity,” he said.

The leader of the Senate, Ahmed Lawan (APC, Yobe North), said elections in Nigeria are still works-in-progress that require attention at all times. He urged the Senate to review the election and see where legislative action is required rather than taking the whole issue in whole.

He was swiftly counter by the Minority Leader, Biodun Olujimi (PDP, Ekiti South).

“Whoever is siding with what went wrong in the elections is unfair to Nigerians. That election is a sham. There was no way that election could have been an advancement of the 2015 election.

“Everything was inconsistent; INEC was inconsistent. The parameters they used were different in states and units. That is wrong,” she said.

Her comments, however, incurred the anger of opposition senators who shouted on top of their voices. The Senate was soon plunged into rowdiness.

The rowdiness continued even after another speaker, Mao Ohabunwa (PDP, Abia North), had been recognised to speak (on) the consideration of prayers.

Adopting the four prayers of the motion, the Senate condemned the ‘massive use of military forces in the national electoral process of the nation’ and urged INEC to ensure the unrestricted and consistent application of all electoral laws without bias to a candidate or a party in all elections.

The Senate also urged the president, Muhammadu Buhari, to give ‘assent to the recent Amendment to the Electoral Act to ensure a level playing field and adoption of equal standards in our national elections for a strong and peaceful democracy in Nigeria.’

The Senate Committee on lNEC was also mandated to investigate all perceived inconsistent application of electoral laws by INEC in the 2019 Elections

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