Why we passed controversial Electoral Act amendment – Senate

Nigerian Senate

The Senate followed due process in the adoption and passage of the amendment to the Electoral Act, its spokesperson, Sabi Abdullahi, has said.

The justification came as 10 senators of the All Progressives Congress, APC, claimed the change in the sequence of elections was targeted at President Muhammad Buhari.

The lawmakers also accused the senate president, Bukola Saraki, of breaching the senate standing order by ruling out points of order and not allowing members to contribute before the passage.

Despite the allegations, Mr. Abdullahi said the process was in tandem with the rules guiding legislative procedures in the Senate and the House of Representatives.

He added that the senate was mandated to adopt the report because the conference committee discharged its duties ”by the rules.”

“This amendment is like seven core areas of our electoral process. For us in the senate, the emphasis is deepening the democratic process,” he said.

“By our procedures, the senate has passed its own version, the house has passed its own version. The next thing to do is to have a conference committee to harmonise.

“Our rule says whatever position we have taken and there is a similar one in the house, we harmonise, but where the house has taken a position that we have not taken, we are bound compulsorily to adopt that of the house.

“Where the senate has taken a position and the house has not, that conference committee is bound to adopt the recommendation from the senate. I think within the context of this particular assignment, that is what happened.”

On allegations that the House of Representatives had only 36 members present when the controversial amendment was passed, Mr. Abdullahi said the rule guiding them does not mandate that a quorum should exist before decisions were made.

“I’m not in the house of reps, but I can’t come here to say only 35 people. Today if you look at the chamber, when we started, we had a quorum but towards the end, that number waned because so many people have other legislative responsibilities. And our rule says immediately you are starting the day, you must form quorum, but there is nothing that says that quorum must be sustained till the end of the day.”

The chairman senate committee on INEC, Suleiman Nazif, denied the allegation that he did not sign the conference committee report.

He said the decision to adopt the amendment to section 25 of the act was unanimous.

“We took the position the position of the senate in some cases and we took the position of House of Representatives in other cases. It was section 36 (3), 49 (2) and section 78 (4) of the senate version that was upheld while section 53 (2) and 63(4) of the house version were upheld.

“The most controversial of it which is section 25 that has to do with the sequence of election came from the House of Representatives and the conference committee adopted the position of the house.”

Mr. Nazif also denied the allegation that the lawmakers targeted the office of the president in adopting the sequence.

“I’m not aware if the sequence of election is being targeted at anybody. What I know as chairman committee on INEC is that I have a duty and responsibility. Politics is dynamic. What I know is that people have reasons for sequence of elections. In the past, we’ve had elections from top to down, I don’t think anybody questioned that. We’ve also have from down to top.”

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