- Omo-Agege, nine senators risk suspension
Lobbying is in top gear in the Senate, preparatory to overriding President Muhammadu Buhari if he decides to veto the recent amendment to the Electoral Act, which reordered the sequence of elections in the country. This is as the apex legislative chamber is also warming up to slam heavy sanctions on Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, who entangled himself with the political web of his colleagues by alleging that the amendment to the Electoral Act was targeted at Buhari over his re-election bid in 2019. The same fate also awaits nine other senators.
The National Assembly recently passed an amendment bill to the Electoral Act and inserted Section 25(1), to now reorder the sequence of elections, so that the presidential poll will be held last after all other elections have been conducted.
It was actually the House of Representatives that first inserted the Section and, at the Conference Committee of the two chambers three weeks ago, the Senate concurred with the House and it was adopted as the position of the National Assembly. Although the action did not cause any ripples in the House, some senators rose against it, accusing those who supported the insertion in the Upper Chamber of targeting Buhari to frustrate his ambition to be re-elected as Nigeria’s President in 2019.
A Senate source, who is also close to the Presidency, said that Buhari had been properly advised not to appendage his signature on the bill because he had been told that he was the reason behind the reordering of the election sequence, different from what the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had rolled out on the 2019 general elections timetable. “As far as I am concerned, Buhari will not sign that amendment bill to the Electoral Act into law because from what I heard, those who are opposing the new election sequence are accusing the National Assembly of using it as a strategy to stop him from his second term bid.
“So, you can be sure that he will veto it. But you also know that the constitution provides for the parliament to upturn or override his veto if they can. That one is a matter of number. A two-thirds majority of the members of the National Assembly must vote in support of a motion to override his veto before such intention can stand,” the source said.
On the part of the National Assembly, New Telegraph found that serious horse trading has been going on between those who are opposed to the bill, also known as pro-Buhari lawmakers, and those who are in full support of its passage into law. Senators who commented on the matter insisted on speaking on condition of anonymity, describing it as very contentious and not safe for them to be quoted to avoid attracting either the wrath of the leadership of the Senate or the indirect hammer of the Presidency.
One of the sources close to the leadership of the Senate told our correspondent that the President of the Senate, Dr Bukola Saraki, and his House counterpart, Yakubu Dogara, have been planning seriously on how to garner sufficient number of their colleagues to override Buhari in case he chose to withhold assent to the contentious bill. “I am telling you this in confidence, the leadership of this Senate and indeed the National Assembly is not resting to ensure that the bill becomes law.
I don’t see anything contentious about the insertion because if you check the record of elections in the country from 1999 to the last general elections in 2015, the presidential election has always come last. It was only in 2015 that the presidential election was held first.
“So, what’s the big deal about it and what’s the fear of those who are saying that it was targeted at Buhari? If you look at it closely, it means that the amendment even captured the existing trend of election sequence in this country. We don’t pray that the President should veto the bill, but if he does, I don’t think that the National Assembly will let it go like that,” the source said. On Omo-Agege, New Telegraph inquiries revealed that the Delta Central Senator would be sanctioned with suspension, in spite of his open apology to the Senate last week. It was also learnt that if found guilty of bringing the Senate to disrepute through his comments in the media, he would serve a suspension for upward of one year. Furthermore, it was learnt that the other nine senators who walked out of the Chamber to address journalists on the matter, would suffer the same sanction with Omo-Agege if also found to have diminished in any way the integrity of the Senate through their conduct.
The Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions, under the chairmanship of Senator Samuel Anyanwu (PDP, Imo East), is set to commence hearing on the Omo-Agege issue this week. His self-imposed ordeal started on February 14, when Omo-Agege and nine other senators walked out of the Senate chamber shortly after the passage of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill, accusing the Red Chamber of plotting to truncate Buhari’s bid to re-contest in 2019. At a press briefing, the aggrieved lawmakers heavily criticised the bill, describing it as rash and rushed as well as against the procedure and rules of the Senate.
In addition to Omo- Agege, other senators involved in the walkout included Senators Abdullahi Adamu, Abu Ibrahim, Benjamin Uwajumogu, Ali Wakil, Abdullahi Gumel, Binta Masi, Yahaya Abdullahi, Andrew Uchendu and Umaru Kurfi. Consequently, the Upper Chamber directed its Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions, last week Tuesday, to investigate Omo-Agege, to establish whether or not his allegation was true.
The resolution followed a point of order by Senator Dino Melaye, who cited order 14 of the Senate Standing Orders, drawing the attention of the Senate that Omo-Agege addressed the press to say, amongst other things, that the decision taken by the Senate was targeted at Buhari. Rattled by the heat that followed Melaye’s point of order with its immediate referral to the Anyanwuled Ethics Committee, Omo-Agege apologised to the chamber last Wednesday.
The Northern Senators’ Forum also sacked Senator Adamu as its chairman, alleging mismanagement of N70 million belonging to the Forum. New Telegraph, however, learnt that Adamu refused to toe the line of Omo-Agege in making an open apology to his colleagues. He was said to have met with Saraki and the latter advised him to follow the footsteps of Omo-Agege, but he resisted. (New Telegraph)