The president of the Senate, Dr Bukola Saraki, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Yakubu Dogara, yesterday reaffirmed that they were united on the amendment of the Electoral Act in which the federal lawmakers’ proposed changes in the election sequence was rejected by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The two leaders of the National Assembly also said that there was no disagreement between them over the president’s refusal to endorse the electoral bill passed by the National Assembly, urging the public to disregard any such report.
This is just as legislators denied allegations that some state governors were mounting pressure on lawmakers from their states not to override the President.
Media reports at the weekend had indicated that Saraki and Dogara were not happy at each other’s position over the quest by some legislators in both chambers to override President Buhari’s decision to reject an amendment to the Electoral Act.
It was said that while Saraki canvassed for the override, Dogara wanted the House to revisit the bill, an action that was said to have angered the Senate president, even as the Senate resolved Thursday to write to the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, over a High Court ruling restraining the National Assembly from further action on the amendment.
The House of Representatives, it was further stated, had agreed with the president on two of his three reasons for withholding assent to the Electoral Act Amendment Bill. The president in his letter to the National Assembly cited three constitutional matters for withholding assent to the bill.
House spokesman, Abdulrazak Namdas, told journalists in Abuja on Wednesday that they would re-introduce the bill and pass it for second and third readings before re-transmitting it to the president.
But despite the seemingly different approaches being adopted at the Senate and House of Representatives to address withholding of assent by President Buhari, Saraki and Dogara insisted yesterday that they were in agreement on what to do, how to do it, when to do it and why it must be done.
But in a joint press statement signed by the special advisers (Media) to the Senate president and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yusuph Olaniyonu and Turaki Hassan respectively, Saraki and Dogara said they were operating on the same page on how to appropriately respond to the president’s withholding of assent on the Electoral Act amendment bill.
The duo explained that those peddling the rumour were agents of distraction who want to create a division in the federal legislature.
“Our attention has been drawn to reports in a national daily insinuating that there was a disagreement between Senate President Abubakar Bukola Saraki and Speaker Yakubu Dogara over how both chambers of the National Assembly will react to the withholding of assent by President Muhammadu Buhari on the Electoral Act Amendment Bill.
“We wish to inform the public that there is no such disagreement between the two leaders, and indeed the two chambers of the National Assembly.
“The Senate President and the Speaker, as heads of the two chambers of the National Assembly and representing the views of their colleagues, will want everybody to know that they are on the same page on what is the appropriate reaction to the president’s withholding of assent on the Electoral Act amendment bill.
“There is no disagreement between the two chambers as well as their presiding officers. The leadership of the two chambers constantly hold discussions and are in agreement on what to do, how to do it, when to do it and why it must be done,” they said.
According to them, the issue at stake is not personal, but about deepening democracy.
“It is about improving our democracy, and the National Assembly is on firm constitutional and legal grounds to amend the law as well as take decisions in the manner they have been responding,” they said, adding the insinuation contained in the story was meant to cause division in the federal legislature.
But a senator from the ruling party from the north central who does not want to be mentioned said the two leaders were just playing politics with the so-called joint press statement.
“The two of them know they are on parallel lines with respect to reactions to president’s withholding assent. Dogara has already taken Saraki by storm with the resolution of the House of Representatives last Wednesday. The deed was already done in the Reps. The joint statement was just to console Saraki who is bent on acting the script of the PDP to the letter. And he will not succeed.
“It will take the House of Representatives to vote again to reverse its earlier resolution agreeing with the president on two of his three reasons for withholding assent to the Electoral Act Amendment Bill.
‘’Dogara knows that if he attempts that option, it would become obvious that he has become Saraki’s lackey. I am sure he wouldn’t want to lose out the way former Speaker Ghali Na’aba lost out to an unknown quantity in the 2007 Kano PDP central senatorial primary election.
‘’Dogara must answer his father’s name in this political chess game, otherwise it may mar his political fortunes in northern Nigeria as a whole and in his state in particular,” the senator said.
Meanwhile, lawmakers have denied the allegations that they were being pressured into not overriding the president following his rejection of the now contentious electoral bill.
Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Hon Abdulrazak Namdas, while responding to inquiries from LEADERSHIP Sunday, described the statement credited to the national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Prince Uche Secondus, as a figment of his imagination.
Secondus had last week alleged that eight governors of the All Progressives Congress (APC) were trying to influence the National Assembly not to override President Muhammadu Buhari’s rejection of the Electoral Act (Amendment) bill 2018.
Secondus had said: “This is not the first time the National Assembly amended the Electoral Law. They have done so several times. Why is this case different? Eight governors of the APC have been constituted to begin to move from door to door of members of National Assembly to cage them not to freely make laws for Nigeria. We reject that move and we insist that the will of Nigerians must be done. The will of Nigerians must prevail.”
But Namdas asserted that no state governor had approached the House on the issue.
“The information is not correct; no state governor has met us. I am not aware of such move,” he said.
While noting that there is no report of any state governors mobilising lawmakers from their states against the amendment, he, however, insisted that the House would rework the bill and retransmit it to the president for assent.
Another lawmaker, Hon Timothy Golu, also debunked the insinuation.
Golu, who is the chairman, House Committee on Legislative Budget and Research, said no one had approached him on the matter.
“Not to my knowledge,” he said when the question was posed to him. “My state governor has not done that and I don’t think he will do so. In any case, what will be the reason for anyone to do so? There is no going back on that unless those against that can tell us their reasons and convince the nation which we make the laws for.”
Golu also noted that the amendment was not in any way targeted at President Buhari’s re-election bid, as suggested in some quarters.
“The National Assembly is not doing this to achieve any grand plan, nor is it targeted at Mr President as is mischievously being peddled by some people. We want to cure a permanent constitutional problem whereby every election year has its own sequence. That is not good for democracy.”
Golu explained that it was important to have a permanent sequence for conducting elections in the country.
“So why can’t we have a permanent sequence for elections now? When are we going to do it? We must start somewhere and it’s now. There will always be opposition to any legislative action by those who feel threatened by it. The National Assembly has constitutional powers to make laws for the good governance of the country and to also direct the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to take actions in line with an act of the parliament,” he stated.
Meanwhile, the governing All Progressive Congress (APC) lashed out at the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) over its claims that governors had been commissioned by the party to stop federal lawmakers from vetoing President Muhammadu Buhari’s on his rejection of the Electoral Bill which seeks to reorder the election sequence in the country.
Dismissing the allegation, the APC national publicity secretary, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, said the ruling party was ready to work with the timetable of the electoral umpire irrespective of which election comes first.
Bolaji, who spoke exclusively with LEADERSHIP Sunday, said: “I think the first thing to ask is, what is there in all these? The issue is between the president and the National Assembly.
“Moreover, there are constitutional guidelines governing the process towards elections. What is important for the APC is for us to work with whatever guidelines INEC presents and it does not matter which election comes first.
“I think PDP is so idle, so much so, that it is putting its nose where it is not needed.”
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