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INEC Budget: Angst Over 2019 Polls As NASS Backtracks

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There is growing concern over the possibility of the 2019 general election taking place as planned as it became clearer yesterday that the National Assembly would not be reconvening anytime soon to consider the election budget for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and security agencies.

The leadership of both chambers had met last week and agreed that plenary will be reconvened yesterday or today for the consideration of the budget among other urgent National issues after their meeting with INEC chairman, Prof Mahmoud Yakubu on Thursday.

But contrary to announcement made that the federal legislature will reconvene this week, Senate President Bukola Saraki and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, said yesterday that a date is yet to be set for both chambers to reconvene and consider the request for approval of the supplementary budget.

This, according to them, is due to the inability of the joint Senate and House committees on Electoral Matters and officials of INEC as well as the joint committees on Appropriation, Loans and Debts to meet as earlier planned.

The leaders of the National Assembly revealed this in a statement co-signed by their special advisers on media and publicity, Yusuph Olaniyonu and Turaki Hassan.

The statement noted: “The Senate President, Bukola  Saraki and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, have directed that we inform all Senators, Honorable members and the public that a date has not been set for the reconvening of the Senate and the House of Representatives to consider the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) 2019 elections budget request forwarded by President Muhammadu Buhari on July 17, 2018.

“The leadership of the two chambers had met and agreed to reconvene to consider the proposal this week before which a meeting between the Joint Senate and House of Representatives Committees on Electoral Matters and officials of the INEC must have held on or before Monday August 13, 2018.

“The joint committees were also expected to meet with the joint Senate and House Committees on Appropriations, Loans and Debts on the Eurobond loan request after which two reports would have been ready for presentation in the two chambers.

“However, no such meeting had taken place yet as a result of which both Senate and House of Representatives cannot reconvene as there is no report to consider.

“Until the Committees have a ready report for the consideration of the two chambers, it will be most irresponsible to recall members from recess especially those that may have travelled to Saudi Arabia for the Hajj”.

Impeach Saraki Now To Prevent Government Shutdown, Oshiomhole Tells APC Senators

Meanwhile, in the latest effort at gaining control of the leadership of the National Assembly, the chairman of the governing All Progressive Congress (APC), Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, has given the marching orders to its members at both the upper and lower chambers to do whatever it takes to remove their leaders in order to prevent a government shutdown.

Oshiomhole also insisted that the time of the current Senate President Bukola Saraki had run out, hence he must be shown the way out, hinging his argument on the fact that the APC had the majority in the Senate.

This is a Deputy Speaker Yusuf Lasun, Senate Leader Ahmed Lawan and House Leader Femi Gbajabiamila at different instances said that the  ruling party must be ready to stand with its members in the National Assembly who are doing the party’s bidding.

These were the thrust of the tripartite meeting between the leadership of the party and its members at both chambers of the National Assembly yesterday evening in Abuja.

Oshiomhole said: “Democracy teaches us that minority has the right to have their say but majority must have their way. So, if we have 56 senators and they have 49 senators, I insist that 49 senators cannot preside over the affairs of a house in which APC has 56 senators. And I ask them to tell us anywhere in the world where minority rules over majority.

“Let me restate that we cannot be subjected to minority rule in the Nigerian Senate and, therefore, whether it is convenient for Distinguished Senator Saraki or not, the truth is whether by morality or by law or by convention, (he should remain in his position).

“Senator Saraki can only avoid impeachment by toeing the path of honour; step down so that APC can take over the leadership of the House. Saraki as president of the Senate will be lawfully and democratically impeached. It will not be illegally done. It will be done according to law and tradition.”

On preventing government shutdown due to the crisis, he added: “Ours is to appeal to all of you, your commitment to the sustenance of democracy is enough to get you to do all that you can to get the National Assembly to reconvene so that these and other weighty national issues will be deliberated upon, appropriate decisions reached so that the Nigerian government is not shut down.

“If we do not take those steps and government cannot spend money that should be appropriated, we run the risk of government shutdown. As members of the governing party, I believe you will do whatever is needed to be done to prevent a government shutdown.”

On his part, the Senate leader, Ahmed Lawan, asked the party to give preferential treatment to loyal members.

“Every senator and House of Representatives member in the APC fold today deserves very gentle handling, good treatment. Some of them have stayed despite the issues they face either with their governors or their state chapters. That means that, as you have promised and we have seen the signs already, the party will ensure that all issues in contention are resolved and in good time,” he said.

Senate President Seeks Independent Investigation Of DSS Siege

Meanwhile, Senate President Bukola Saraki has called for an independent investigation into the recent invasion of the National Assembly by operatives of the State Security Service (SSS).

On his official twitter handle on Tuesday, Saraki called on President Muhammadu Buhari to set up an independent judicial panel of inquiry into the siege on the National Assembly.

“The very serious questions about last Tuesday’s siege on the National Assembly can only be answered through a thorough and neutral investigation”, he stated.

APC, PDP Bicker Over Alleged Plot To Attack Senators

Meanwhile, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) engaged in a media war over allegations by the former that there are subterranean plans by the latter to attack its Senators as a way of forestalling efforts at effecting a change of leadership in the Senate.

In making the allegation, APC also accused Senate President Bukola Saraki of placing personal interests above national interests, saying it amounts to “high treason”.

But in a swift reaction, the PDP described the claim by the governing party of planned attacks on APC Senators as laughable and childish.

In a statement he issued in Abuja yesterday, acting national publicity secretary of the APC, Yekini Nabena, said Senator Saraki should be held liable should any harm come upon any Senator of APC extraction.

He said, “While Saraki and his cohorts continue to postpone their doomsday regarding the imminent Senate leadership change, the yet-to-be considered 2019 budget of the Independent National Electoral Commission INEC is dangerously delayed. Clearly, Saraki’s actions as Senate President now bother on high treason.

“By this statement, we call on security agents to protect APC Senators. If any Senator is harmed, the PDP and Saraki should be held directly responsible. We call on security agencies to also closely monitor the activities of some PDP leaders including Saraki because the plan to attack APC Senators is real and imminent.

“We were informed that the plot was hatched in the private residence of a PDP leader in Maitama-Abuja on Sunday night. The meeting was attended by 15 pro-Saraki Senators including the Senate President himself”.

The ruling party said it learnt the PDP had expressed worry over APC’s majority in the Senate and considered several options to stop the APC from taking over the Senate leadership, among which is attacking some APC Senators to ensure their inability to attend legislative sittings.

Nabena stated: “The PDP have recruited thugs for this purpose, we have now learnt. During Sunday’s meeting, the PDP Senators planned several types of attack, one of which is to lure some of them (APC Senators) out at night in the guise of inviting Senators to a political settlement meeting and thereafter instigate a violent confrontation during the meeting and unleash standby PDP thugs on APC Senators” Our source privy to the meeting informed us.

“This revelation has not come to us as a surprise because the Senate President through proxies has made several failed attempts to buy over APC Senators with N100million each.

“As a Party, we don’t believe in inducing lawmakers to achieve our legitimate goal of removing Saraki as Senate President. We will get the support of some PDP Senators to get the required 2/3 votes and impeach Saraki. We are already talking to some of PDP Senators who believe and support the direction of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration to achieve our legitimate goal”:

The APC spokesman reiterated the party’s call for Saraki’s immediate resignation as Senate president, adding that, while he cannot lead the APC majority Senate, he will be impeached if he fails to resign honourably, the PDP’s propaganda and threat of violence not withstanding.

“As chairman of the 8th National Assembly, Saraki’s decision not to reconvene the National Assembly done with the support of the Speaker, House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara further buttresses our position that Saraki is ever ready to pursue his selfish interests over National Interest. This is another brazen display of his penchant for abuse of powers and sabotage of government, however the cost and implication”, APC added.

But hitting back at the APC immediately, the PDP said the allegation of planned attack on APC Senators was not only laughable, but also childish.

The opposition party added that the claim also shows that the presidency and the ruling party have come to a wits end in their plot to illegally impeach Senate president Saraki and his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu.

The national publicity secretary of the PDP, Kola Ologbondiyan, while replying the APC said the ruling party was hallucinating by linking PDP with any attempt to attack anybody, including Senators.

The PDP spokesman, in a statement, noted: “Nigerians are aware that it is the APC that has been involved in sponsoring violence and attacks in the residences of the presiding officers of the Senate as well as in the National Assembly.

“Equally derisory is the APC’s claims that it is in talks with some PDP Senators to get a two third vote to impeach the Senate presiding officers when it is public knowledge that all PDP senators are loyal to their party and had already pledged their loyalty to the presiding officer which they elected by themselves.

“It is therefore foolhardiness for the leadership of the APC, to contemplate a capacity to impeach the presiding officers of the National Assembly whereas they are neither senators or members of the House of Representatives. It is also funny that rather than lobby senators and members on their party position, if they have any, the APC leadership toed the path of brigandage, claiming to have powers to upturn or upstage the leadership that it did not ab-initio bring into existence”.

PDP continued: “Confronted by the realities of its shameful adventure, the APC leadership has now turned around in its trademark shambolic character to begin to look for scapegoats and who to hold responsible for their failures.

“It is necessary to impress it on the APC that Nigerians, in attracting a democratic lifestyle, have since abandoned the garrison command leadership approach of any Nigerian, no matter how highly placed. Therefore, it is too late in the day for the APC to attempt to deploy underhand tactics that are strange to democratic norms to remove a duly elected Senate leadership”.

Court Insists On Arrest of INEC Boss

Meanwhile, Justice Stephen Pam of the Abuja division of the Federal High Court yesterday insisted that his order that the Police should arrest and produce chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof.Mahmoud Yakubu in court still stands.

Consequently, Justice Pam ordered that the Police must arrest and produce Yakubu in court on August 16, the next adjourned date.

The court had on August 1 ordered the Police to produce the INEC boss in court to explain why he should not be committed to prison over alleged disobedience to order of the court.

Justice Pam issued a bench warrant against the INEC chief, following his failure to appear before the court on three occasions to defend himself in the contempt charge brought against him by Ejike Oguebego and Chuks Okoye, chairman and legal adviser of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Anambra State.

Following first order, the Police was supposed to produce Yakubu in court on August 8 but the INEC boss was not in court on the said date.

The court consequently adjourned the case to August 14 after affirming its earlier order of August 1.

When the matter came up yesterday, the INEC chairman was absent in court, even as his counsel neither appeared nor sent a message to the court on why they were not in court.

However, counsel to the plaintiffs, Kanayo Okafor, informed the court of the ruling of the Abuja division of the Court of Appeal on August 13, which ordered a stay of execution of the warrant of arrest as well as the proceedings at the trial court.

In a short ruling, Justice Pam held that the court is a court of record and as such would require the ruling or judgment of the appellate court, adding that there is no proof of such decision of the higher court before him to be guided by.

Justice Pam, subsequently adjourned to August 16 for the police to produce Yakubu in court for the trial.

On Monday, the Court of Appeal, Abuja, restrained the police from arresting the INEC chief based on the orders of Justice Pam of the Federal High Court, Abuja.

The court also halted Yakubu’s trial at the lower court pending the determination of the appeal filed by Yakubu.

Yakubu, who is challenging the order of his arrest at the Court of Appeal, claimed that Justice Pam acted in bad faith in the issuance of the arrest order because he had already filed a pending appeal against the order and the attention of the judge drawn to the appeal.



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