After all the grandstanding, the Senate yesterday backtracked on its threat to override President Muhammadu Buhari’s veto on the Electoral Act Amendment Bill 2021.
Instead, the lawmakers at the Red Chamber resolved to consult their counterparts in the House of Representatives, constituents and take a decision in January.
While the 30 days stipulated by law for Buhari to sign or reject the bill expired on Sunday, President Buhari wrote back to the National Assembly leadership, saying he was averse to the clause which mandates all political parties to adopt direct primaries.
He cited high cost of conducting direct primaries, the security challenge of monitoring the election, violation of citizens’ rights and marginalisation of small political parties as reasons for rejecting the bill.
But just as it was expected that the Senators would make real their threat to override the president’s veto, they caved and opted for consultations with their counterparts in the House of Representatives, constituents and take a stand in January, though some senators disclosed they were gathering signatures to override the president.
Speaking after a closed-door meeting, Senate President Ahmad Lawan said discussions at plenary bordered on how to respond to President Buhari’s veto, noting that they resolved to act on resumption from Christmas recess in January.
Lawan said, “We discussed how to respond to the letter of President Muhammadu Buhari on the electoral bill. The Senate consequently resolved to consult with the House of Representative for a collective response in January.
“The House of Representatives has gone on recess. We know the working of the constitution. Both the House and the Senate must take action. We have resolved to consult with our Constituents. They have a role to play as major stakeholders”.
President Buhari, in the letter to the dated December 13, 2021, explained that his decision to withhold assent to the electoral bill was informed by advice from relevant Ministries, Departments and Agencies of Government after a thorough review.
According to the president, signing the bill into law would have serious adverse legal, financial, economic and security consequences on the country, particularly in view of Nigeria’s peculiarities, adding that it would also impact negatively on the rights of citizens to participate in the government as constitutionally ensured.
Angered by this development, some senators said they were gathering signatures to override the President’s veto.
Senator George Thomson Georgia noted that they had gathered over 73 signatures to override the President’s veto.
But shortly after their closed-door session to deliberate on the president’s decision to withhold assent to the electoral bill, the tune changed and the lawmakers became mellow.
The Senate president said the provisions of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) does not permit the upper chamber to exclusively take any action on such matters in the absence of the House of Representatives, since the latter has embarked on recess.
He, however, assured that a joint position would be reached with the House after due consultation with Nigerians to determine the appropriate line of action when both chambers reconvene from the Christmas break in January.
Lawan said, “The Senate in a closed session deliberated on matters relevant to the workings of the Senate in particular and, the National Assembly in general.
“The Senate also in the closed session discussed how to respond to the letter from Mr. President on the electoral bill amendment. The Senate consequently resolved to consult with the House of Representatives in January when both the Senate and House will be in session.
“At present, the House of Reps has gone on recess and like we all know, the constitutional provision is for the Senate and House of Representatives to jointly take the appropriate action. The Senate also resolved to consult with our constituents during our recess in January.
“The Senate believes that our constituents have a role to play as the major stakeholders in the laws that we make in the National Assembly. Let me say that we passed the so much sort after Electoral Amendment Bill but we know that there are some reservations raised by Mr President and we have stood down work on it to await when we reconvene together with our colleagues from the House of Representatives so that we look at the issues raised and then as National Assembly, we address the situation in whatever way is appropriate.
“I believe that this National Assembly and particularly this Senate has done so much and I believe that if we have to wait for too long maybe nobody will say we did a lot, but I’m sure that this Senate and the National Assembly has done a lot in the area of legislation.”
The Senate consequently adjourned plenary to January 18, 2022, disclosing that the 2022 appropriation bill will be sent to Mr President for assent on Thursday.
Lawan said: “Our desire is to provide good legislation for good governance of this country.”
APC Sabotaged Electoral Act Amendment For Fear Of 2023 – PDP
Reacting to the development, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) alleged yesterday that the All Progressives Congress (APC) scuttled the signing of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill for fear that key provisions in the Bill will not allow it rig the 2023 general elections.
The opposition party claimed that the provision of electronic transmission of election results, which will completely eliminate APC’s manipulations and alteration of results at elections, had caused trepidation within the governing party.
National publicity secretary of the PDP, Hon Debo Ologunagba, accused APC and the Buhari presidency of never being committed to the amendment of the Electoral Act to ensure credible elections, adding that they triggered the controversy of the mode of primaries by political parties as a camouflage to scuttle the entire amendment bill, including provisions for electronic transmission of results, among others.
“It is imperative to remind Nigerians of how the APC, in collusion with their leaders in the National Assembly, fought hard to stop the electronic transmission of results’ provision in the Bill, but were resisted by Nigerians supported by the courageous action of the PDP caucus in the House of Representatives which staged a walk out only for the APC to orchestrate controversies and set the stage for the withholding of assent by Mr. President.
“The main reason for this manipulation of the legislative process by the APC is to prevent the electronic transmission of results so that it can continue in its culture of rigging and electoral impunities including alteration of results at collation, ballot box snatching, destruction of data among others; just to cling to power against the will of Nigerians.
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“Such is consistent with the APC’s well-known machination against every genuine effort to instill credible, transparent, free and fair elections in Nigeria in the last six years. The APC thrives in electoral scam, duplicity, underhand dealings, violence and political brigandage, all in their heinous script to put Nigerians under perpetual bondage.
“Having been rejected for its failures and having also self-decimated its structure across the country, the APC has completely lost the capacity and goodwill for electoral contests and as such seeks every means to subvert any process that can guarantee credible elections in 2023.
“The subversion of the passage of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill by the APC further validates the fact that the APC is averse to the aspiration of Nigerians and does not believe in democratic principles of credible elections.”
The PDP called on all Nigerians, civil society organizations, the international community and all lovers of democracy across the world to rise up and put appropriate pressure on the APC-led National Assembly to immediately do the needful so as to safeguard the country’s “democracy by ensuring that the basic principles of transparent, credible, free and fair mode of conducting elections are guaranteed and sustained by law.”
Senate Passes Harmonised 2022 N17.1trn Budget
Meanwhile, the Senate yesterday passed the 2022 harmonised N17, 126,873,917,692 budget.
The budget passed by the Senate is not different from what the House of Representatives passed on Tuesday.
The executive had proposed US$57 for oil price benchmark, but the National Assembly approved US$62.
For exchange rate, the executive proposed N410.15US$1, but the National Assembly settled for N410.15 US$1, even as it pegged GDP growth rate at 4.2% instead of the executive’s proposal of 4.2%.
According to the Senate, “the increase in oil price Benchmark from US$57 to US$62 to reflect the current market value in the international market.
“The committee recommends that the additional revenues discovered should be provided to the following agencies that forwarded their requests for more funding for very critical projects: Works and Housing, Independent National Electoral Commission (NEC) for the 2023 general elections, Defence and the National Population Commission (NPC) for the 2022 population census.
“A N98 Billion increase in deficit should be approved to take care of some of the additional requests from the executive arm of Government.
“N17, 126, 873, 917, 692, of which N869, 667, 187, 542 is for statutory transfers; N3, 879, 952, 981, 550 is for debt service; N6, 909, 849, 788, 737 is for recurrent (non-debt) expenditure, while the sum of N5, 467, 403, 959, 863 is for contribution to the development for capital expenditure for the year ending on the 31st day of December, 2022.”
In his remarks after the passage of the budget, the president of the Senate, Ahmed Lawan, highlighted the achievements of the Senate in 2021.
He commended the Senate special and standing committees for working so hard to enable the upper chamber to once again pass the budget back-to-back before the Christmas break.
He stated: “This is one of our great legacy bringing back the budget cycle to that desirable and predictable January to December Budget Cycle.
“We promise Nigerians in 2019 that this senate and indeed the national assembly will bring back that cycle of the budget so that our economy is better influenced and supported.
“We thank God for making it possible for us to achieve that in the 2020, 2021, and 2022 budget. That we have done this, we are not alone in it. The executive has also shown commitment, willingness and capacity to work with us at our own speed to ensure that the budget is passed before Christmas.
“Let me also commend this Senate for standing tall in commitments that otherwise some would have thought impossible. This year, we are rounding the year on a very high note, we thank God for that.
“We have passed the Petroleum Industry Bill, now an Act, something that could not be passed for over 20 years. We have passed of course the supplementary appropriation of 2021 as well to enable the executive especially this administration to fund the security agencies as well as provide some resources to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have also passed the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) Amendment Bill”.
He added that with AMCON, Nigerians are not cheated but are safe from all kinds of criminal tendencies.
Lawan said, “We also recently passed the climate change bill and Mr President has signed. All these bills that I have mentioned, Mr President has signed them.
“These are great achievements that this senate promised Nigerians that we will do because they are fundamental and true pillars of our legislative agenda.
“Today, we have passed the Budget for 2022, and that is a huge, very big milestone, very historic. And this is something that we are supposed to ensure that as long as we are in this senate up to our tenure, that we pass the budget as regularly as we have established.”