Following President Muhammadu Buhari decision to withdraw assent to the 2018 Electoral Act amendment bill for the third time, the Senate is reportedly plotting to override his decision.
The Punch reports that a process was in place by the Senate to use their power to override the bill. The president’s decision has reportedly polarised the Senate along party lines with All Progressives Congress lawmakers supporting the president while the opposition Peoples Democratic Party claim there was an ulterior motive.
The Senate minority leader, Biodun Olujimi, said the approval of the huge budget for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was because the anticipated use of electronic voting.
He said: “This is because 70 per cent of the INEC budget has to do with the funding of card readers and other equipment needed for the election.
“We are going back to the chamber on Tuesday to look at the reasons for the President’s rejection and we will do our best to override his assent because the Electoral Act (amendments) bill is the best thing that can happen to our election in Nigeria.
“It is not only the opposition senators who would override the President. We would work on our colleagues in the ruling APC, most of whom are disgruntled that their party denied them tickets to return to the Senate.”
Another lawmaker from the northwest who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the Senate would begin the process of overriding President Buhari when they reconvene.
He said: “It is possible that we start the process to override the President’s assent when we resume on Tuesday. I can assure you that it will be on the front burner of our proceedings. It will be a major issue and I am very sure that it is going to generate a lot of debate.
“If you look at the equation these days, many of our colleagues don’t come to the National Assembly again because of campaigns. So, it is really not impossible to get two-thirds majority to override the President’s assent.
“If the decision to override the President did not take place on Tuesday, it will certainly be done on Wednesday when we would enjoy the privilege of the NTA live coverage of our proceedings.”
Another lawmaker from the south east said: “If INEC should make use of the card reader in northern Nigeria, we would demystify their bogus claims that they have the majority of voters in that part of the country.
“They can write any figure and declare it if there is no electronic accreditation of voters. The moment the ‘already-biased’ INEC officials signed the fraudulent election result sheets, we would not be able to do anything on them.”
Senator Kabiru Marafa who is a prominent member of the ruling APC in the Senate however said any plan to override the president’s decision will fail.
He said: “How will they get us to support their action when we already agree that the reasons given by President Muhammadu Buhari were genuine and reasonable?
“INEC, at the moment, has a lot of issues to contend with. Why should we overburden them with new amendments that would make its works more cumbersome? Why can’t we wait till after the 2019 elections before we introduce new electoral laws?”
He said: “Why are they unnecessary jittery now over the use of the card reader. I am beginning to think that those who are agitating now have some ulterior motive. The 2015 election was successful because of card reader.”
“I disagree with Senator Olujimi completely on that issue. INEC budget was huge because of the insecurity in the country. Most of the funds would be expended on security personnel to ensure a hitch-free exercise.
“I challenge her to come up with her figures and prove me wrong. There could be some calculated attempts in some quarters to sabotage the entire process; otherwise, I don’t understand the attack on the President for postponing the implementation of the law till after the general elections.”
Senator Ali Ndume who is also an APC lawmaker dismissed the claim by Ben Murray-Bruce that the Senate would veto the president.
He said: “You quoted Ben Murray-Bruce as saying that the Senate was going to veto. Who gave him the right to speak on behalf of the Senate? Even if you are the Vice-Chairman of the Media and Public Affairs Committee, you don’t just go and talk on behalf of the Senate.
“Let it be on record that he did not speak on my behalf. The letter from Mr President has not even been read and it has not been deliberated upon. His responsibility is to speak on behalf of the Senate, but if he is speaking for himself, that is a different thing.
“He went on to say that they are going to veto it. Where are they going to get the numbers (two-thirds) to veto it?”