Senators of the All Progressives Congress (APC) are set to block any move made by members of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to override President Muhammadu Buhari on his rejection of the Electoral Act amendment bill, Daily Trust can report.
The APC Senators told Daily Trust in Abuja yesterday that not only would they block the plot, they would also ensure that they defend the president’s position on the matter.
To override the president on any bill, both chambers need two/thirds, which is 73 senators for the Senate and 240 members for the House of Reps.
There are at least 57 APC senators in the Senate currently, while the PDP has about 48 Senators with African Democratic Congress (ADC) and All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) having two senators each.
President Buhari had in separate letters to Senate President Bukola Saraki and Speaker Yakubu Dogara on Friday said with only few months to the 2019 general elections, if a new electoral law comes into being, there would be a lot of uncertainty.
Our correspondent reports that the president had in March and September this year rejected two versions of the bill worked on by the National Assembly, and requested that certain things be done on the proposal.
“I am declining assent to the bill principally because I am concerned that passing a new electoral bill this far into the electoral process for the 2019 general elections, which commenced under the 2015 Electoral Act, could create some uncertainty about the applicable legislation to govern the process.
“Any real or apparent change to the rules this close to election may provide an opportunity for disruption and confusion in respect to which law governs the electoral process.
“This leads me to believe that it is in the best interest of the country and our democracy for the National Assembly to specifically state in the Bill, that the Electoral Act will come into effect and be applicable to elections commencing after the 2019 General Elections,” Buhari said in the letters dated December 6, 2018.
But some PDP senators said at the weekend that they would make sure that they set in motion the process that the Red Chamber would use to override the president.
Minority Leader Biodun Olujimi (PDP, Ekiti) and Sen Ben Murray Bruce (PDP, Bayelsa) had faulted the president on the decision not to sign the bill into law.
Other PDP senators alleged that the president’s decision was because the ruling party was afraid of the usage of the card reader for the 2019 general elections, insisting on overriding the president.
However, senators Mohammed Ali Ndume (APC, Borno), Kabiru Garba Marafa (APC, Zamfara) and Ahmed Babba Kaita (APC, Katsina) said the entire APC senators in the Senate would block any move to override the president.
Sen Ndume told Daily Trust that: “They’re just talking. They don’t have the number, and they will never have the number. They’ve exposed themselves that they want this electoral act in bad faith since it’s being presided by PDP leaders in the Senate.
“The law doesn’t stop INEC from using card reader, so who will stop INEC from doing that? They’re just making unnecessary noise. They know that Buhari is not that type of person that will rig elections or tolerate anybody rigging in his favour.
“It’s only the person who rigs that talks about rigging, which is not the character of APC. It is in the character of PDP.
“Article 2 of the ECOWAS Act on governance and democracy prohibits amendment of electoral law six months before elections. We now have about two months before elections. If Mr President signs it, that will cause confusion. How realistic is it for the Electoral Act to be gazetted?
“Besides, there’s a lacuna. Three parties went to court and urged Mr President not to sign it. The case is still in court, it hasn’t been disposed of. So, let Nigerians not be distracted by the noise of PDP,” Ndume said.
“We’re not only supporting the position of Mr President, we’re standing by it, that the law should take effect after the 2019 elections.
”It’s not possible for anybody to override the president on this. I said so for so many reasons. Number one, they don’t have the numbers, and I think the likes of Ben Bruce and his co-travellers should be very careful, because the Senate, and indeed the National Assembly as it is now is just trying to manage itself to the end.
“They should all be cautious of the fact that APC has majority of legislators in both the Senate and the House. What the president said is the truth and it’s in line with commonsense and everything. If this Electoral Act is to take effect from any election after this one, so be it. So, we’re with the president on this.
“I don’t think it’s rational and reasonable to say we should have a new electoral law with just about two months to the elections. They talked about the card reader, but it was extensively used during the 2015 elections.
“The success of the 2015 elections can be attributed to the usage of the card reader. But there was no law backing the use of card reader then. So, do we need any law to allow INEC to use the card reader? Certainly no.
“They should try to maintain the peace we now have in the Senate, because we the members of APC won’t sit down and fold our arms to allow our government to be embarrassed. We won’t do that. If they do anything, it will rekindle all the problems we had before now. I want us to finish on a good note.
On his part, Sen Kaita said: “this amendment bill is not for the PDP, but it’s an amendment for Nigerians. As at today, President Buhari is the president of Nigeria. So, if it is his wisdom to see that Nigeria doesn’t need this amendment for now, so be it.
“Secondly, we’re signatories to ECOWAS Protocol, and it’s agreed that no country will change its electoral law six months to elections. So, we can’t do that.
“Thirdly, we have it on good authority that their excitement about the amendment to make everything through electronic method is for them to use what allegedly happened in America to happen in Nigeria, so that they’ll hack into cyber and cause confusion. They want to deny people their right to vote.
“Again, laws are proactive, not just for a day. The 2015 laws are still valid, so why can’t we use them since the 2015 elections were adjudged to be the best? We’re not fighting against the amendment, but we’re not in support of anything that will bring confusion.
“Despite that fact that the leadership of both chambers now belong to the PDP, APC still has the majority. If he’s in doubt, let’s meet on the floor of the Senate on Tuesday. They’re only imaging that they can pull out something,” he said.
Contacted on the matter, a member of PDP in the House of Reps from Kwara State Tope Olayonu, said: “Well, for now, I think it will be premature to make any conclusion on whether the House could override Mr. President or not. Also, this is a very sensitive matter that affects all Nigerians down to the grassroots level.