By Peter Usman://
Senate has rejected President Muhammadu Buhari’s request to amend a contentious Section 84(12) of the newly signed Electoral Act 2022 which seeks to stop political appointees from contesting elections without resignation.
The proposed law, “A bill for an Act to Amend the Electoral Act 2022” was overwhelmingly rejected during its second reading at Wednesday plenary.
President Buhari had, in a letter to the National Assembly last week, asked the federal lawmakers to amend the Act, by deleting Section 84 (12), which, according to him, constitutes a “defect” that is in conflict with extant Constitutional provisions.
But Senate Minority Leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe (PDP Abia South), led debate against the amendment, kicking against the deletion of Section 84(12) of the Electoral Act as requested by President Buhari.
He said: “There are certain things that we see which we think we don’t even have to come here to debate.
“One of those things is the fact that in every democracy, all over the world, there are certain rules which we don’t need to be told about.
“One of those rules is the fact that you cannot be a referee and a player on the same field. It is either you’re a referee or a player.
“So, every other place in the world where democracy is practiced including Nigeria, we don’t need to be told that if we want to run for office, we have to resign. That is a sine qua non that we don’t even need to debate.
“Yet here we are today in Nigeria, and people think they can sit in an office and contest an election and become candidates and continue to sit in that office until the date of election.
“So, how would we continue to debase democracy in this way?
“Mr. President, I think, a cursory look at this paper shows that this paper is dead on arrival. And I urge you my colleagues, to help us to continue to deepen democracy by insisting that this bill not be read a second time in any manner whatsoever.”
Speaking in the same vein, Senator Smart Adeyemi (APC Kogi West), who was also opposed to the consideration of the bill said, “one of the hallmarks of democracy is justice, fairness and equity.
“Indeed, Mr. President, it is a settled matter in law that you cannot be a judge over you own case.
“In any election, where people have the added advantage of holding executive power, either by proxy or directly or by appointment, for such people to have access and compete with others who came from the street, I think is an unjust society.
“Therefore, Mr. President, I disagree with all the arguments on the need to consider a decision that has already been settled,” Adeyemi stressed.
In his contribution, the Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege (APC Delta Central) urged his colleagues to allow the bill pass second reading, saying “sometimes what is good is not popular, and what is popular may not be good.”
The bill, when eventually put to a voice vote for second reading by the Senate President after its consideration, received a resounding ‘nays’ from senators in the majority across party lines.
Senator Adamu Aliero (APC Kebbi Central), had signalled the move to reject the bill by calling for the stoppage of the bill after the Senate Leader, Dr. Yahaya Abdullahi (APC Kebbi North) moved a motion for the piece of legislation to be read a second time.
Aliero, who cited Order 52(5) of the Senate Standing Rule, which provides that reference shall not be made to any matter on which a judicial decision is pending, advised the upper legislative chamber to step down consideration of the bill pending the vacation of a court order delivered by the Federal High Court, Abuja, on Monday.
According to the lawmaker, going ahead with the amendment of the Act was in clear conflict with the sub-judice rule in law which prevents the legislature from deliberating or considering any matter already before a court of competent jurisdiction.
The court, in a ruling delivered by Justice Inyang Ekwo, on an ex-parte application by the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, barred the President Buhari, the Attorney General of the Federation and the Senate President from tampering with the newly amended Electoral Act 2022.
The court maintained that the Electoral Act, having become a valid law could not be altered without following the due process of law.
The Senate President, Dr. Ahmad Lawan, while ruling on Aliero’s point of Order, insisted that the move by the Red Chamber to amend the Electoral Act was in line with exercising its Constitutional duties amid following due process.
He said: “To be specific to this particular request, for us in the Senate, it is to look at the request and follow our due process.
“Looking at the request does not mean granting the request. Members of the National Assembly are at liberty to review the request to see if the arguments by the Executive arm of government are convincing enough.”