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Senate leadership: Crisis looms as senators allege moves to change voting method

lAllege use of EFCC to harass senators, others to change the rules
lWe aren’t aware of change in voting pattern —PDP senators

By Henry Umoru

ABUJA—AHEAD of the inauguration of the 9th National Assembly and election of presiding officers, there is palpable fear, tension and looming crisis in the Senate.

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This time, the confusion among the senators-elect is over the voting method that would be adopted for the elections of the Senate President and deputy Senate President.

It was gathered that with the series of meetings in homes, hotels, nocturnal and during break of fast as the Ramadan continues, what forms the centre of discourse is how to change the secret voting pattern currently in the 2015 Standing Order, as amended, to the open one contained in the 2011 Standing Order, which has since been replaced by the former.

It was learned that there could be violent clash among the legislators over the method of voting that the National Assembly management might chose to adopt, just as senators from both sides of the divide actually expressed the fears that the process could be disrupted.

A source, however, disclosed that senators-elect, who are loyal to the candidate favoured by All Progressives Congress, Senate Leader, Senator Ahmad Lawan (Yobe North), are allegedly rooting for and mounting pressure on the Presidency to ensure the National Assembly management adopts the open ballot system.

But on the other hand, supporters of former Senate Leader, Senator Ali Ndume (APC, Borno South), are kicking against the alleged position of Lawan’s camp as they are said to be making efforts to ensure that the 2015 Senate Orders is used for the election.

According to Ndume’s camp, the 2015 Standing Orders, which had already been distributed to all senators-elect during the two-week induction programme that took place at the Trancorp Hilton Hotel, is the authentic one that must be used for the election.

The 2015 Rule Book made provisions for secret ballot, while the 2011 version provided for open ballot as an option.

Use of EFCC to harass senators, others to change the rules

Also ahead of the emergence of the Senate President, it was gathered that the pro-Lawan’s camp allegedly pressurised officials of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC,  to harass top management of the National Assembly last week.

Some of the invited officers of the nation’s apex legislative institution, who spoke, yesterday, on condition of anonymity, said officials of the EFCC, who grilled them for hours, actually demanded to know the voting method they would adopt for the election in June.

One of the officials said:  “The EFCC claimed that our invitation was based on the petition against us by the legislative aides and after answering the specific questions they asked on the issue, they shifted to the issue of presiding officers’ elections.

“They (EFCC officials) asked us to tell them the voting method we want to adopt for the election and we explained that we have already distributed copies of the 2015 Rule Book to the elected lawmakers during their inauguration in April.

“We told the anti-graft agency’s officials that the lawmakers-elect are already aware of the provisions in the 2015 Rule Book.”

Imminent crisis on inauguration day

Meanwhile, an APC senator, who is loyal to Lawan’s camp who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the inauguration might be disrupted if the management decided to adopt the secret ballot method.

The Senator said: “We are going to adopt the open ballot system because that is the standard practice all over the World. The 2015 Rule Book, which made provisions for the secret ballot was forged, we must use the 2011 version.

“I cannot guarantee that the event would be peaceful if the management succumbed to the pressure of the current presiding officers of the eight National Assembly by conducting the election through a secret ballot arrangement.”

Similarly, an APC senator-elect, who is loyal to the camp of Senator Ndume during an interaction with journalists, weekend, however, vowed that the management would adopt the secret voting method to avoid any violent clash on inauguration day.

The senator-elect, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said: “The Lawan group is jittery that their candidate would not win if the management adopts the current Rule Book to conduct the election.

“It is clear to the pro-Lawan senators-elect that some leaders of APC are trying to force senate leader on all of us and we would reject such imposition.

We aren’t aware of change in voting pattern—PDP senators

In a related development, a senator elected on the platform of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, who spoke on condition of anonymity,alleged that there was a grand plan to arrest some of his colleagues ahead of the inauguration.

The PDP senator said:  “A ranking PDP senator was invited by the EFCC recently and would have been kept behind the bars until after the inauguration but for the timely intervention of a strong member of the APC who signed his bail conditions.”

But when contacted to speak on the development, Deputy Minority Leader, Senator Emmanuel Bwacha, who disclosed that PDP senators were not aware of any build up tension and change of the Standing Orders, said:  “I’m not aware of any tension anyway. I am not aware that the voting pattern has been changed.”

Meanwhile Ndume and Lawan supporters have expressed confidence that their candidates would win the election, while PDP senators-elect are said to be planning a surprise on election day.

It was also gathered that the PDP already has 44 senators-elect, while it is hopeful that three others would soon join from Zamfara State and another one from Imo State, to make it 48.

In his response to the issues, the spokesman of Ahmad Lawan Campaign Organisation, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, said:  “This is news to me. I am just hearing that officials of the National Assembly were invited by the EFCC. But all I can say is that we are not aware.

 

 

 

 

 

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