Says it will act on Buhari’s letter in January
To consult with Reps, Constituents on next line of action
By Henry Umoru
THE Senate Wednesday fell short of the expectations of many Nigerians, especially stakeholders in the electoral process when it could not carry out its avowed readiness to override President Muhammadu Buhari’s veto of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill 2021.
Before the resumption of the plenary Wednesday, there was palpable tension in the Senate wing following Tuesday’s threat by the Senators that led to the collation of signatures where 70 Senators had shown their determination to override President Buhari’s veto.
The Senate had on Tuesday in one day, dissolved into a closed-door session twice to deliberate on the letter of President Muhammadu Buhari and take a position on the withholding of assent to the 2021 Electoral Act Amendment bill.
The move to break into an Executive session at 1.57 pm which lasted for forty-five minutes was sequel to a point of order raised by Senator George Sekibo, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Rivers East which, therefore, heightened the tension
Senator Sekibo who came under Order 14 and 15 said that the closed-door session became imperative because the Senate after Wednesday’s session would commence the Christmas and New Year holidays.
Earlier, there were strong indications that the Senators would override President Buhari’s veto on the Electoral Act Amendment Bill as the machines at the hallowed Chamber were tested to ascertain whether or not they were working and the board showed clearly that the machines were in good shape.
Soon after the Senate resumed plenary Wednesday, the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, at 10.36 called for an executive session.
Senators dissolved into a closed-door session to deliberate on the letter of President Muhammadu Buhari and take a position on the withholding of assent to the 2021 Electoral Act Amendment bill.
Rising from a closed-door session, President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan disclosed that at the meeting, the Senators who agreed to consult with members of the House of Representatives when they resume in January because the lawmakers in the lower chamber have already gone on break to resume plenary in January.
The closed-door meeting which started at 10.36 ended at 11 14 am.
Senator Lawan who disclosed this said that the Senate would consult with the House of Representatives on how to respond to President Muhammadu Buhari’s letter on the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill, said that the Senate resolved to act on the letter of President Buhari, withholding assent to the 2021 Electoral Act Amendment bill.
Lawan also said as part of ways to respond to the letter of the President, Senators will consult with their constituents who are major stakeholders in the decisions taken at the National Assembly.
According to the President of the Senate, the provisions of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) do 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.
Speaking on what transpired in the closed session, 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.
“Presently, the House of Reps has gone or 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.”
President Muhammadu Buhari had on Tuesday wrote the Senate and the House of Representatives, withholding assent to the 2021 Electoral Act Amendment bill that was passed by the National Assembly.
President Buhari in the letter dated December 13, 2021, had 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.
He added that it would also impact negatively on the rights of citizens to participate in the government as constitutionally ensured.
President Buhari in the letter withheld assent to the bill citing the imposition of Direct primaries as approved by the National Assembly, the National Assembly for picking candidates by political parties in the amended Electoral Act as a violation of the spirit of democracy.
According to Buhari, with Direct primaries, there will be a plethora of litigation from party members and stakeholders, just as he said that allowing the process would fuel corruption as well as encourage over monopolisation.
He also said that he was withholding assent to the Bill based on Direct primaries because it would cause a huge financial burden on political parties, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, the economy, and security agencies, adding that the process is undemocratic.
The National Assembly had on Tuesday, 9th November 2021 passed the much anticipated Electoral Act Amendment Bill 2021 after both the Senate and the House of Representatives deliberated extensively on the report of the Conference Committee on the bill.
The Senate had on that day, passed the harmonized version of the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill, 2021.
The passage followed the consideration of the report of the Conference Committee of the Senate and House of Representatives on the bill.
In line with customary legislative procedures, the two chambers had in September set up Conference Committees to reconcile disparity in the versions of the bill as passed by the Senate and the House of Representatives.
Consequently, the National Assembly had on November 19, 2021 transmitted the bill to President Buhari for assent in line with Section 58(4) of the 1999 Constitution that ” Where a bill is presented to the President for assent, he shall within 30 days thereof signify that he assents or that he withholds assent.”
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