21 May 2019

Nigeria: Senate Presidency - Senators Set for Showdown Over Voting Method

Senators-elect for the 9th National Assembly are set for a showdown during their inauguration in June over the voting method to be adopted for electing the Senate President and the Deputy Senate President, Daily Trust has learnt.

The senators-elect, it was gathered, are sharply divided based over the candidates.

It was learnt that supporters of Senate Leader, Ahmad Lawan (APC, Yobe), are solidly for open ballot, while supporters of Mohammed Ali Ndume (APC, Borno) and Mohammed Danjuma Goje (APC, Gombe) are for secret ballot.

Our correspondent reports that the 2015 Senate Standing Orders provide for secret ballot as the sole method of electing the two presiding officers.

However, the 2015 Senate Rules Book was a subject of litigation following allegations that the secret ballot system was smuggled into it as there was no time the 7th Senate amended the rules to allow for secret ballot.

Since the inception of the current democratic dispensation in 1999, the voting pattern for presiding officers in the senate had been open ballot, but the controversial 2015 rules made it secret ballot.

While supporters of Lawan are of the view that they will not accept the use of the 2015 version, but that of the 2011 Senate rules, supporters of the two other contenders said they knew no rules apart from the 2015 version.

It was gathered that the management of the National Assembly had already distributed the 2015 version of the Senate Rules Book to senators-elect, which it said would be used during the inauguration, possibly on June 10.

At a press conference recently, the Senator representing Kano South, Kabiru Gaya, who is a contender for the office of Deputy Senate President, said the 2015 rules would be the one to be used since it had not been amended.

However, Senator representing Katsina North, Ahmed Babba Kaita, told Daily Trust that they would not allow the use of "fraudulent and distorted" senate rules.

Our correspondent learnt that senators-elect from the different camps are battle-ready to defend their stance on the voting pattern during the inauguration.

A senator supporting Lawan, who is the preferred candidate of the APC, told Daily Trust that there was no going back on the open ballot system.

"The standard practice in parliaments all over the world is the open ballot system. That is what we are going to adopt. We shouldn't be afraid of what we're going to vote for as elderly people. Besides, the 2015 Senate rules book they're talking about was forged. There was never a time that the 7th Senate amended it to reflect secret ballot," the senator-elect said.

But a senator backing Ndume said there was no way the Senate would use the 2011 version as it was no longer in use in the Senate, noting that they would not allow anything less than the use of the 2015 version.

Daily Trust gathered that it was part of the scheming to muzzle the National Assembly management to revert to the 2011 Senate rules that made the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to grill top management staff of the federal legislature last week, including the Clerk to the National Assembly, Mohammed Ataba Sani-Omolori.

However, the spokesman of the Lawan campaign group, Sen. Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi (APC, Niger), said they knew nothing about the interrogation of the National Assembly management staff by EFCC.

"We are not aware, and we have no hand in what you are alleging that we are using EFCC to harass them to change the rules for us or to harass our colleagues. We have been working, and our contact and mobilisation committee has reached out to our colleagues. We are taking our campaign and we are not taking our chances."

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