Damilola Oyedele in Abuja
The furore in the Senate over the recent amendment to the Electoral Act is far from over as the upper legislative chamber on Tuesday directed its Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions to investigate allegations made by Senator Ovie Omo-Agege (Delta APC) that the adoption of the change in order of elections, is targeted at President Muhammadu Buhari.
Following last weekâ€™s passage of the Electoral Act 2010 amendment which provided that the presidential election be conducted last, Omo-Agege and nine other senators had alleged that the amendment was targeted at the president.
It is however unclear if the other senators would also face the ethics committee.
The amendment to Section 25 of the Electoral Act provides that the National Assembly election holds first, followed by the state Houses of Assembly and governorship elections, while the presidential election comes last, instead of the current order where the presidential poll holds first.
Senator Dino Melaye (Kogi APC) who raised a point of order at plenary yesterday, said the allegation was a weighty one.
â€œI am heavily worried. President Muhammadu Buhari is not only my party man, he is a president we all laboured to vote for. My colleague, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege addressed the media last week where he said the decision taken by this Senate is targeted at President Buhari. I cannot be part of any group of persons to move against the president. The allegations are weighty.
I followed president Buhari to 36 states of the Federation during the campaigns,â€ Melaye said.
â€œWhen I was following the President round the country, Omo-Agege was in the Labour Party. To now allege and put the integrity of the Senate under check, that the amendment was tailored towards the president, is unheard of. It is in bad taste,â€ Melaye added.
He also pointed out that apart from briefing the press last Wednesday on the development, Omo-Agege also granted another interview to the press.
It should be recalled that Omo-Agege had last week opposed the change in election order, and staged a walk out from senate proceedings. They complained about what they called the irregular procedure applied by Senate President Bukola Saraki during the passage of the report, claiming that the amendment was targeted at the president.
The lawmakers were Senator Adamu Abdullahi (Nasarawa APC); Ovie Omo-Agege, (Delta-APC) Binta Garba, (Adamawa-APC) Ali Wakili, (Bauchi-APC) Kurfi Umaru, (Katsina-APC ), Andrew Uchendu, (Rivers-APC ), Yahaya Abdullahi, (Kebbi-APC) and Abu Ibrahim, (Katsina-APC).
Omo-Agege claimed that there were at least 59 senators who were opposed to the amendment.
He claimed further: â€œWhen this bill was passed in the House of Representatives, only 36 members were present. This cannot stand in a House of 360 members.â€
According to him, â€œThis amendment needs to be debated before it is passed. There is a section in our standing rules that if a bill is sent to the House of Representatives and it makes any inputs, the Senate shall dissolve into a committee of the whole.
â€œWe are supposed to determine if the decision of the House is in tandem with what the Senate passed. That was not done. We are 59 senators who are opposed to Section 25 of the Electoral Act. We cannot stand and allow a law passed against Mr. President to stand.â€
Former Senate Leader, Senator Ali Ndume (Borno APC) was suspended for six months after he faced the ethics committee in March 2017.
Ndume had appeared before the committee after urging the Senate to investigate allegations that Melaye did not graduate from the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) as he claims, and that a bulletproof Range Rover with fake documents belonging to Senate President Bukola Saraki, was at the root of the Senateâ€™s feud with the Customs boss, Col. Hameed Ali.