Senate Condemns Militarisation of Electoral Process

The Senate in session
  • Urges president to assent to electoral amendment bill
  • Buhari refuses assent to five bills

Deji Elumoye in Abuja

The general election formed the bedrock of debate at the Senate Wednesday with the upper chamber of the National Assembly condemning in strong terms the militarisation of the polls.

The Senate at a rowdy session condemned the massive use of armed forces in the national electoral process of the nation.

It also urged the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to ensure the unrestricted and consistent application of all electoral laws without bias to a candidate or a party in all elections.

In the same vein, the Senate directed its Committee on INEC to investigate all perceived inconsistent application of electoral laws by INEC during the elections.

The upper legislative chamber also urged President Muhammadu Buhari to assent to the Amendment to the Electoral Act 2010 as altered to ensure a level playing field and adoption of equal standards in national elections to engender a strong and peaceful democracy in Nigeria.

The Senate resolution was sequel to the adoption of a motion entitled: “The militarisation of the Nigerian Electoral Process and the inconsistent application of Electoral Laws by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)” moved by Senator Dino Melaye (PDP Kogi West) and co-sponsored by seven other Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) senators.

The co-sponsors of the motion included Senate Minority Leader, Senator Biodun Olujimi (Ekiti South), Senators Mao Ohuabunwa (Abia North) Matthew Urhoghide (Edo South), Samuel Anyanwu (Imo East), Clifford Ordia (Edo Central), Ahmed Ogembe (Kogi Central) and Obinna Ogba (Ebonyi Central).

Leading the debate on the motion, Melaye said he was aware of the need to grow the nation’s nascent democracy through the institutionalization of procedures, application of civil laws and the restriction of excessive use of military force in the civil affairs of the state and accused the Aide de Camp (ADC) to Kogi State governor of harassing prominent indigenes of the state including former Governor Idris Wada during the general election.

He also expressed concern that the extreme militarisation of a democratic electoral process, and the inconsistent application of electoral laws by INEC in matters of national elections “pose serious threats to democracy in Nigeria, saying it has serious security implications that must be nipped in the bud.

Melaye also wondered what armed soldiers were doing at INEC office in Rivers State during the last polls.
According to him, while the Aide de Camp (ADC) to the Kogi State Governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, held members of opposition parties to ransom during the elections, the military, particularly men of the Nigerian Army did same to voters and INEC officers in Rivers State.

He said: “I am persuaded that the nation is on the edge of a precipice, and our democracy can be saved for future posterity, if only we can build strong institutions that can operate within established laws, and with our military forces restricted to their traditional roles of defending the nation.”

Though the Senate Leader, Ahmed Lawan (APC Yobe North), seconded the motion on the grounds of required legislative intervention in strengthening the nation’s electoral process, debate on the motion assumed a partisan dimension when Olujimi in her contributions alleged that rigging was legalised in the elections and votes buying was the order of the day.

Angered by her submission , the Senate leader, raised order 53(4) of the Senate Standing Rules for the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, to call her to order amid shouts of ‘no more debates on the elections!, Go to court!’ from many of the APC senators.

Even efforts made by the Senate president to make senators debate the motion dispassionately and not along partisan lines proved abortive, making him to hurriedly put the four prayers in the motion to voice votes.

Partisan colouration of debates on the motion was further demonstrated by both the PDP and the APC senators during the voice voting as PDP senators shouted ayes! to all the four prayers while their APC counterparts shouted nay! with the Senate president ruling in favour of the ayes.

Expressing his displeasure over the motion and resolutions adopted by the Senate, Senator Andrew Uchendu (APC Rivers East) told journalists after the plenary that the Senate president was biased in his handling of the debate.
He said being a senator from Rivers State used as reference point by Melaye in the motion, he ought to have been allowed to give the true account of what actually happened in the state during the general election.

He said: “I feel very sad that I was denied opportunity to make contribution to a motion in which wide allegations on what did not happen were made against the military in Rivers State by a senator from another state.
“The alleged militarisation of electoral process was not done by the military in Rivers State but by armed youths empowered by the governor, Nyesom Wike, through his Neighbourhood Watch Corps.

“Wike’s armed thugs killed soldiers and innocent people in the state during the elections and not the other way round.”

Also yesterday, President Muhammadu Buhari declined assent to five more bills passed by the National Assembly.

This brings to 26 the total number of bills rejected by the president since the inauguration of the eighth National Assembly.

The rejection of the five bills was contained in five separate letters from president to the Senate president and read at plenary Wedbesday.

The rejected bills, according to the Senate president, include Nigerian Film Corporation Bill, Immigration (Amendment) Bill, Climate Change Bill, Chattered Institute of Pension Practitioners Bill and Digital Rights and Freedom Bill.

Buhari explained that he rejected the Immigration Bill because it would have adverse effect on Nigeria’s position on the Ease of Doing Business ranking if signed into law, adding that the Chattered Institute of Pension Practitioners Bill amounted to duplication of functions with an existing institute.

Bills earlier rejected by Buhari since 2015 include: the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB), Stamp Duties (Amendment) Bill, Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill, Industrial Development (Income Tax Relief) (Amendment) Bill, National Research and Innovation Council (Est.) Bill, National Institute of Hospitality and Tourism (Est.) Bill and National Agricultural Seeds Council Bill.

Others are Chartered Institute of Entrepreneurship (Est.) Bill, Advance Fee Fraud and Other Related Offences (Amendment) Bill, Subsidiary Legislation (Legislative Scrutiny) Bill, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (Amendment) Bill as well as five constitution amendment bills.

Also rejected are: National Transport Commission Bill, Federal Road Authority (Establishment) Bill, National Broadcasting Commission Amendment Bill, National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) Act (Amendment) Bill and Federal Polytechnics Act (Amendment) Bill.

The Senate had last September set up a Technical Committee on Declined Assent to Bills, chaired by Senator David Umaru to look into the rejected bills by the President.

Although the technical committee laid its report at plenary last December, the report is yet to be considered.