The adoption of the report by the Senate and the House of Representatives Conference Committee on the Amendment to the Electoral Act caused division in the ranks of the All Progressives Congress caucus in the upper chamber of the National Assembly on Wednesday.
According to the report, the sequence of the elections will commence with National Assembly, to be followed by governorship and State Houses of Assembly, while presidential poll will come last.
Trouble started when the Chairman of the Conference Committee, who is also Chairman of the Senate Committee on the Independent National Electoral Commission, Senator Suleiman Nazif, presented the report at the plenary on Wednesday.
After the presentation, President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, put the adoption of the report to voice vote, saying there was no need for debate on it as it was from a conference committee which had harmonised the versions of the two chambers.
“Let me remind us all on what the procedures are for conference reports. It is very simple. You either adopt the report or you reject the report. So, I am going to make it simple and put the question,” Saraki said.
After the vote, the Senate President ruled that “the ayes have it,” a development that generated uproar in the chamber.
Raising a point of order, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege called for a division, citing Order 73 of the Senate Standing Rules.
Responding, Saraki said, “As I keep on emphasising, institutions are what are important. As senators, we will finish our terms and go, but we must continue to strengthen institutions. We must always follow the procedures that we have all laid down.
“For conference reports, this has been the procedure and as such, with all due respect, I have to rule you out of order.”
Dissatisfied, Senator Kabiru Gaya raised another point of order, citing Order 87(C), which states that the conference committee can deliberate on issues between the Senate and House of Representatives but cannot make insertions on any matter not committed to it by either of the chambers.
He said, “This report on the sequence of elections was never discussed here in the Senate. Why are we bringing it up here?”
Also ruling Gaya out of order, Saraki said, “You are a ranking senator and I have all the utmost respect for you. I know that politics is local, and I appreciate that. But as much as it is local, we also have to maintain the integrity of this institution. I have heard you and I am sure that your constituency too have heard you; but I have to rule you out of order.”
Shortly after, 10 APC members stormed out of the chamber and moved to the Media Centre of the Senate Press Corps.
The senators, who claimed that 59 of them were against the amendment, were Abdullahi Adamu (Nasarawa-West), Abu Ibrahim (Katsina-North), Abdullahi Gumel (Jigawa-North), Ali Wakili (Bauchi-South), Binta Masi Garba (Adamawa-North), Ovie Omo-Agege (Delta-Central), Umar Kurfi (Katsina-Central), Andrew Uchendu (Rivers-East), Benjamin Uwajumogu (Imo-North), and Abdullahi Yahaya (Kebbi-North).
The senators took turns to criticise the adoption of the report without a debate.