OrderPaperToday – The Senate today was thrown into a rowdy session during the debate on a motion titled: “The militarization of the Nigerian electoral process and inconsistent application of electoral laws by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).”
The sponsor of the bill, Senator Dino Melaye (PDP, Kogi), lamented the use of extreme military force in electoral polling stations across the country in addition to “the declaration of ‘inconclusive elections’, as a term – being used inconsistently, and partially at the whims and caprices of electoral officers in occasions that appear solidly as similar cases.”
According to him, “this extreme militarization of a democratic electoral process and the inconsistent application of electoral laws by INEC matters of national elections pose serious threats to our democracy, and have security implications that must be nipped in the bud.
“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.”
The Senate Leader, Ahmed Lawan who spoke after Senator Melaye called on the upper chamber to come up with legislative interventions for the issues raised in the motion.
However, the debate soon turned rowdy as the Senate Minority Leader, Biodun Olujinmi made her contribution. Olujinmi in her submission described the 2019 election as a “sham” exercise where “rigging was legalised”.
Her words: “We must be able to speak truth to power, what is wrong is wrong. What went wrong during the elections are fundamentals which must be properly addressed. Whoever is siding with what went wrong during the elections for partisanship is unfair to Nigeria and Nigerians and unfair to the future of democracy in Nigeria.
“That election was a sham, there was no way that election could have been an improvement on the 2015 election where everything was done according to the will of the people.”
Olujimi continued: “(In 2019) everything was inconsistent; INEC was inconsistent with the parameters they used in many states and units. That is wrong, there was massive deployment of military and EFCC to rout people, they used the civil defence and all of them carried arms.
“We need to look at the process of election. Somebody somewhere has refused to give assent to the electoral act amendment bill. It must be signed by Mr President so at least we know that we have started part of the journey. Rigging was legalised, vote-buying was the order of the day. We need to look into it; the time has come for the legislature to rise to the occasion…”
At this point there were rumblings and murmurings across the chamber prompting the intervention of the Senate President who threatened to cut short any senator who made remarks that were not “statemanly” and also stop further contributions on the matter.
Senator Olujimi then resumed her contribution and accused the APC of equating itself with the nation, urging the party to surrender itself to processes. Her latest comment only fuelled the rowdiness in the chamber the more with the likes of Senator Solomon Olamilekan (APC, Lagos) and Senator Kabir Marafa (APC, Zamfara) taking centre stage.
The Senate Leader, Ahmed Lawan also raised point of order 53 (3) insisting that Olujinmi did not confine her remarks to the subject matter of the motion, further urging anyone who feels aggrieved with the election to approach the courts.
“The election should have no business here,” an irritated Lawan said.
After some more minutes of rowdiness, the Senate President, Bukola Saraki allowed Senator Mao Ohuabunwa to speak although he was constantly interrupted by his colleagues which prompted the Senate President to proceed to the recommendations contained in the motion.
Saraki ruled in favour of all four recommendations of the motion amidst loud shouts of nay from the APC Senators.
The Senate accordingly resolved to condemn the “massive use of military forces” in the general elections and urged INEC to ensure the “unrestricted and consistent application of all electoral laws without bias to a candidate or a party in all elections”.
Furthermore, the red chamber mandated its Committee on INEC to “investigate all perceived inconsistent application of electoral laws by INEC in the 2019 Elections”.
The fourth adopted recommendation urged “the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to give assent to the recent amendment to the Electoral Act to ensure a level playing field and adoption of equal standards in our national elections for a strong and peaceful democracy in Nigeria”.