Senator Suleiman Hunkuyi, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Kaduna North, has hinted on how unfolding issues in the family of the All Progressives Congress, APC are beginning to cause crisis for the party in the yet to be constituted 9th Senate.
Hunkuyi’s position is another twist to the development sorrounding the endorsement of Senator Ahmad Lawan ( Yobe North) by the national leadership of the All Progressives Congress ( APC) as the sole candidate for the position of President of the 9th Senate.
Hunkuyi who came into the 8th Senate in 2015 as one out the 60 senators elected on the platform of APC and joined the party national leadership then, in the endorsement of Senator Ahmad Lawan for the position said that the 2015 shocker ought to have served as a good lesson for the party .
Speaking yesterday in Abuja , Hunkuyi said that endorsing or anointing candidate by leadership of any party for any of the four presiding officers’ positions in the National Assembly is not only undemocratic, but blatantly unconstitutional going by provisions of section 50 ( 1a and b ) of the 1999 constitution as amended.
The provisions according to him states: ” There shall be a President and Deputy President of the Senate who shall be elected by the members of that House from among themselves; and (b) a Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives who shall be elected by the members of that House from among themselves.
” Clearly by the two provisions , only the 109 senators-elect and 360 Hon Members of the House of Representatives – elect , are empowered to decide who their leaders as regards the positions of President of the Senate , Deputy Senate President , Speaker of the House of Representatives and Deputy Speaker , should be at any given time, particularly at the commencement of a new Assembly.
” There fore, for any other person or group of persons outside the 469 constitutionally empowered persons to by way of pontification, anointment , selection , appointment or endorsement , saying Senator A or B ,is the one for this or that position is not only wrong but making clear affront on democracy itself.
“Must Senators be dictated to and or Senators and members of House of Representatives cabinet members of the presidency that must be railroaded or teleguided on on issues that are strictly theirs ?
” Democracy is not a crazy culture but culture of respects for peoples rights , views and constitutionally spelt out responsibilities.
” The culture of anointment or imposition the APC in collaboration with the presidency wants to infuse into it must be rejected and I know it will be rejected by the elected federal lawmakers.
” Though I don’t have the right of participation at the coming 9th Senate particularly in the election process at inauguration, but i have a say through interaction with many of the Senators-elect , already giving me the feelers that as elected senators of the federal Republic of Nigeria , their independent mindedness will come to play on the day of inauguration.
” If APC as a party just zone the positions without endorsement of anybody , it would have been better but insisting that a particular person must emerge for a particular position is turning the principles of democracy and separation of powers upside down with attendant backfiring effects.”
INEC plans to reduce the number of political parties
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) plans a proposal for the alteration of the 1999 Constitution as amended to enable it to reduce the plethora of political parties in the country, which it said created for it a logistics nightmare during the 2019 general election.
According to the commission, a large number of parties, which made it design very long ballot papers, confused many voters, particularly the less educated, during the election.
If the situation persists, said the commission, not only will the logistics nightmare persist, it would continue to put illiterate voters in a dilemma.
The position of INEC was made known at the weekend by its National Commissioner on Information and Voter Education, Mr. Festus Okoye, in an address in Makurdi, Benue State capital.
He said the commission was planning a review of the process of registering and deregistering political parties as well as how the parties choose candidates for the general election.
According to him, INEC is pushing for amendments to the Constitution and review of guidelines on party registration and deregistration to empower it to tighten up the registration process and delist parties that were “mere platforms” for political jobbers.
The commission expressed dissatisfaction with the registration regime, which it said has led to the nation’s electoral process being saddled with an unwieldy number of parties.
Presently, Nigeria has 91 registered political parties of which 73 fielded candidates for the 2019 presidential election.
INEC unfolded its plans just as former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, who was the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the last general election denied planning a protest over the commission’s denial that it has a server where it stored election data.
In his address, Okoye identified the conduct of opaque and flawed party primaries as the root of the plethora of pre-election matters pending in the various courts.
As part of the overhauling of the party registration process, the commission, he said, would present a new alteration to the constitution that will enable it to deregister political parties.
He said: “Nigerians must engage in root and branch review of the number of registered parties in Nigeria. The present framework for the registration of political parties is inadequate to guarantee the registration of qualitative, membership driven and ideologically propelled political parties. Some of the political parties are mere platforms and have no concrete and visible presence in most states of the federation.
“The presence of too many political parties on our ballot papers has in some instances confused some of our compatriots that are not well endowed in literacy. It has bloated the ballot papers and result sheets and trucking them to the polling units has become a logistics nightmare.
European Union releases reports on 2019 elections
The European Union Election Observation Mission (EOM) to Nigeria for the March 2019 general election Saturday released its final report advocating a new law that ensures full transparency in the election results collation process.
It also said a combination of factors, including incumbency, suspension of the former Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, a few weeks to the election, and violence shaped the poll’s outcome. The EU report said Onnoghen’s suspension did not follow due process. And it alleged that over 150 people died in the violence that characterized the elections.
The Presidency, in its reaction in Abuja Saturday night, welcomed the report of the EU observer mission, pledging to analyze and act on the recommendations. Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, who said this in a statement, noted that the EU observers were invited to the country by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), and welcomed by the government of President Muhammadu Buhari.
The report alleged widespread pressure on the independence of the judiciary.
Chief Observer of the mission, Maria Arena, who signed the report, said they were on the ground between January 5 and April 7 with a core team of 11 experts and 40 long-term observers deployed to cover all the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
The report did not give details of the alleged killings but insisted that there were widespread violence and acts of intimidation, including cases of security officials harassing voters, which corroborated that part of the report.
“The elections became increasingly marred by violence and intimidation, with the role of the security agencies becoming more contentious as the process progressed,” the report said.
It recommended 30 areas of reform to help elections and electioneering campaigns in the country and stressed the need for the leadership of the INEC to determine the role of the military in future elections.
“Such reform needs political leadership that is dedicated to the rights of Nigerian citizens, and an inclusive process of national dialogue involving state institutions, parties, civil society, and the media,” Arena said. She added, “This needs to be urgently undertaken to allow time for debate, legislative changes and implementation well in advance of the next elections.”
he EOM noted, “Overall, the elections were marked by severe operational and transparency shortcomings, electoral security problems and low turnout.
“Positively, however, the elections were competitive, parties were able to campaign and civil society enhanced accountability.”
But the EU said the leading political parties failed to rein in acts of violence and intimidation by their supporters, and abuse of incumbency at the federal and state levels. It stated that except for the federal radio, state media primarily served the interests of the president or the governor at the state level.
“Journalists were subject to harassment, and scrutiny of the electoral process was at times compromised with some independent observers being obstructed in their work, including by security agencies.”
The report noted that INEC worked in a difficult environment but made some improvements, such as simplifying voting procedures, however, with considerable weaknesses.
According to the report, “Operational deficiencies led to the postponement of the elections. There were insufficient checks and transparency in the results process, as well as a general lack of public communication and information.”
The EU EOM reported that the deficiencies damaged the integrity of the electoral process and might deter future participation.
It said, “During collation of the federal results, EU observers directly witnessed or received reports of intimidation of INEC officials in 20 states.
“While the legal framework broadly provides for democratic elections and some improvements were made to the Constitution, various legal shortcomings remained, including in relation to the use of smart card readers.”
The EU EOM also noted the suspension of the chief justice by the president a few weeks before the elections, which it said was seen to lack due process and reportedly undermined judicial independence.
Other issues highlighted in the report include: conflicting and late rulings on electoral disputes that undermined opportunity for remedy and created uncertainty; the dysfunctional regulation of political finance; very few electoral offences resulting in arrest or prosecution; problems with the collection of permanent voter cards; and the further fall in the number of women elected.
Atiku denies protest plan
There is no plan to lead a protest should the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal (PEPT) rule against my bid to compel the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to grant him access to information on the Commission’s central server, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, said on Sunday.
Atiku, who was the candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the February 23 presidential election, debunked reports that he was planning to lead a protest should his request be declined by the panel.
The former vice president Atiku his party are challenging President Muhammadu Buhari victory of at the tribunal where they have prayed the tribunal to compel INEC to grant them access to information relating to the presidential election on the Commission’s central server.
The electoral umpire told the tribunal on June 13 that it has no server for Atiku and the PDP to inspect.
In a statement by his media adviser, Paul Ibe, the PDP candidate yesterday described the report in circulation to that effect as the handiwork of mischief makers.
According to Atiku, the said report was meant to mar his “spotless pro-democratic record”, with the view to laying the groundwork on false charges against him.
The statement reads: “Our attention has been drawn to a statement circulating in a section of the media, to the effect that Atiku Abubakar, presidential candidate of PDP in the 2019 presidential election and Vice President of Nigeria, 1999-2007, plans to lead a street protest in the event that the election petition tribunal rules against him and his party on the issue of a server for the Independent National Electoral Commission.
“I wish to emphatically state that such a statement did not emanate from Atiku Abubakar or his privies. It is the work of mischief makers who want to mar his spotless pro-democratic record and lay the groundwork for their threatened actions against him on false charges of being a threat to national security.
“For the avoidance of doubt, Atiku Abubakar believes in the Rule of Law and in the laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. In his almost four decades in politics, he has never taken action or spoken words against democracy and will not start now.
APC to decide National Assembly Principal Officers
The APC national leadership is also targeting filling the post of principal officers of the two chambers of the National Assembly on or before the July 2 resumption of plenary. The party leaders, it was learnt at the weekend, might meet this week with its members in the National Assembly to decide on lawmakers to occupy the posts of principal officers.
The meeting is to be presided over by the party’s National Chairman, Mr Adams Oshiomhole. Both the Senate and the House of Representatives had upon inauguration on June 11, elected presiding officers for the Ninth National Assembly.
While Senator Ahmad Lawan and Senator Ovie Omo-Agege were elected as president of the Senate and deputy president of the Senate respectively, the House of Representatives chose Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila and Hon. Ahmed Wase as Speaker and deputy speaker.
Already, with the election of Lawan and Omo-Agege as Senate presiding officers, North-east and South-south had already been taken care of, leaving the remaining four zones: South-west, South-east, North-west and North-central to fill the remaining four principal officers namely Senate leader, deputy Senate leader, chief whip and deputy chief whip.
It was further gathered that the APC leadership would first zone the remaining principal offices before meeting with its 63 senators later this week.
Findings, however, revealed that the Senate leader may come from the North-central, deputy leader from the South-west, chief whip from the North-west while the South-east may get the deputy chief whip.
Those seeking to be Senate leader include former Governor of Nasarawa State and chairman of the Eighth Senate Committee on Agriculture, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, and former Governor of Kano State, Senator Kabiru Gaya.
Also, Senators Ajayi Boroffice, Remi Tinubu and Teslim Folarin are being touted for deputy Senate leader, while a former Governor of Kebbi State, Senator Adamu Aliero, and former Governor of Abia State, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu, have been pencilled in as chief whip and deputy whip respectively.