By Lateef Adegbite
Ahmad Lawan, the Senate President had kept to his words that the National Assembly would pass the 2022 budget of N17.126 trillion this week based on the benchmark of crude oil price of $57 to $62 per barrel. The National Assembly may have passed the 2022, budget in order not to truncate the execution of the projects outlined in the 2021- 2025, Development Plan that had been Launched by President Muhammadu Buhari, a retired Army General.
Many believe that both not for the fact that the Lawmakers had passed the budget as promised, it may have dragged on into 2022, as the Lawmakers may want to have their pound of flesh from the Katsina born Nigerian President by refusing to pass the bill. Although, the Lawmakers have passed the 2022 budget as promised, the battle line appears to have been drawn between the Nigerian President and the the National Assembly over his refusal to endorse that Electoral Bill duly passed on the excuse that contained obnoxious clause, direct primaries , which he had said throws up one of which is the high cost of conducting the primaries. He had unbarred his mind that the direct primaries would increase the government’s Financial burden because it I s expensive to conduct, meaning that that the clause should be expunged from the Bill , to encourage him to assent to it.
Given the fact that the Senators are not happy over the retired Army General refusal to assent to the Bill passed by it and the House of Assembly after thorough debate , that had looked at the legal implications, pros and cons of the direct primaries including the Financial implication to the Financial to the nation, Buhari had declined to endorse the Electoral Bill into Law which was an open declaration of war with the National Assembly, Ahmad Lawan, the Senate President, may have sent a message to Buhari, that they can bite.
On Wednesday, December 22, 2021, the aggrieved Senators who are posed for war with the retired Army General, who many believe has been manipulating the Leadership of the National Assembly, to ensure that the Lawmakers do his billing had entered into a closed- door discussing Buhari’s veto on the Electoral Amendment Bill. Lawan was emphatic on this. ‘’The Lawmakers discussed President’s refusal to sign the Electoral Amendment Bill into Law’’, he had said.
He may have given an insight of what would happen in 2022, when he disclosed that the Senators have decided to wait for their Colleagues in the House of Representatives to resume from the Christmas break before taking any action or whatever step they need to take will involve the House members’’.
As a prelude to taking the right decision that would be in the best interest of Nigerians, the Senate President had said that that they will take advantage of the Christmas and New Year break to consult widely their various Constituencies and other political stakeholders to decide on the next step to follow. Recall that Femi Gbajabiamila, Speaker of the House of Representatives was the first to drop the bombshell that the House will address the matter when they resume in January 2022.
Senator George may have given an insight of Nigerians should expect from the National Assembly in 2022, when he revealed on Tuesday, December 21, 2021, that some hardline Senators are planning to veto Buhari on the Electoral Amendment Bill. Appearing on Channels Television, the Rivers state born Politician had said that the Group, who are determined to fight back, to show that the Lawmakers can bark and bite have compiled 73 Signatures to veto the Nigerian President. Note that the 109-member Senate will require a two-thirds majority vote to veto the Bill into Law.
The Centre for Democracy and Development, CDD, may have encouraged the Lawmakers to take a decisive action to rectify the quagmire turning the message of the Electoral Amendment Act into a nightmare. Hajia Idayat Hassan, the CDD Director, had enjoined the National Assembly ‘’to act with immediacy to save NIigeria’s elections and nascent Democracy’’. With the 2023 general elections to usher in a new government just fourteen months away, the CDD Director, had said the Lawmakers have two options to rectify the quagmire of Buhari’s refusal to assent to the Electoral Amendment Bill either to veto the Nigeria President and pass the Electoral Act 2021 Bill into an Act of the National Assembly or remove the provisions on direct primaries as pointed out by the Commander-In-Chief , C-In-C, of the Nigerian Armed Forces’’ and represent the Bill to him for his assent.
The agency had advised the National Assembly Lawmakers not to allow a single provision in the Electoral Amendment Bill ‘’ to truncate their good intention in the proposed Electoral Bill’’. The agency had said that the President has no reason not to cash in on the priceless opportunity to assent to the Electoral Amendment Bill not to give room to his critics to take his Administration to the cleaners. The agency has made it clear to those that care to listen that ‘’Nigeria is in dire need of a new and robust framework for the conduct of the 2023 general elections and future elections in the country.
Hassan, the CDD Director, may have given Lawan, the Senate President and Gbajabiamila, the Hose Speaker, a food for thought whe urged them ‘’not to allow the huge humanan and Financial resources that went into the Electoral Bill 2021, from drafting to readings at the fllor of the Senate and the House, the public Hearing, the Committee works, the retreat, the Conference Committee, among others to be a wasted effort’’.
The CDD , may have predicted correctly for Buhari failing to assent to Electoral Amendment Bill would give room to his critics to drop more missiles on him.The Opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, may have dropped the first bombshell when it accused the Leadership of the ruling All Progressive Congress, APC, of scuttling the signing of the Electoral Amendment Bill because some key provisions in the Bill will not allow the alleged design by the party to rig the 2023 general elections’’. The Party had espoused that the ruling APC has been in fear of the Electoral Amendment Act, due mainly to the provision of electronic transmission of election results and not necessarily because of the direct primaries clause’’.
The party which had tried to be on the side of Nigerians had said that for declining to sign the Electoral Amendment Act Bill, the Buhari Administration has clearly shown that it is not full committed to the Amendment of the Act to ensure credible elections in the country’’. The Party had alluded to the fact that the Presidency had triggered the Controversy of the mode of primaries by political parties to divide the political class as diversionary to scuttle the entire Amendment of the Electoral Amendment Act Bill., including electronic transmission of results.
Many believe that that President Buhari and the Leadership of the National Assembly foot soldiers, may take advantage of the apparent confusion that had been created by the refusal of Buhari to sign the Bill into Law to work on the Hose members who had staged a walkout during the Debate for the passage of the Bill and subsequent presentation to Buhari for his Presidential Assent.