The National Assembly’s joint committees on Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) have failed to resolve discrepancies in the 2019 election budget.
The commission’s chairman, Mahmood Yakubu was, therefore, invited to appear again today to make further clarifications.
The Senate INEC committee had on Wednesday raised the alarm over the difference between figures presented by President Muhammadu Buhari and Yakubu.
While the INEC chairman requested N189, 207,544,893.13, Buhari had on July 17, 2018, sought N143,512,529,455.00.
The incongruity prompted yesterday’s meeting, which began 3.30 p.m. but could not agree on the version to uphold.
Although the session was held behind closed doors, loud voices were heard as the lawmakers debated and shouted at one other.
Before they shut the door, Senators Ovie Omo-Agege (APC, Delta Central) and Muhammad Hassan (PDP, Yobe South) disagreed openly, as the former urged the committee to approve the commission’s demand.
At the end, chairman of the joint committees, Suleiman Nazif, told reporters: “Today, our duty and responsibility was to try to harmonise what transpired yesterday between both houses and ensure that we cross the t’s and dot the i’s.
“The whole meeting was called consequent upon the letter of Mr. President requesting supplementary (funds) and virement for the general elections of 2019.
“We have done what we needed and we have realised that there are little bits of differences.
In view of that, it is the opinion of members of this joint committee that we invite the chairman of INEC for further clarifications tomorrow at 11:00 a.m. From there, this committee will make a press statement and we will inform Nigerians of our position.
“I want to use this opportunity to assure Nigerians that this joint committee is committed to ensuring credible, free and fair elections in 2019.”
On the gale of defections in the National Assembly and its consequences on law making, an Abuja High Court sitting in Bwari restrained Senate President Bukola Saraki from declaring the seat of former Minority Leader Godswill Akpabio vacant.
It followed an ex-parte application by Akpabio’s lawyers, Chikaosolu Ojukwu and Ebere Ahanonu.
Media aide to Akpabio, Aniete Ekong, in a statement yesterday disclosed: “The suit number, FCT/HC/BW/CV/113/2018, indicated that the Attorney-General of the federation Abubakar Malami, Inspector General of Police Ibrahim Idris, and Abubakar Bukola Saraki, president of the senate, are the first, second and third respondents respectively, as the motion number reads, BW/M/253/2018.”
The applicant and senator representing Akwa Ibom North/West district was a member of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and minority leader until Wednesday, August 8, when he defected to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
The presiding justice, Othman Musa, ordered Saraki not to impede Akpabio’s access to the senate building or take any action aimed at “overreaching his privileges and rights as a senator, pending the determination of the originating summons of the applicant.”
The court order states: “That the order sought by the applicant is granted as prayed.
That leave is hereby granted to the applicant to serve the 3rd respondent herein the originating processes and all other processes in this suit by serving same on either the clerk of the national assembly or the clerk of the senate or any other clerk/reasonable staff in the national assembly at the national assembly complex, Abuja.”
But in another suit, the Incorporated Trustees of Dynamic Patriotic Citizens Foundation asked the Federal High Court, Abuja, to declare Akpabio’s seat vacant.
The court was also asked to order (INEC) to conduct a bye-election within 90 days to fill the position.
In the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/887/2018, the group argued that the former minority leader defected from the PDP to the APC without any division, crisis or faction in the PDP as envisaged by section 68(1) (g) of the 1999 constitution.
The group formulated a single issue for determination by the court to wit: whether or not by virtue of the provisions of section 68(1) (g) of Nigerian constitution (as altered) and in view of the decision of the Supreme Court in the case law of Hon. Ifedayo Sunday Abegunde V Ondo State House of Assembly and 12 others (2015) LPELR -24588, which sufficiently interpreted the said section 68(1) (g), Akpabio, who defected from the PDP to the APC, on August 8, without any division, crisis or faction in the PDP, as envisaged by the proviso to section 68(1) (g) of the 1999 constitution and interpreted in Hon. Ifedayo Abegunde’s case, has lost his seat as a senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and therefore liable to be kicked out by the senate.
Those listed as defendants in the suit filed on behalf of the group by legal counsel, Tolu Babalaye, include the Senate; Saraki, deputy Senate president, clerk of the national assembly, Senator Akpabio and INEC.
No date has been fixed for hearing of the case.
Meanwhile, a former acting national chairman of the PDP, Alhaji Kawu Baraje, has expressed willingness to support Saraki’s presidential bid.
“Today, he is the only candidate that can unite this country,” he told reporters during graduation activities at his Baraje Centre for Arabic and Islamic Studies in Ilorin, Kwara State.