President Muhammadu Buhari’s communication rejecting the Electoral Act Amendment Bill for the fourth time sparked anger on the floor of the House of Representatives on Tuesday following the reading of the letter by Speaker Yakubu Dogara.
Amidst the resentment in the House, it emerged that the lawmakers may begin the process of overriding the president’s insistent rejection of the Bill, at least for once.
There were indications that this may commence on Wednesday.
Speaker Yakubu Dogara had hardly finished reading the communication from the president notifying the House of the reasons for withholding assent to the Bill when Aliyu Madaki from Kano State, who recently defected from the All Progressives Congress (APC) to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), reacted angrily to the letter, which he alleged was full of ill intentions.
President Buhari had, last week, declined presidential assent to the Bill, citing timing as his major reason.
According to the president, the bill should be rescheduled for assent after the 2019 general elections in February 2019.
Reacting to the president’s letter, Madaki said the rejection was one too many.
He said what Nigerians wanted was a free, fair, and credible election in 2019 but that Buhari’s rejection of the bill had shown that he and his ruling APC had ulterior motives.
Madaki said the world was watching the present government and its actions.
Said the lawmaker: “The letter is so serious that it can’t just be ignored. We want free and fair and credible elections.
“The president’s refusal to assent to the bill shows clearly what his intention and that of his party are on the upcoming 2019 elections. We are watching. The whole world is watching. Everybody is watching.”
While Madaki was making his point, there was a shout of ‘point of order’ from the House Majority Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila, who was apparently displeased with Madaki’s submission.
Gbajabiamila sought to stop further discussion on the communication, insisting that it was against the House rules.
Recognised by the speaker, Gbajabiamila came under ‘personal explanations’ to drive home his point.
He said it was not customary to spur on a debate on the communication of the president, urging that due process be followed.
He said: “I have been in this House for 16 years and there has never been a situation where a letter is debated.
“It is simply a communication. We have never debated a letter. If there is need to debate the president’s letter, we table it on the order paper. Several letters have been written by past presidents and none had been debated.”
On that note, Speaker Dogara said the rules must be followed if the House needed to debate the letter.
“I think this matter should be laid to rest. I advise we follow the provisions of the rules,” he said, as members shouted, “let’s debate it tomorrow (Wednesday).”
Meanwhile, President Buhari’s kinsman, Ibrahim Murtala, representing Matazu/Musawa Federal Constituency of Katsina State, at the plenary ditched the ruling APC for the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
This was conveyed in a letter read by the Speaker Dogara.
His defection elicited jubilation from members of the PDP who quickly embraced and shook hands with him.