…APC, PDP in war- of- word over resumption, rigging
Indications have emerged that the National Assembly may reconvene next week after the Eid-el – Kabir celebration to consider and approve the supplementary budget for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to prepare for the 2019 general elections and the virement request from President Muhammadu Buhari.
While Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Yusuff Lasun, had last Thursday, at a press briefing held by the All Progressives Congress (APC) House caucus alluded that the assembly would reconvene on Tuesday or Wednesday this week, the leadership of the legislature on Tuesday, declared that no date has been set for the National Assembly to reconvene to approve the INEC budget.
The two presiding officers of the assembly in a joint statement made available on Tuesday, informed senators and House members who are on their annual vacation that no date has been fixed for the reconvening of the Senate and the House to consider the INEC 2019 elections budget request forwarded by President Buhari on July 17, 2018.
In the statement jointly signed by the Special Adviser (Media and Publicity) to the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, Yusuph Olaniyonu, and the Special Adviser (Media and Public Affairs) to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Yakubu Dogara, Turaki Hassan, the two foremost principal officers of the National Assembly stated that the reconvening of the assembly this week could not hold
as anticipated due to the inability of the joint Senate and House Committees on Electoral Matters and officials of INEC to meet on or before August 13 as agreed by the leadership of the two chambers that would warrant the National Assembly reconvening to consider the budget proposal.
According to the statement, “the joint committees were also expected to meet with the joint Senate and House Committees on Appropriations, Loans and Debts on the Eurobond loan request after which two reports would have been ready for presentation in the two chambers.
“However, no such meeting had taken place yet as a result of which both the Senate and House of Representatives cannot reconvene as
“Until the committees have a ready report for the consideration of the two chambers, it will be most irresponsible to recall members from recess especially those that may have travelled to Saudi Arabia for the hajj.”
Based on this clarification therefore, it is expected that the joint committees of the Senate and House are most likely to complete work on the budget, virement and borrowing request after the Sallah break and could in all probability submit their reports to both chambers for consideration the following week.
This means that barring any last minute change, the National Assembly may eventually cut short its annual recess and reconvene to consider the N242 billion extra – spending request for INEC from President Buhari.
But as tension continues to build over the reconvening of the assembly and the alleged plans to impeach Saraki, the ruling APC and opposition PDP have engaged in war-of-words over the impeachment saga, rigging of elections and vote buying.
According to the APC, the party has uncovered the PDP’s plans to attack APC senators as part of the desperate bid to ensure that Saraki remains the Senate president.
The party also insists that the National Assembly must reconvene in the national interest to attend to vital national issues, while calling on security agencies to protect APC lawmakers from the hands of the PDP members.
According to the party, the plot which was allegedly hatched in the private residence of a PDP leader in Maitama District of Abuja last Sunday night had 15 pro-Saraki senators in attendance, including Saraki.
Speaking to journalists at the APC national secretariat in Abuja on Tuesday, the acting National Publicity Secretary, Yekini Nabena, said: “Our attention has been drawn to sinister plans by the PDP to attack some APC senators as part of the PDP’s desperate bid to ensure that Saraki clings to the position of Senate president.
“We therefore call on security agents to protect APC senators. If any senator is harmed, the PDP and Saraki should be held directly responsible.
We call on security agencies to also closely monitor the activities of some PDP leaders, including Saraki because the plan to attack APC senators is real and imminent”.
Nabena also revealed that the PDP expressed worry over the APC’s Senate majority and considered several options to stop the APC from taking over the Senate leadership among which, the plan to attack some APC senators to ensure their inability to attend legislative sittings, alleging that the PDP has recruited thugs for this purpose.
According to the APC spokesman, “Sunday’s meeting, the PDP senators planned several types of attack; one of which is to lure some of them (APC senators) out at night in the guise of inviting senators to a political settlement meeting and thereafter, instigate a violent confrontation during the meeting and unleash standby PDP thugs on APC senators, our source privy to the meeting informed us.
“This revelation has not come to us as a surprise because the Senate president through proxies has made several failed attempts to buy over APC senators with N100 million each.
“As a party, we don’t believe in inducing lawmakers to achieve our legitimate goal of removing Saraki as Senate president. We will get the support of some PDP senators to get the required two-thirds vote and impeach Saraki.
We are already talking to some of PDP senators who believe and support the direction of the President Buhari administration to achieve our legitimate goal”.
The party reiterated its call for Saraki’s immediate resignation as Senate president, insisting that “he cannot lead the APC majority Senate. But, if he fails to resign honourably, we will impeach him. The PDP’s propaganda and threat of violence cannot save him”.
On the possible reconvening of the National Assembly, Nabena stated that “as chairman of the 8th National Assembly, Saraki’s decision not to reconvene the National Assembly done with the support of the Speaker Yakubu Dogara further buttress our position that Saraki is ever ready to pursue his selfish interests over national interest.
This is another brazen display of his penchant for abuse of power and sabotage of government, whatever the cost and implications.
“While Saraki and his cohorts continue to postpone their doomsday regarding the imminent Senate leadership change, the yet-to-be considered 2019 budget of the INEC is dangerously delayed. Clearly, Saraki’s actions as Senate president now bother on high treason”.
But in its reaction, the PDP, commenting on the September 22 governorship election in Osun State, declared that it will vehemently dismantle the APC’s rigging machinery in future elections.
The party said that now that it has become manifest that the APC is only interested in rigging elections brazenly, it will henceforth contend with APC, “head to head, means to means, scheme to scheme, shenanigan for shenanigan, in all ramifications and magnitude, to discomfit them in all coming elections in the country”.
The PDP said it has thoroughly reviewed all infractions, barefaced suppression, unleashing of violence and unabashed use of security forces and compromised electoral officers to rig elections against it since the assumption of office of President Buhari and vowed to never again allow the APC and the Federal Government to continue to use foul means to usurp power as it has done in the past.
The National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, in a statement, said that the party has particularly reviewed the rigging of the Edo State governorship election in 2016, the blatant rigging of the July 14, 2018 Ekiti State governorship election and last Saturday’s federal constituency bye-elections in Bauchi, Katsina and Kogi states.
The PDP spokesman said, “The review shows that the PDP won in all the elections but was viciously manipulated out by the APC- controlled Federal Government through the instrumentality of violence against the PDP agents and supporters, vote buying,
use of thugs, ballot snatching, harassment, arrests, maiming and even killing of PDP supporters in addition to use of compromised electoral officers to cancel votes belonging to the PDP, alter results from polling centers and then return APC candidates as winners.
“Furthermore, the PDP takes very strong consideration of the open boasts and chest-thumping by officials of the Buhari Presidency and the APC, particularly on their rigging of the Ekiti governorship and the federal bye-elections in Bauchi, Katsina and Kogi states, where the APC thugs were allowed to freely use weapons against PDP supporters.
“This is in addition to the unholy convergence of APC governors and security goons in constituencies where elections are held to supervise the free distribution of funds to buy votes, and bribe electoral officers and openly intimidate the people.”
He said the party has resolved that in as much as it remains a law abiding political party, conducting its affairs strictly within the ambit of the nation’s electoral laws, the party
“will henceforth, directly and physically confront and resist the desperate and greedy power grabbers from always having a field day in seizing our democratic institutions and circumventing the rules during elections”.
Consequently, the PDP directed all its state governors, officials at state and zonal chapters, national and state assembly members and all other elected leaders at all levels to get ready to move into Osun State and provide all support necessary and germane in all the nooks and crannies of Osun state in the forthcoming election.
Similarly, it directed all its presidential aspirants to move all their political machinery into Osun State within this period, as well as get prepared to physically participate in the election process.
“Our insistence as a party is for a level playing ground, a free, fair and credible electoral process, where all votes will count just as our party provided for General Buhari in 2015 that enabled him to be elected as president.
“However, we will not accept our respect for democratic tenets to be taken as a mark of cowardice or weakness,” Ologbondiyan added.