Senate moves to amend rules for electing presiding officers

Abuja—The Senate on Saturday proposed to amend its standing rules to accommodate an open ballot system of voting for the election of presiding officers.

Premium Times reports that the amendment was proposed at a closed-door session which started at about 7:10 p.m. and lasted for several hours after the conclusion of the screening of the ministerial nominees.

The move to amend the document, however, failed as many senators opposed it.

The last election of the presiding officers in the upper chamber on 13 June was conducted by secret ballot and keenly contested between former Akwa-Ibom governor Godswill Akpabio and former Zamfara governor Abdulaziz Yari.

The leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC) supported Mr Akpabio but was unable to persuade all senators of the ruling party to back the Akwa-Ibom senator for the senate presidency.

Mr Yari did not only leverage the division but also capitalized on the fact that the ruling party has a slim majority in the Senate.

However, Mr Akpabio eventually won the election and became the senate president after securing 63 votes against Mr Yari’s 46 votes.

The senator representing Kano North, Barau Jibrin, was elected unopposed as the deputy senate president.

The APC has 59 senators, while the other six opposition parties have altogether 50 in the 109-member upper house.

The Akpabio-led Senate is now proposing an open ballot voting apparently to force senators from its party to obey the party’s decision in the election of presiding officers in the upper house of the National Assembly.

According to the document proposing the amendment, the Senate is proposing to amend Order 3 (3) (i) of its standing rules on the election of presiding officers.

The proposed amendment indicated that the election of presiding officers and other officers in the Senate would be conducted openly and supervised by the Clerks-at-Table.

“Voting by open ballot which shall be conducted by the Clerks-at-Table using the list of Senators-elect of the Senate, who shall each be given a ballot paper to cast his/her vote, with the proposer’s seconders as tellers,” the amendment reads.

However, one of the senators who attended the closed-door session where the amendment was proposed and requested not to be named hinted that the majority of the senators rejected the amendment when it was proposed.

The senator gave the example of Mohammed Onawo (PDP, Nasarawa South), who raised a point of order rejecting the amendment because the amendment process violates the Senate standing Order 109, Rule 1-5.

Order 109 of the Senate standing order states that:

“(1) any senator desiring to amend any part of the rules or adding any new clause shall give notice of such amendments in writing to the senate president giving details of the proposed amendment.

(2) The president of the senate shall within seven working days of the receipt of the notice, cause the amendments to be printed and circulated to members. Thereafter, it shall be printed in the order paper of the Senate.

(3) The mover or movers of the amendments shall be allowed to explain in detail the proposed amendments, thereafter, the Senate shall decide by simple majority votes whether the amendments should be considered or rejected.

(4) If the decision is to consider the amendment, then another date shall be set aside by the Rules and Business Committee, whereby opportunity will be given to senators to further propose amendments but must strictly confined to their original amendments.

(5) Two-thirds majority shall decide the amendment, and such amendments shall form part of the rule of the Senate.”

After the consideration of the amendment process and rejection from the majority of the senators, the senate president subsequently stepped it down till the next legislative day.

Before going into closed doors, the Senate had earlier adjourned to Monday, 7 August, for the continuation of the screening of the ministerial nominees.

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