The contentious election sequence has taken a dramatic turn, with allegations of plots to bribe the National Assembly members taking centre stage.
Sources revealed that pro-Executive Senators and members of the House of Representatives have been lined up for $50,000 and $30,000, respectively, while the anti-executive lawmakers, who have cases with anti-corruption agencies, will be threatened with prosecution, in days to come.
In articulating urgent steps to be taken, some high profile meetings were held in the Abuja homes of prominent pro-executive senators last week.
In attendance were a vocal pro-President Muhammadu Buhari governor from the North West, another two from the same North West, an embattled governor from the Middle Belt and a governor from the North East, including a powerful minister from the South South.
A source at the meeting, who disclosed this to our reporter, said some key members of the executive, who have been spearheading strategies for Buhari’s re-election in 2019, were unequivocal that the National Assembly must be stopped from going ahead with plans to veto the president on the election re-ordering captured in the new the Electoral Act (amendment) Bill.
President Buhari, a fortnight ago, rejected the amendment, when he argued that the move would infringe on the constitutional powers of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
His letter to the leadership of both chambers reads in part: “Pursuant to section 58 (4) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), I, hereby, convey to the Senate, my decision, on March 3, 2018, to decline presidential assent to the Electoral Amendment Bill, 2018, recently passed by the National Assembly.
“Some of my reasons include the following: The amendment to the sequence of elections in section 25 of the principal act may infringe upon the constitutionally guaranteed discretion of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to organise, undertake and supervise elections provided in Section 15 (A) of the third statue to the constitution; the amendment to section 138 of the principal act, to delete two crucial grounds upon which an election may be challenged by candidates, unduly limits the rights of candidates in elections to a free and fair electoral review process.”
However, most members of the two chambers reportedly disagreed with the president and mulled the idea of overriding his veto on the amendment.
A senator who declined to be named said but for the death of Senator Ali Wakili (who represented Bauchi South), Senate would have quashed Buhari’s veto last Thursday.
As a desperate measure to stop the planned override of Buhari’s veto holding this week, Daily Sun gathered that pro-executive lawmakers held series of meetings and agreed that every step be taken to checkmate their colleagues.
Among other things, the meetings resolved that ‘vulnerable’ senators and Representatives, who have corruption cases with anti-graft agencies, must be whipped into line by threatening them with prosecution.
The source added: “It was agreed that lawmakers with corruption cases with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other crimes Commission will be bullied and threatened with prosecution, unless they oppose the amendment.”
The second step, he narrated, is that senators and members of the House of Representatives would be handed a mouth-watering financial inducement to drop their support for the amendment.
To this end, he disclosed that “$50,000 and $30,000 have been earmarked for each lawmaker, in exchange for their support.”
He said it was also agreed at the meetings that extra efforts must be made to broaden the president’s loyalists and support base in the National Assembly and among state governors.
“We agreed to build a team of loyalists among the governors,” he added.
At the moment, pro-executive lawmakers at the Senate and the House, who are in battle with their colleagues over the sequence of elections include senators Abdullahi Adamu, Ovie Omo-Agege, Ahmad Lawan (Senate Leader), Stella Oduah; Alhassan Doguwa (Chief Whip of the House), Bala Yusuf and Ehiozuwa Agbonnayinma.
While Adamu led seven others to stage a walkout when the amendment was being considered at the Senate, Doguwa mobilised some of his colleagues to protest against consideration of the amendment.
Omo Agege and Agbonnayinma later apologised in their respective chambers, over their comments on the matter.
It is unclear how the National Assembly will take alleged widespread attempts to bribe lawmakers on the contentious sequence of elections.
However, feelers from the National Assembly, as at yesterday, indicate that tempers may likely flare because of the unwholesome dimension the matter has taken.
Last week, the National Working Committee of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) led by the National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, met with APC lawmakers in the National Assembly, to lobby the Senate caucus of the party, against plans to override Buhari’s veto on the new electoral law.