Tension is building up at the National Assembly as the Nigeria Police Force is set to make public the report of its findings on the alleged forgery of Senate Standing Rules on the election of principal officers. In the eye of the storm is the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, who is being accused by his colleagues of using his position to alter the rules to favour himself during the controversial election whose result has polarized the Senate and caused acrimony of unimaginable dimension. Although the politician is yet to be invited by the police in connection with the allegation, his supporters have already raised the alarm that he was being witch-hunted and threatened to cause trouble if any harm comes his way.
Vanguard’s investigation however showed that the uproar being orchestrated by both Ekweremadu’s Peoples Democratic Party and his office, were aimed at pre-empting the anticipated criminal charges likely to be pressed against him by the security agencies over the alleged doctoring of the Senate’s rules. Sources close to both Ekweremadu and that of the Inspector General of Police, Solomon Arase, confirmed that the DSP was never invited over any allegation regarding the altering of the Senate’s rules.
A top police officer confirmed that on Tuesday that the office of the IGP was shocked over the furore being orchestrated by politicians in the media regarding the purported move by the police to arrest and incriminate the DSP. The officer, who works closely with the IGP, but pleaded anonymity because he was not authorised to speak on the matter, made it clear that at no time did the police write any letter or intend to write to summon Ekweremadu over the issue at stake.
When our correspondent raised the issue of inviting the DSP by the IGP, the officer was upset, saying that no such invitation had emanated from the NPF. “I think the media is actually being used to cause avoidable heat in the polity because the police did not and has not invited any politician for interrogation. A close ally of the Deputy Senate President confessed that though no invitation had been extended by the police to the politician, they needed to raise the alarm to prevent any threat to the Senator, who retained his position by default in a controversial election last month, to the chagrin of the ruling APC.
The Senate source said: “It is true that the alarm raised by us and the PDP has helped to calm things down. We needed to make the noise to prevent the DSP from being arrested, investigated and harassed by the security agencies to please his opponents. As things are now, we are monitoring to ensure that the DSP is not implicated in any way over the last Senate election,” the source close to Ekweremadu, said.
Meanwhile, it has emerged that the police only wrote to the Clerk of the NASS asking for a convenient time and place to discuss issues relating to the alleged forging of the standing rules of the 8th Senate, a request which it claimed, was yet to be responded to by the CNA. But Vanguard discovered that at the centre of the forgery is a slight difference between the voting procedures used in the election of the principal officers of the Senate in 2011 and 2015.
Vanguard’s finding shows that while the 2011 Standing Rules stipulated that the election of Senators should be done by dividing the members and taking the votes, that of 2015 says that the election should be done either through electronic voting or via secret ballot. The 2011 standing rule which was used for the 7th Senate says: “When only two Senators–elect are nominated and seconded as President of Senate, the election shall be conducted as follows: The Senate shall divide with the proposers and seconders as tellers.
(ii) Voting shall be conducted by the Clerks-at-the-Table using the Division List of the Senate with the tellers in attendance. The Clerk of the Senate shall submit the result of the division to the Clerk of the National Assembly.
Strangely, the mode of voting was however changed in respect of voting in 2015 causing ripples in the upper legislative chambers.
Section 3(3) (e) of the 2015 Senate Standing rule states: "When two or more Senators-elect are nominated and seconded as Senate President, the election shall be conducted as follows: by electronic voting; or voting by secret ballot which shall be conducted by the Clerks-at-Table using the list of the Senators-elect of the Senate, who shall each be given a ballot paper to cast his vote, with the proposers and seconder as teller." The Clerk of the Senate shall submit the result of the voting to the Clerk of the National Assembly who shall then declare the Senator-elect who has received the highest number of votes ‘as Senate President-elect. The question begging for answers now is: who changed the rules for 2015 election and who authorised it when the Senators had vacated office before the election on June 9, 2015?