The Senate on Wednesday confirmed four Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) commissioner nominees.They are Monday Udo Tom (Akwa-Ibom), Attahiru Madami (Niger), Ahmed Mahmud (Zamfara) as Resident Electoral Commissioners and Festus Okoye (South-east Geo Political Zone) as National Electoral Commissioner.
The confirmation process, however, went rowdy when some lawmakers challenged the report of the Senate Committee on INEC when it attempted to reject Ahmed Mahmud for the third time. The lawmakers had twice earlier rejected Mr Mahmud in November 2017 on the grounds that he is not an indigene of Zamfara but of Sokoto State.
It all started when the Chairman of the committee, Suleiman Nazif (Bauchi North), read out the recommendations of the committee. Mr Nazif explained that members of the committee were satisfied with the nominees’ level of education and work experience except of Mr Mahmud. He said they demonstrated high level of competence in response to questions put to them. “They satisfied the requirements of section 154 (1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended and the Electoral Act,” he said.
Speaking on Mr Mahmud, he said “the committee in its wisdom has come to a decision to reject his nomination for confirmation as resident electoral commissioner for INEC based on a petition written against him from his state.” After his presentation, Kabir Marafa (APC, Zamfara) protested against Mr Nazif’s report, stressing Mr Mahmud is from Zamfara State. He argued that Mr Mahmud lived all his life and had his education in Zamfara State and was a one-time Attorney-General of the state and as such, should be regarded as an indigene of the state.
He went on to accuse Mr Nazif of “compromising” the report. He said it is not a true testimony of what transpired. He also described the report as “hypocritical.” The Senate President, thereafter, called him to order. “You cannot say that,” he said. James Manager (PDP, Delta) agreed with Mr Marafa, stating that the report “is not very complete” as it lacked the details of the investigation carried on the said nominee.
He was, however, interrupted by the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, who stressed that Mr Marafa violated the rules of the Senate (order 53 (7,8) by accusing his colleague (Nazif) of compromising a report and asked that the Senate president rule on the issue before proceeding.
Mr Saraki then ruled Mr Marafa out of order and asked him to withdraw his statement and apologise. He also threatened to refer the matter to the committee of ethics and privileges. Angry, Mr Marafa withdrew his statement but bluntly refused to apologise.
“To say that you will rule me out of order, I disagree. I can withdraw my statement, which I do. I won’t apologise, I won’t. Mr President, on your advice, I withdraw my statement but I stand on my point of order that this report is against the rules and it cannot stand. Unless he shows us an affidavit, this report is null and void,” he said. The Senate ignored Mr Marafa and went into the committee of the whole to take the report. When the question was put by Mr Saraki, the lawmakers unanimously approved Mr Tom, Mr Madami and Mr Okoye’s nomination.
When asked if they rejected Mr Mahmud’s nominationation, there was an uproar of “nay.”Again, there was pandemonium in the upper chamber. Mr Saraki then rephrased the question: “Will the Senate approve the nomination of Ahmed Mahmud as Resident Electoral Commissioner of INEC representing Zamfara State?”
Majority of he senators shouted “aye” and there was no sound of “nay”. A happy Mr Marafa thereafter apologised to Mr Nazif and “the people of Bauchi State” as well as the entire Senate. He also thanked senators for their “show of solidarity.”