Senate Proposes Open Ballot System for Election of Presiding Officers

Abuja Network News | Reporting by Mohammed Bello Doka | August 6, 2023

The Nigerian Senate has proposed to amend its standing rules in order to introduce an open ballot system for the election of presiding officers. The amendment was discussed during a closed-door session that took place on Saturday evening, following the conclusion of the screening of ministerial nominees.

The proposed amendment aims to address the previous election of the Senate President, Godswill Akpabio, through a secret ballot. The competition for the position on June 13 was intense, with former Akwa-Ibom governor Godswill Akpabio and former Zamfara governor Abdulaziz Yari being the main contenders. Despite the support of the All Progressives Congress (APC) leadership, Akpabio emerged victorious with 63 votes against Yari's 46 votes.

The victory of Akpabio, however, highlighted the division within the ruling party as Yari capitalized on the slim majority of the APC in the Senate. As a result, the current Senate is now proposing an open ballot voting system to ensure party discipline during the election of presiding officers.

According to the document obtained by PREMIUM TIMES, the proposed amendment seeks to modify Order 3 (3) (i) of the Senate's standing rules regarding the election of these officers. It specifies that the election process will be conducted openly and supervised by the Clerks-at-Table. This includes voting by open ballot, with each Senator-elect casting their vote using a ballot paper provided by the Clerks-at-Table, and the proposer's seconders serving as tellers.

However, during the closed-door session, the proposed amendment faced significant opposition from many senators. One senator, who attended the session but requested anonymity, pointed out that the amendment process violated Order 109, Rule 1-5 of the Senate standing order. Mohammed Onawo, a senator representing Nasarawa South, officially rejected the amendment, citing this violation.

Order 109 states that any senator desiring to amend the rules must provide written notice to the Senate president with details of the proposed amendment. The president of the Senate then has seven working days to print and circulate the amendments to the members. A simple majority vote is required for the Senate to consider or reject the proposed amendments.

Considering the opposition and rejection of the proposed amendment, the Senate president decided to postpone further discussions until the next legislative day. The Senate had already adjourned earlier to continue the screening of ministerial nominees on Monday, August 7.

The proposed amendment to introduce an open ballot system for the election of presiding officers in the Senate remains a contentious issue, with opposing views among senators. The outcome of this debate will shape the future of the election process within the upper house of the National Assembly.

Mohammed Bello Doka reporting for Abuja Network News. Stay tuned for more updates on this developing story.

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