The threat by senators to override President Muhammadu Buhari’s veto of the Electoral Act Bill 2021 may have collapsed.
Following overnight lobbying by six governors, the federal lawmakers backed out of the plan, it was learnt yesterday.
Sources said the ability of Senate President Ahmad Lawan to manage the situation maturely made senators to ‘defer’ issues on the presidential veto till January, next year.
Also, a legal technicality raised by Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Senator Gabriel Suswam was said to be the “clincher”, which foreclosed any debate on the veto.
The session was however, not without a drama as some senators, purportedly behind the collection of signatures to override the President, were conspicuously absent at the plenary.
A few others who came after the Executive Session of the Senate opted to observe the plenary where the President of the Senate only communicated the decision of the Executive Session.
However, the PDP caucus in the House of Representatives vowed to mobilise its members to override the President, when the House reconvenes.
According to sources, six governors, led by the Chairman of the Caretaker Committee of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mallam Mai Mala Buni, lobbied senators overnight to stay action on their plan.
Other governors who pleaded with the in placating the senators were the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum(NGF), Kayode Fayemi(Ekiti); the Chairman of the Progressive Governors Forum (PGF), Atiku Bagudu (Kebbi), Yahaya Bello (Kogi); Gboyega Oyetola(Osun) and Hope Uzodinma (Imo).
It was learnt that the lobbying, which started at about 9pm on Tuesday ended at 5am on Wednesday.
The intense horse-trading made Buni to cancel an appointment to inaugurate the Ado-Ekiti-Iyin road in Ekiti State yesterday.
A governor, who spoke in confidence with our correspondent, said: “We spent hours to engage senators to sheathe their swords.
“President Buhari is the nation’s leader and the leader of our party. Even if he is wrong, we cannot allow senators or any group to disgrace him.
“In this case, President Buhari was not even wrong. He took a decision in the overall interest of the nation’s fledgling democracy. We felt we owed it a duty to explain the President’s position and ask senators to see key reasons in his position for rejecting the Electoral Act Amendment Bill 2021.
“We had sufficient engagement till 5am on Wednesday until we got a firm commitment that all will be well in the Senate yesterday.”
Some senators disclosed that when the Lawan convened the Executive Session yesterday, they were still aggrieved. About 98 per cent of those from the opposition and 20 per cent to 25 per cent from the APC were not happy with the President.
But, Lawan exhibited maturity as he persuaded his colleagues to avoid tension, stressing that the crisis can only be resolved through a proper legislative process.
A source at the session quoted Lawan as saying: “The House of Representatives is already on recess and if we pass any resolution on the veto, the Senate has to wait for the chamber. By precedents, it is a joint matter for the two chambers. We cannot proceed further.
“We need to have a dialogue as to the way out so that we will not be acting without focus. The two chambers must be on the same page on this issue.
“We also need to consult other stakeholders and our constituents during the recess to have a broader perspective.”
Suswam, who came up with a clincher that weakened the opposition and aggrieved APC senators, cited a judgment of the Court of Appeal on veto and how to override it.
A ranking senator said: “Suswam opened a new dimension to the threat to override the President’s veto. He told us that going by the judgment of the Court of Appeal, we cannot override Buhari’s veto by a mere motion or a quick win resolution of two-thirds of the chamber.
“He said some people were thinking we will come and just decide to overrule the President. Suswam said by the Senate’s rules, the 1999 Constitution and the judgment of the Court of Appeal, we can only override if we follow the same procedures for passing the vetoed bill.
“He said the bill must go through the First Reading, Second Reading and Third Reading where the question of override will be decided.
“He said any decision not taken procedurally by the National Assembly will be a nullity.”
Another senator from the Northwest said: “It dawned on some of us who signed the signatures that we did not have adequate knowledge of the procedures.