Senate condemns alleged militarization of 2019 elections

Edwin Akwueh, Abuja


The Nigerian Senate has condemned the militarization of the 2019 general election at its resumed plenary on Wednesday.

Wednesday’s resolution followed a motion titled “the militarization of the Nigerian Electoral Process and the inconsistent application of electoral laws by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC),” moved by Senator Dino Melaye and seven others.

According to the resolution, Senate condemned the massive use of military forces in the electoral process of the nation and urged the INEC to ensure the unrestricted and consistent application of all electoral laws without bias to a candidate or a party in all election.

Senate also directed its Committee on INEC to investigate all perceived inconsistent application of electoral laws by INEC in the 2019 elections and urged “the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to give assent to the recent amendment to the electoral Act to ensure a level playing field and adoption of equal standards in our national elections for a strong and peaceful democracy in Nigeria.”

Before adopting the resolutions of the Senate and shortly after Senator Melaye presented his motion, the Senate was thrown into a rowdy session as some senators, allegedly belonging to All Progressives Congress (APC) expressed displeasure, which led to a shouting bout on the floor of the chamber.

The lawmakers had expressed displeasure over comments made outside the motion, which was said was against the provisions of their senate rule book.

Nascent Democracy
Leading debate on the motion, Senator Melaye had said that there is need to grow the nation’s nascent democracy through the institutionalization of procedures, application of civil laws and the restriction of excessive use of military force in the civil affairs of the state.

He said that the “growing militarization of our nation’s electoral process, and the inconsistent application of electoral laws by the institutional umpire- the INEC, especially a witnessed in the recent national election 2019, where the presence of the use of extreme military force akin to a war campaign, was applied in electoral polling stations, and the declaration of ‘inconclusive election,’ as a term- being used inconsistently, and partially at the whims of electoral officers in occasions that appears solidly a similar cases.”

The lawmaker expressed concern that the extreme militarization of a democratic process and the inconsistent application of electoral laws by INEC in matters of national elections – poses serious threat to democracy and has security implications that must be nipped in the bud.

Senator Melaye, who said he entered his state through celestial means, added that the ADC was seen disrupting election at polling units, lamenting that this is not the kind of democracy bestowed upon the nation by leaders like Obafemi Awolowo, Nnamdi Azikiwe and Ahmadu Bello.

The Senate leader, Senator Ahmed Lawan, who said that the processes of perfecting the electoral issues in the country are on, added that the lawmaker should review what happened and see where the views of the legislators are required.

“The electoral process remains a journey, it requires a lot of fine-tuning. We need to meet with INEC to get a panoramic view of the situation,” he said.

Expressing anger over the election, the Senate Minority Leader, Senator Biodun Olujimi said, What happened on the 23 of February has been captured by Melaye. For Nigeria to be Nigeria, we must speak truth to power.

“We must be able as representative of the people speak the truth. We are Nigerians and we are in Nigeria. What is wrong is wrong. This election was a sham. INEC parameters were different in different states. There is no wrong that can validate the other. We need to look at our electoral process. Rigging and vote buying was the order of the day. The legislator needs to look into this. They used the EFCC and the Civil Defence to harass the people. The amendment of the electoral act, must be signed.”

Right Perspective
The President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, appealed to the lawmakers, when the debate was degenerating into a shouting bout, “that this is an opportunity to put things in the right perspective,” he pleaded.

The Senate, however, adjourned sitting to 2nd of April to give room for oversight functions and also to enable committees meet with the MDAs for defence of the 2019 Appropriation Bill, which passed through second reading on Tuesday.