Opposition members of Nigeria’s parliament want the National Assembly to debate whether last month’s elections were free and fair. Wednesday is the day the minority is supposed to introduce a motion for such a debate. But the majority said debating the election would be divisive and deter Nigeria’s democracy.
Representative Patricia Olubunmi Etteh, Deputy Chief Whip and member of the ruling People’s Democratic Party as well as Representative Faruk Adamu Aliyu, minority leader from the opposition All Nigeria Peoples Party both discussed on VOA whether the parliament should debate the conduct of the elections or not .
Representative Aliyu said the parliament should debate the conduct of last month’s election because it would be doing the people's business.
“As a parliament, we are representatives of the people, and as important as election, election was conducted in this country, so many people are aggrieved. It is only fair and natural that this matter be discussed in the House. Those who have anything against the election, let them say it, and those who say the election was a perfect thing, let them say it,” Aliyu said.
But Representative Etteh said she’s against such debate because, according to her, the opposition’s motion would not advance Nigeria’s democracy. Instead it would deter it.
“What we are saying at this present moment is that we should look for things that would unite us and not something that will continue to divide either Nigerians or even the House of Representatives. We lack jurisdiction to have any decision on the past election, and the only person that is saddled with the responsibility is the election tribunal, and we believe that anybody that is aggrieved should go and face the election tribunal and sort it out there,” Etteh said.
But Aliyu said the parliament has jurisdiction to discuss any matter affecting Nigerians.
“All we are saying, as representatives of the people, some of our constituents are complaining. So all we needed to do is to come and say their views, what people say about the elections, and they also have the right to come say their own views. They can come and say this was the best election ever conducted under this sun. We don’t think so. And now she’s talking about dividing us. Why should we sweep this matter under the table?” Aliyu asked.
Etteh said there was no need for the House of Representatives to debate the conduct of the past election because, according to her, there is already an Electoral Act, which, she said, is the guiding principle for all elections in Nigeria.
“What the opposition leader is saying, I quite share his sentiments. But I want him to be precise, and I want him to tell the entire world what exactly they have in their motion,” she said
Aliyu reiterated that the opposition was calling for the condemnation of the election because of the many flaws, which he said, have occurred. He said the parliament has oversight on the country’s Independent Electoral Commission (INEC).
“We are supposed to ensure that INEC that is supposed to conduct the elections has conducted it the way they were supposed to do. And the same House has inaugurated a committee that was supposed to be briefing the House on a weekly basis. But the same Honorable Etteh, my leader and her group refused to allow the chairman of the committee to submit his report last week. And all we are saying, submit the report, tell the whole world what are your observations during the elections,” Aliyu said.
Etteh denied ruling party members refused to allow a parliamentary committee to report on the conduct of the election.
“No body is saying that the chairman should not present his case. All we are saying is that there is a procedure in the House of Representatives. If you want to present a report the first thing you should do is to lay the report in which every member will have an idea and have a copy of the report. Then we can debate it. But on that particular day that my opposition member is talking about, none of the members had copies of the report,” Etteh said.