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The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to begin the process of conducting fresh election in the affected lawmakers’ constituencies where People’s Democratic Party lawmakers defected for All Progressives Congress.
37 lawmakers of had defected from the ruling Peoples Democratic Party to the All Progressives Party on Wednesday, the Presidency has asked INEC to declare the seats of the 37 lawmakers vacant .
Special Adviser to the President on Political Matters, Mr. Ahmed Gulak, said this in an exclusive interview with Saturday PUNCH on Thursday.
The development increased the numerical strength of the APC from 135 to 172 therefore making it the party with a simple majority in the House as the PDP now has 171 members.
Wednesday’s mass defection of the lawmakers further fuelled speculations that with the lower house in the hands of the opposition, lawmakers may begin impeachment moves against President Goodluck Jonathan.
But Gulak said the President was not losing sleep because he had not committed any offence.
“We have asked the Speaker and INEC to declare the seats of the lawmakers vacant. Anyone that wants to remain in the House should face the electorate and contest on the platform of their new party,’’ Gulak said.
He added that the President was not afraid of impeachment. “He is not scared because he has not committed any impeachable offence,” he declared.
He said what happened on the floor of the House of Representatives on Wednesday was just a case of lawmakers following their state governors who had earlier defected.
He said since INEC had taken a position that there was no division in the ruling party, “so the next step for the commission is to declare the seats of the defected lawmakers vacant and conduct fresh elections to replace them.’’
He said, “There is no division in the PDP and you are aware that INEC has given a verdict to that effect.
“The next step therefore is for the commission and the Speaker to declare the seats of the defected lawmakers vacant to pave the way for INEC to conduct fresh elections for their constituents to elect their replacements.
“Since there is still one year to go, INEC should prepare for elections.”
The presidential aide said the affected lawmakers should simply go and re-contest on the platform of their new party if they were desirous of remaining in the House of Representatives.
He said the Presidency’s position is that nobody should be forced to remain where he does not want to be.
When asked whether Jonathan is reaching out to the leadership of the House of Representatives on the development, Gulak said the President was in constant contact with the leadership of the National Assembly at the party level.
But in a swift reaction, the defected lawmakers said any attempt to declare their seats vacant would amount to the Presidency promoting rule of impunity. They also said INEC could not declare their seats vacant.
The defected lawmakers referred the Presidency to the court ruling on the matter.
Speaking on behalf of the defectors, Mr. Zakari Mohammed, said the “opinion” of the Presidency could not be superior to the ruling of the court.
He said, “Can their opinion supersede the court’s ruling? What they are trying to do is an attempt to promote the rule of impunity, which will fail. This was a party (PDP) that had control of the majority in the House and you allowed it to slip away. Now, you are complaining.”
An Abuja court had a few weeks ago ruled that the seats of the lawmakers could not be declared vacant.
Meanwhile, the Senate on Thursday said the letter of the former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, to Jonathan was not worth discussing even as a chieftain of APC said the former president’s daughter’s purported letter to her father was a distraction.
The Senate also said calls for the impeachment of President Jonathan based on the contents of the said letter were “utter rubbish.”
Senate spokesman, Eyinnaya Abaribe, said in an interview with Saturday PUNCH in Abuja on Thursday that the Senate had no business discussing Obasanjo’s letter since it was not addressed to it.
He said the upper legislative chamber would not be dragged into a communication between Obasanjo and Jonathan.
However, a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress, Mr. Rotimi Fashakin, has described Senator Iyabo Obasanjo’s purported letter to her father as a distraction.
Fashakin, who was the National Publicity Secretary of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change, said in a separate telephone interview with Saturday PUNCH, on Thursday that Iyabo’s letter did not detract from the issues raised by ex-President Obasanjo in his letter to President Jonathan.
Fashakin said whatever Senator Obasanjo had against her father was a family affair which had no bearing on the growth and development of Nigeria.
He equally wondered whether Nigerians were being railroaded into taking the younger Obasanjo’s letter as President Jonathan’s response to the former president’s letter.
Fashakin said, “Should we now take the letter from Iyabo Obasanjo to her father as the response from the President?
“Because, the coincidence is too much, telling us that Obasanjo is not a good father, what has that got to do with our progress as a nation?
“That is at best the business of the Obasanjo family. What Iyabo has written and what Obasanjo has written are two different things.
“(Olusegun) Obasanjo opened a can of worms, is it true that the President has trained or is training 1,000 snipers in North Korea? Because he said it was the same place Abacha trained his own.
“There is no need trying to dance around these issues, let us know the truth. Let us know whether when we go for campaigns now those snipers will begin their work.
“Those are the things we are interested in, not the Presidency using Iyabo Obasanjo to distract us. Does her letter detract from what Obasanjo said in his letter?”
He said at best Iyabo’s letter only told Nigerians that Obasanjo was a bad father and a bad family man.
He accused the Jonathan administration of trying to use “this distraction” to shift public attention from the issues raised in Obasanjo’s letter.
Fashakin also demanded that government should explain to Nigerians the real reasons behind its decision to free Major Hamza Al-Mustapha from jail.
He expressed fears that political campaigns might become dangerous gatherings to attend if indeed there were trained snipers on the prowl.
The party chieftain maintained that what Nigerians expect from the President is for him to address all the issues raised by ex-president Obasanjo in his open letter.
Meanwhile, none of the senators elected on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party has formally defected to the APC. Hence, PDP is still the majority party in the Senate with 73 PDP senators against 53 APC, three LP and one APGA.
Also, the House of Representatives has said it will not debate calls for the impeachment of President Jonathan because the matter was not before the House.
It stated that “calls for the impeachment of the President” were opinions expressed by persons outside the House.
The Deputy Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Mr. Victor Ogene, explained that the legislature had a procedure for conducting its business, adding that in the case of the impeachment calls, the House had not been informed or approached.
“As a House, we respond to issues that are before us, not calls by people outside. Issues come to the House by way of motions, bills and petitions. We don’t have any of such concerning impeachment before us for now,” Ogene added.
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