Barring any last minute change, the Nigerian Senate will on Tuesday, June 11, get new presiding officers: Senate President and Deputy Senate President.
The two officers, who will preside over the affairs of the upper legislative house for the next four years (if they are not removed from office) will be elected among the 109 senators.
On Thursday, President Muhammadu Buhari issued a proclamation for inauguration of the 9th National Assembly. That is, the four-year tenure of the 109 Senators-elect will commence on Tuesday.
Shortly after the inauguration, the lawmakers are expected to elect their presiding officers.
Currently, the race is between two Senators; Ahmed Lawan, who was the immediate past Leader of the 8th Senate and his predecessor, Ali Ndume.
Once the Senators-elect meet on Tuesday, the Clerk of the National Assembly is expected to read a proclamation for the holding of the first session of the Senate. Thereafter, he will proceed to the roll call in alphabetical order.
Each Senator-elect called will then present the writ of election and receipt for the declaration of the assets and liabilities.
Before taking the oath prescribed in the Seventh Schedule of the constitution, a senator may take part in the election of the Senate President and Deputy.
There are several stages before the winners emerge. This analysis is based on Senate standing orders 2015 (as amended).
How Senate President is elected
Stage 1 – eligibility
Not all the 109 Senators-elect are eligible to vie for the two coveted positions. The standing order defines eligibility in terms ranking of senators.
“Nomination of Senators to serve as Presiding Officers and appointments of Principal Officers and other Officers of the Senate or on any Parliamentary delegations shall be in accordance with the ranking of Senators in determining ranking, the following order shall apply
(I) Senators returning based on number of times re-elected;
(ii) Senators who had been members of the House of Representatives;
(iii) Senators elected as Senators for the first time.”
In other words, returning senators are given preference to contest for the seats of presiding officers.
Stage 2 – Nomination
The procedure for nomination is captured in Chapter 2, Section 2(a) of the standing order. It provides for a Senator-elect to nominate a qualified colleague for the position of Senate President.
“(a) A Senator-elect, addressing the Clerk, shall propose another Senator-elect to the Senate to be President of the Senate and shall move that such Senator-elect “Do take the chair of the Senate as President of the Senate.”
Stage 3 – Acceptance
The nomination is a necessary condition while acceptance of such remains a sufficient condition for a nominee to be eligible. Once nominated and seconded, a Senator-elect “shall inform the Senate whether he or she accepts the nomination. He may then proceed to address the Senate.”
Stage 4 – Victory if there is only one nominee
Procedure for declaration of a winner in the case of only one nominee is explicitly captured in Section 3 (c) of the order.
“(c) The Clerk shall then ask “Are there any further nominations?”, and if there are no further nominations, the Clerk shall say “I declare the nominations closed”. The Clerk shall then, declare the Senator-elect so proposed and seconded elected as President of the Senate. Such Senator-elect shall be conducted to the Chair by the proposer and seconder of the motion, and shall take the chair of the President of the Senate.”
Stage 5 – If there is more than one nominee
An election will not be conducted only if there is only one nominee. As it stands, two nominees are aiming to become the Senate President. If the situation remains so, the procedures below will be followed.
“(d) if more than one Senator-elect is proposed as President of the Senate, the Clerk shall after the .second nomination ask: “Are there any further nominations?”, and if there are no further nominations, the Clerk shall say, “I declare the nominations closed”.
“(e) when two or more Senators-elect are nominated and seconded as Senate President, the election shall be conducted as follows:
(I) by electronic voting,
(ii) Voting by secret ballot which shall be conducted by the Clerks-at-Table using the list of the Senators-elect of the Senate, who shall each be given a ballot paper to cast his vote, with the proposers and seconder as Teller.”
Stage 6 – Declaration of winner
Once the voting is complete, it is the responsibility of the Clerk to the National Assembly to declare the winner based on votes scored. The responsibility is stated in Chapter 3, Section (3) (iii) of the rules.
“The Clerk of the Senate shall submit the result of the voting to the Clerk of the National Assembly who shall then declare the Senator-elect who has received the highest number of votes as Senate President-elect.”
Stage 7 – what if there are more than two contenders?
If this happens, the nomination and acceptance will follow the same procedure adopted for two candidates and this will be followed by an election.
“(f) When more than two Senators-elect are nominated and seconded to be Senate President, the division shall be conducted in the manner prescribed in Order 3(3) (e)(ii) herein and the Senator-elect who has received the highest number of votes shall be declared the Senate President-elect. In the event of two or more Senators-elect receiving highest but equal number of votes, the name of the candidate having the smallest number of votes shalt be excluded from subsequent division‘s, a further division shall take place. This voting shalt continue until one candidate receives a simple majority of votes of the Senators-elect. Such a person will then be declared Senate President-elect.
“(g) At any time after the result of the first voting is declared, but before the commencement of a second or subsequent voting, a candidate may withdraw his name from the election, which shall then proceed as if such Senator-elect had never been nominated. Whenever at any stage a withdrawal leaves only one candidate remaining, such a candidate shall, without further voting, be declared as Senate President-elect.”
Election of Deputy Senate President
Chapter 2, Section 4 of the Senate standing order provides that the “procedure for the election of the Deputy Senate President shall be the same as that of the Senate President.”
What next after election?
Once elected, the Senate President-elect and Deputy Senate President-elect shall submit their assets and liabilities declaration and acknowledgement receipt and subsequently take and subscribe to the Oath of Allegiance and Oath of Membership as prescribed in the Constitution before the Clerk to the National Assembly.
After this, the Senate President will sit on the chair and the mace will be removed from lower bracket to the upper bracket.
Then, the newly elected presiding officer will perform his first duty.
“(7) Every Senator-elect shall, before taking his seat, submit his Certificate of Return to the Senate President, as well as his assets and liabilities declaration and acknowledgment receipt, and subsequently take and subscribe to the Oath/Affirmation of Allegiance and Oath of Membership prescribed in the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended.”