THE senator representing Anambra North in the National Assembly Stella Oduah has defected from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and joined the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), about a month after she stayed away from the vote conducted by the Senate to decide on the inclusion of a provision for electronic transmission of election results in the Electoral Act.
Oduah, a former aviation minister, is currently facing a corruption charge alongside eight others before an Abuja Federal High Court in a suit numbered FHC/ABJ/CR/316/20.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), which filed the charge, accused Oduah of misappropriating public funds to the tune of N5 billion while serving as aviation minister.
Her defection to the APC was disclosed in a statement issued in Abuja on August 26 by the party’s National Director for Publicity Salisu Dambatta.
The statement titled ‘Senator Stella Oduah dumps PDP, joins APC’ said the senator was received at a brief ceremony in Abuja and admitted into her new party by the Chairman of the APC Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) Yobe State governor Mai Mala Buni.
The Chairman of the Progressive Governors’ Forum (PGF) the umbrella body of governors elected on the platform of the APC, Abubakar Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi State, Imo State governor Hope Uzodimma, the Deputy President of the Senate Ovie Omo-Agege and the APC candidate in the November 6 Anambra governorship election Andy Uba were all around to welcome Oduah to the ruling party.
The statement issued by the APC to announce the defection described Oduah as “the latest of high-profile members of the former ruling party who joined the APC recently”.
Oduah was congratulated for joining the APC by caretaker national chairman Buni.
“You will enjoy the privileges enjoyed by all members of the party because you will have a waiver,” Buni told Oduah at the reception.
Oduah, according to the statement, said she joined the APC in order to change the political narrative in the South-East, which is dominated by the PDP.
The senator claimed that she had defected to the APC along with her ‘multitude of supporters’ whom she said “have been jubilating in Anambra State” since the formalization of the defection.
* Oduah’s absence during vote on electronic transmission linked to pending corruption case
The Senate on July 15 passed the Electoral Act amendment bill with a controversial Section 52(3) which stated that the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) with the approval of the National Assembly, would determine whether the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) could transmit results electronically or not.
Initially, Section 52(3), in the report submitted by the Senate Committee on INEC had read: “The commission (INEC) may transmit results of elections by electronic means where and when practicable.”
But after 52 senators – comprising 50 from the APC and two from the PDP – voted give NCC and the National Assembly the powers to determine whether INEC can transmit election results electronically, Section 52(3) in the Electoral Act Amendment Bill passed by the Senate read: “INEC may consider electronic collation of results provided the national network coverage is adjudged to be adequate and secured by the Nigerian Communications Commission and approved by the National Assembly.”
Oduah was among a number of PDP senators that stayed away from the vote, despite the fact that the national leadership of the party (PDP) had instructed the party’s members in the National Assembly to support the inclusion of a provision for transmission of election results by electronic means in the Electoral Act.
Oduah’s absence on the day of the voting was even more conspicuous because she was a member of the Senate Committee on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
But, although Oduah later explained that she abstained from voting on the electronic transmission of election results because she did not want to reject the work (the INEC committee report) she was part of, her absence was linked to the ongoing corruption trial she was facing before the Abuja Federal High Court.
The court had on July 12, just three days before the vote on electronic transmission of election results came up at the Senate, threatened to issue a warrant of arrest against Oduah if she failed to appear in court on October 19, the next adjourned date in her trial.
The trial judge Justice Inyang Ekwo gave the warning after the EFCC counsel in the alleged N5 billion trial against Oduah told the court that the former minister was not in court to take her plea.
There were reports that Oduah’s absence during the vote on electronic transmission was a ploy to curry the favour of the ruling APC for a soft landing in the corruption trial.
The APC had taken a position against the inclusion of electronic transmission of election results in the Electoral Act and the absence of Oduah and some other PDP senators helped to ensure that INEC was not given express powers to transmit election results by electronic means in the Electoral Act Amendment Bill passed by the Senate on July 15.
In an earlier report, Oduah failed to respond when The ICIR sought reactions to the reports that her absence on the day the Senate voted on electronic transmission of results was connected to the pending corruption case.
Several calls to her mobile telephone were not answered. A Whatsapp message sent to her was also not replied after several days.