Nigeria: Election Sequence Latest - Reps Fault Buhari, Vow to Resubmit Bill

President Muhammadu Buhari.
15 March 2018

After a presidential veto, the House of Representatives has resolved to rework the Bill on reordering of elections and re-present it to President Muhammadu Buhari for assent.

The president withheld assent to the amendment passed by the National Assembly last month which, among others, changed the sequence of elections in the country.

The legislators made their own elections to come first, the governorship and state assembly second and made the presidential election to come last.

The president Tuesday vetoed the Bill for three constitutional reasons. Yesterday at plenary the House agreed he was right on two grounds but wrong on the sequence of election.

House spokesman, Abdulrazak Namdas, said during a press briefing in Abuja yesterday they agreed with the president that the National Assembly has no powers to legislate for local governments and that the deletion of two grounds upon which an election may be challenged by candidates unduly limits the rights of candidates in elections.

However, Namdas said they disagreed with the president on his reason that changing elections sequence of elections would affect the constitutional rights of Nigeria's electoral umpire.

He said Sections 76 of the constitution and section 4 of the Legislative Privileges Act give the National Assembly powers to determine elections sequence.

He said they would expunge areas that they agreed with the president and retain the one they did not agree with him.

"The bill will be gazetted once again, presented for first, second and third readings before we'll send it to the president for his assent.

"As a responsible Parliament, we've agreed with two of the three reasons given by the president. We agreed with the first one that the amendment of Section 138 of the principal Act to delete two crucial grounds upon which an election may be challenged by candidates unduly limits the rights of candidates in elections to a free and fair electoral review process.

"We have also agreed with the reason advanced that the amendment of Section 152 of the principal Act, which raises constitutional issues over the competence of the National Assembly to legislate over local government elections. We know that we don't have the power to act on that.

"However, we're in disagreement with the president over his first reason, which states that sequence of election in Section 25 of the principal Act may infringe on the constitutionally guaranteed discretion of INEC to organize, undertake and supervise all elections provided in Section 15 (a) to the third schedule of the constitution.

"Our reasons of disagreeing on this matter are that if you look at Section 4 of the Legislative Powers Act, item 22 states: 'The National Assembly has powers over elections to the offices of president and vice president, or governor and deputy governor and any other office to which a person may be elected under this constitution, excluding elections into a local government council or any office in such council.'

"Again, if you go to Section 76 of the constitution, it states that: 'Elections to each House of the National Assembly shall be held on a date to be appointed by the Independent National Electoral Commission.' However, there is a clause: In accordance with the Electoral Act."

He, however, said that the House is in the process of overriding the president on 10 bills, excluding the Electoral Act.

The 10 bills are the Peace Corps Bill; Bill for Chartered Institute of Treasury Management Bill; Nigeria Council for Social Works Bill; Currency Conversion Bill; Police Procurement Fund Bill; Environmental Health Officers Registration Bill and Chartered Institute of Loan and Risk Management in Nigeria.

Others are Chartered Institute of Public Management Bill; Chartered Institute of Export and Community Brokers Bill and the Federal University, Wukari Bill.

Court stops further action on Electoral Act

A Federal High Court in Abuja has restrained the National Assembly from acting further on the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill, 2018 wherein it changed the sequence of elections.

Justice Ahmed Mohammed in a ruling yesterday ordered all the parties to maintain the status quo until Tuesday when the case will be heard in court.

The judge referred to Section 6(6) of the 1999 Constitution, which empowers the court to protect the cause of action.

The judge directed service of hearing notice on the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister for Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN).

Earlier, counsel to Accord Party, Wole Olanipekun (SAN) told the court that the processes have been served since March 12, explaining that he is ready to go on with the matter.

However, counsel to the National Assembly, Chinelo Ogbazor opposed the submission saying the case is not ripe for hearing.

But counsel to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)Taminu Inuwa did not oppose the hearing of the suit.

Olanipekun said he will not oppose the adjournment provided the National Assembly gives an undertaken not to tamper with the cause of action.

Accord Party is asking for an interlocutory injunction restraining the president from assenting to the Electoral Act amendment bill, 2018 as passed by the National Assembly, pending the determination of the case.

It further sought an order of interlocutory injunction restraining the National Assembly from taking any further action to override the presidential veto until the case is heard.

The party raised eight issues for determination by the court, including thus:

"Having regards to the combined provisions of sections 79,116,118,132,153,160(1) and 178 of the 1999 constitution as amended, the constitution read together with paragraph 15(a) of the third schedule to the same constitution, whether the 3rd defendant ( Independent National Electoral Commission) is not the only institution or body constitutionally vested with the powers and vires to organized, undertake and supervised elections to the offices of the president, the vice president of the federal republic of Nigeria, the Governor and deputy governor of a state, the membership of the Senate, the House of Representatives and the House of Assembly of each state of the federation, including fixing the sequence and dates of the elections to the said offices."

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