*Insists only INEC can change polls timetable
*You’ll hear from us – Senators
By Ignatius Okorocha
President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to give his assent to the amendment of the 2010 Electoral Act by the National Assembly where the two chambers altered the sequence for the 2019 general elections.
In the alteration to the principal Act, the House of Representatives and the Senate fixed the National Assembly election before the presidential poll against the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) timetable that puts the presidential election before the NASS.
Buhari said that he was opposed to the arrangement by the legislature because INEC was constitutionally vested with the power to fix the sequence of elections.
The President added that if he accepted the NASS proposal, it would erode the ability of INEC to conduct free, fair and credible elections.
But some Senators, who commented on Buhari’s action on Tuesday, said that the battle line had been drawn. They said that at the appropriate time, the president would hear from them.
Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe said that “as a Senate, we shall do the needful at the appripriate time because we believe in what we have done and we stand by it”.
Some political pundits said last night that the stage appeared set for a titanic battle between the Presidency and the Legislature.
In a letter he wrote to the two chambers of the National Assembly, which the leadership read on the floors of the NASS yesterday, on the recent amendment effected to some sections of the Electoral Act, by the National Assembly, Buhari said that he would not assent to the amended Electoral Act as presented to him by the lawmakers.
The AUTHORITY recalls that the pro-Buhari Senators led by former governor of Nasarawa State, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, had on February 14, 2018 rose against the passage of the National Assembly Conference Report on the amendment of the Electoral Act on the sequence and timetable of the 2019 general elections.
They alleged that the amendment was targeted at Buhari’s chances of winning next year’s presidential election.
INEC followed suit by releasing a 36-year election timetable and insisted that nothing had been changed by the lawmakers’ re-arrangement of election sequence.
The commission, however, said that it would review the arrangement if the President assented to the amended bill.
Buhari, in the letter addressed to Senate President, Abubakar Bukola Saraki, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, informed the lawmakers of his displeasure with the amendment effected on Sections 25 of the Principal Act,15(A), 38 and 152 sub-section 325 of the Electoral Act amended by the National Assembly.
The letter read in part: “Pursuant to Section 58 (4) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), I hereby convey to the Senate, my decision, on 3rd March, 2018, to decline presidential assent to the Electoral Amendment Bill 2018 recently passed by the National Assembly.
“Some of my reasons include the following: The amendment to the sequence of elections in Section 25 of the principal Act, may infringe upon the constitutionally guaranteed discretion of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to organise, undertake and supervise elections provided in Section 15(A) of the third statue to the Constitution;
“The amendment to 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;
“The amendment to Section 152 sub-section 325 of the principal Act may raise constitutional issues over the competence of the National Assembly to legislate over local government elections.”
And fielding questions from Senate Correspondents after plenary yesterday on its next line of action, the Upper House spokesman, Senator Abdullahi Aliyu Sab, declined comment on the matter.
He simply said that the Upper House was yet to take a decision on the matter.
The resolution of the National Assembly on the Electoral Act amendment was anchored on the Report of the Conference Committee of the two chambers that hinged on a Bill For An Act 2015 To Provide For A Time Line For Submission of List of Candidates; Sequence of Elections, And Political Party Primaries; Use of Technological Devices; Limit of Campaign Expenses; Address The Omission of Names of Candidates Or Logos of Political Parties; And For Other Related Matters, 2018.
The passage of the Conference Report which was sequel to its presentation by the Senate Committee Chairman, Senator Suleiman Nazif Gama( Bauchi North) witnessed some dissenting voices calling for the rejection of the report based on some sections of the Electoral Act they felt were antagonistic to Buhari’s presidential ambition.