NASS Lacks Powers To Alter Election Time-table – Senator

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Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, Senate President
By; SUNDAY ODE, Abuja
Chairman, Senate Committee on Police Affairs, Senator, Abu Ibrahim,  has described as Illegal, the alteration of the 2019 election sequence by the National Assembly.
He contended that the order and manner in which elections should be conducted remained the prerogative of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Accordingly, he said the NASS had merely expressed it’s democratic right by the change it made,  which he noted was contradictory to constitutional provision, adding that the electoral umpire had fixed dates for the election which nobody could change.
Recall that INEC had scheduled the election sequence to have presidential and parliamentary elections come first and the State Assembly and governorship election last, but NASS through the instrumentality of the electoral act reversed the sequence last week to begin with National Assembly election and end with the presidential poll.
He said: “Actually, it has not created a problem, it is just democracy in action. First, the amendment of the sequence of the election was passed from the House. When we set for harmonisation, the House version was adopted. But those of us who are old in this chamber know that it was absolutely illegal. If you look at Section 72 of the constitution, it is clear that it is INEC that is mandated to fix date, already INEC has fixed date and nobody can change it.
“There was a legal case in 2003 during Obasanjo when the National Assembly passed a law to hold all elections in one day. That matter went to court because Obasanjo refused to sign it, they over ruled his veto by two-third, then INEC went to court.
“Court in its jurisdiction declared that nobody can interfere with INEC. That was upheld by court of appeal and we didn’t go to Supreme Court, so it stopped there. Therefore, that judgement is still subsisting that nobody can interfere with the functions of INEC in terms of fixing dates of elections.
“Now I learnt the committee erroneously used the aborted constitutional amendment which was made in 2014.
“I agree that was done, I was part of it, it went through everything but it was not signed into law. The amendment was sent to Jonathan to sign into law, it was a constitutional amendment then, I think Jonathan found some discrepancies, so he refused to sign it.
“Then we even brought another argument after all it was a constitutional amendment why shouldn’t the President sign, so we went Supreme Court. Unfortunately, it was late, election came, everybody was swept away. The National Assembly left, the State Assembly left, so, the constitution amendment was not implemented because it was not signed into law.
“Therefore, if the committee was using that amendment, it might have amended Section 72 of the constitution it is wrong because it was never amended and the constitutional amendment has not become law, so obviously, that amendment is illegal.”
Senator Ibrahim also noted that the manner in which the NASS had prescribed the order of the elections would make the process cumbersome and expensive to prosecute.
He said it would be in the interest of the lawmakers to differ to INEC on the matter and allow its decision to supersede.
“Unfortunately there is a lot of misconception. One, it is too costly. You cannot afford the elections, look at the amount of money that will be spent, where will you get that amount of money, what about the timing?
“Even it will expose some of our colleagues to danger. If you have a senator alone will contest the election, he must pay his agents, he must pay for security, he must pay for everything. And if he is afraid of his governor, his governor is now free to deal with him.
“Of course if he contest together with the president as put by INEC the presidential election, the security aspect even the funding will cover him up. So, obviously my colleagues have not thought much on this issue. But what is important, it is not legal at all,” he stated.
On the raging debate over whether President Muhammadu Buhari would seek re-election, he said: ” I think President Buhari has started a lot of good things for this country and he needs second term to continue to consolidate what he has achieved so far and I am in support.
“All the promises he has made, anti corruption, security, he has finished the Boko Haram although there are lingering security problems now which I am sure he is taking serious action to stop what is going on now. Killings in Zamfara which I read today, in Benue and so on and so forth. I am sure within few weeks, the issue will be over.”
On the clamour for restructuring and establishment of state police, the Senator said, “what I realised from my own investigation is that there is serious opposition on state police from the National Assembly and that is as a result of the relationship between some governors and their National Assembly members. They feel they are not handling local government elections democratically let alone if they have state police.
“So obviously if the governors want that portion to pass, they must have good relationship with the National Assembly members.”

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