Politics Today: House of Reps Reintroduce Election Sequence Bill

Politics Today: House of Reps Reintroduce Election Sequence Bill
 House of Reps Reintroduce Election Sequence Bill 

The House of Representatives has reintroduced the bill to reorder the sequence of elections in the country.

The bill brought by Kingsley Chinda titled, ‘Electoral Act (Amendment Bill, 2018 HB 1482),’ was presented on Thursday, and passed first reading.

The presentation came just as Sulaimon Lasun, Deputy Speaker of the House, drew the attention of his colleagues to a court ruling in favour of the National Assembly.

The court had ruled, in a suit challenging the lawmakers’ powers to make laws on elections sequence, that no one could prevent the legislature from making laws.

The National Assembly had earlier passed the Electoral Act Amendment Bill seeking to reorder the sequence of elections in the country.

By that amendment, the lawmakers sought to have the elections for the national and state legislature come first, before the presidential and governorship elections.

The bill was passed and transmitted to President Muhammadu Buhari, who wrote to inform the lawmakers that he would not sign the Electoral (Amendment) Bill 2018, citing inconsistencies with the 1999 constitution, as amended.

The president said his decision was pursuant to Section 58(4) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), saying that some of his reasons for withholding assent was “that the amendment to the sequence of the 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 all elections provided in Section 15(a) of the Third Schedule to the constitution.”

According to the president, “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 amendments to Section 152(3)-(5) of the Principal Act may raise constitutional issues over the competence of the National Assembly to legislate over local government elections.”

The president’s argument was contained in a letter dated March 8, 2018.

Upon receipt of the president’s letter, the House said it agreed with him over his reason that 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.

Also, the House said it agreed with the president’s reason that the amendments to Section 152(3)-(5) of the Principal Act, may raise constitutional issues over the competence of the National Assembly to legislate over local government elections.

However, it said that it disagreed with him on his reason that the amendment to the sequence of the elections in Section 25 of the Principal Act may infringe upon the constitutionally guaranteed discretion of the Independent National Electoral Commission to organise, undertake and supervise all elections provided in Section 15(a) of the Third Schedule to the constitution, averring that it was the duty of the legislature to make laws to guide the electoral body.

The House said that, by Section 4, Item 22, on legislative powers, the National Assembly had the powers over elections into the office of the president, vice president, governors, deputy governors, and any other officer elected under the 1999 constitution, excluding elections into local governments.

It noted that Section 76 stated that the elections should be conducted on a date appointed by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), in accordance with the Electoral Act.

It said it was true that INEC had the powers to schedule elections but argued that even at that it could not do it without an Act of Parliament.

It, therefore, assured that, “In view of this, we will re-gazette the Electoral Act and expunge those areas we are in agreement with the president and bring it back for first reading, debate, pass it and transmit again to the president for assent.”

Accordingly, the House came up with a new amendment on ‘A Bill for an Act to amend the provisions of the Electoral Act No 6, 2010, to further improve the electoral process and for related matters HB 1425’, which report it considered in a Committee of the Whole on Thursday and approved for passage.

The considered report on the bill sought to address the issue of the death of a candidate, which now holds that the political party in question shall conduct fresh primaries within ten days and forward the name of a new candidate to INEC to replace the deceased candidate.

The new amendment to the Electoral Act also cancelled the use of manual voting register, insisting that where the electronic card readers failed, elections in such places should be suspended and conducted within twenty-four hours.

The provision of the bill further protected what analysts referred to as ‘stolen mandates’, as it stated that if the election of a sitting official is quashed by a court, the fellow shall not be made to refund the salaries and allowances earned within the period of being in office.

The lawmakers, who unanimously voted in favour of this clause, said a fellow with a ‘stolen mandate’ did not force himself into the office but was somehow given a certificate of return, and had worked while in office.

The lawmakers also rejected the move for electronic voting, upholding what was on the Principal Act, as they were unanimous that the country was not ripe for electronic voting.

Independent

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