The Bill to reorder the sequence of the 2019 general elections, proposed after a presidential veto on an earlier one, suffered a set back in the Senate.
This followed the debate on the bill which sought to further improve the electoral process as presented by the Chairman, Senate Committee on Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Sen. Suleiman Nazif at plenary on Wednesday.
Both the Senate and the House of Representatives had in the 2010 Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill 2018 passed in February, “proposed a new sequence of elections in 2019.
The amendment placed the National Assembly election first, followed by State Houses of Assembly/ Governorship elections and Presidential election last.
But President Muhammadu Buhari vetoed the bill in March.
The President, in declining his assent to the bill said the inserted section in the Electoral Act violated the provisions of section 72 of the 1999 Constitution which empowered INEC to fix dates of elections and see to its conduct in all ramifications.
In his lead debate on Wednesday, Nazif disclosed that the new reordered sequence of elections would start with Governorship/State Houses of Assembly elections, followed by the National Assembly election and Presidential election last.
Contributing, Sen. Kabiru Marafa (APC Zamfara) in said the bill will further divide the Senate.
“It is unnecessary and we should not go to that. I don’t want us to finish the way we started,” he said.
Similarly, Senate Minority Leader, Sen. Godswill Akpabio said: “when we initially did the first one that the President sent to us, I believe strongly that the National assembly has the powers to fix sequence of election in the law as opposed to dates, all the judgments so far have talked about dates’’.
““INEC has the rights to fix dates for election but in terms of sequence of election, I believe we can legislate on it.
“”But my disagreement with the Bill is that we cannot probate and reprobate, as a Senate we are distinguished people and we must not speak with both sides of our mouth.
“”The sequence that is proposed here is such that not only has it taken us backwards, it shows that we look confused,” Akpabio said.
Also, the Chief Whip of the Senate, Sen. Olushola Adeyeye, kicked against the bill by describing it as unconstitutional.
“”As Vice Chairman of Senate Committee on INEC, I state categorically that I totally oppose this bill.
“”There cannot be sequence of elections unless there are dates. And if INEC is given the prerogative to choose and INEC chooses to put one day before the other, let us leave things as they are.
““INEC in the past chose their date and INEC in the 8th National Assembly must be given the respect again to choose their date. Anything else in my opinion is legislative rascality,” Adeyeye said.
In his remarks, the Deputy President of the Senate, Mr Ike Ekweremadu, who presided said it was important for all Senators “”to be on the same page in matters such as this.
“”We passed the Electoral Act and then we sent it to the President, the President returned that Bill with a number of observations.
“” One of the observations he made was in respect of order of election, he also made observation with regards to local government elections which the National Assembly was given power under that Bill to make laws.
“”The President has made observations in respect of some aspects of that Bill, he did not say that the Bill we passed was entirely useless.
“”To save those noble provisions in the Electoral Act, it is important that we remove all those areas that the President had objected to and pass the remaining items as a separate Bill and send it back to him.
“”Then we can now deal with the issues where he has issues as a separate Bill altogether, then we either defeat it or have it succeed.
“”If it succeeds, we send it to the President, he decides what to do, if he brings it back, we also decide what to do.
“”We need to clean up that Bill so that we will be able to save all those provisions that were already made in the elaborate bill,” Ekweremadu said.