Buhari, National Assembly head for showdown

Buhari, National Assembly head for showdown

•President rejects Electoral Act amendment

•He’ll hear from us –Senate

Fred Itua, Abuja

The Executive and the Legislature may be heading for another major showdown following the decision of President Muhammadu Buhari to decline Presidential Assent to the Electoral Amendment Bill 2018.

In a letter addressed to the President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, Buhari revealed that he vetoed the amendment bill on the March 3.

    This came one month after both chambers of the National Assembly passed an amendment reordering the order of elections.

President Buhari while formally rejecting the proposal listed three reasons why he is opposed to the new election arrangements.

It was, however, learnt that Buhari did not return the rejected bill alongside the covering letter, which was read on the floor of the Senate.

But confirming the looming face-off, a senator who spoke on condition of anonymity, said since there was no aspect of the Senate Standing Rules which makes it impossible to override the veto of the president if he failed to return a rejected bill, the Senate is likely to veto the president.

The Senate passed the amendment bill on February 14.

The House of Representatives, had in its amendments to the 2010 Electoral Act, included section 25(1) into the Act by reordering the sequence of the elections to start from that of the National Assembly, followed by governorship  and  state Assembly elections before the presidential election, as against earlier sequence rolled out by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) last year.

The INEC sequence had put presidential and National Assembly elections before that of  governorship and Houses Assembly elections.

Buhari, in the letter read on the floor of the Senate, said: “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.

“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(3)-(5) of the Principal Act may raise constitutional issues over the competence of the National Assembly to legislate over local government elections.

“Please accept Distinguished Senators, the assurances of my highest consideration.”

Before the letter was read by Saraki, the Senate had a closed door session which lasted for 30 minutes.

It was gathered that lawmakers extensively discussed the next line of action. It was learnt that lawmakers did not express any surprise, since it was certain that President Buhari was going to reject the amendment bill.

During the closed-door discussion, no resolution was taken. Instead, senators resolved to consult widely before taking their next line of action.

Briefing newsmen after plenary, Senate spokesman, Aliu Sabi Abdullahi, said there was nothing strange about the action of the president.

Abdullahi declined to make a category statement on Senate’s next line of action.

He said like other bills rejected by the president, the Senate will look at the reasons stated by Buhari and come up with an official position.

A senator from Edo State, Clifford Ordia, also did not reveal what the Senate will do next. Instead, he said the Red Chamber would do what is in the best interest of Nigerians.

“We will look at the reasons stated by the president and why he decided to veto the bill. One thing I can assure you is that we will take a decision that is in the best interest of Nigeria and Nigerians,” he said.

Senator Gilbert Nnaji from Enugu State said it was unfortunate that the president had to withdhold assent to the amendment. 

“But all I can say is that the Senate has a way of resolving it with the executive.

“At least as a body of representatives, we will certainly consult widely in order to be on the same page with our constituents so that in the end we will be seen to have done what will augur well for the country in the long run. It may not degenerate to unnecessary face-off. Not at all! But in the meantime, we look up to the Senate leadership for guidance,” he said.

Senator Eyinnaya Abaribe also assured that the Senate would do the needful soon.

“As a parliament, we believe that what we have done is in the best interest of Nigeria and Nigerians. We will see what happens,” he said.

The controversy surrounding the reordering of election sequence has not gone down well with lawmakers. Senator Ovie Omo-Agege is currently facing the Senate committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions over statements credited to him.

Nine others- Abdullahi Adamu, Abu Ibrahim, Benjamin Uwajumogu, Ali Wakil, Abdullahi Gumel, Binta Masi, Yahaya Abdullahi, Andrew Uchendu and Umaru Kurfi, are facing similar probes over their comments regarding the reordering of election sequence.

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