By Jide Ajani
The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, is now stalled in preparing a time-table for next yearâ€™s election following the power play between the Presidency and the National Assembly over the amended 1999 Constitution.
Not even a tentative time table has been prepared by INEC.
The reason, Sunday Vanguard gathered, is the continuing controversy over the effective date of the amended constitution.
The Commissionâ€™s national chairman, Professor Attahiru Jega and his federal commissioners are at a loss over how to handle the continuing power play between the National Assembly and the presidency over the amended 1999 Constitution.
Sources at INEC said Prof. Jega and his commissioners at the INEC headquarters, all through last week, â€œexpressed worry over how to handle the matter of what constitutes the existing Lawâ€.
â€œBecause of the lingering controversy over the matter of the amended 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic, the Commission can not proceed to do its workâ€, one source said.
â€œOne of the options to go for would have been to prepare two time tables to cater for the two positions but the problem with that is that unless you are sure of what you are doing it would be very difficult to even begin to plan for the elections.
â€œThe real issue is that with the amendment to the 1999 Constitution as passed by the National Assembly and the state houses of assembly, the new time lines for activities of the Commission before the May 29 handover date are such that elections must hold in January.Â Going by the old provisions of the 1999 Constitution, elections can hold in Aprilâ€, the source said.
Before his removal, immediate past national chairman of INEC, Professor Maurice Iwu released two tentative time tables to cater for a possible amendment to the constitution and another with the status quo.
According to Iwuâ€™s provisional time tables, should elections be held based on the 1999 Constitution pre amendment, they would be in this order::
National Assembly election:Â Â Â Â 9th April, 2011.
Governorship/State Assembly election:Â Â 16th April, 2011
Presidential Election:Â Â 23rd April, 2011.
If the amended version were to be used, the elections would run thus:
National Assembly elections:Â Â Â 8th January, 2011.
Governorship/State assembly elections:Â 15th January, 2011.
Presidential Election-Â 22nd January, 2011.
Even this provisional time table did not foresee the type of amendment to the Electoral Act which now vests the powers to fix the order of elections in the National Assembly and not the electoral commission.
In addition, the amended Electoral Act has altered and made provisions for how political parties would not hold their party primaries.
Sections 26 and 90 of the Electoral Act give a pointer
Section 26 reads:Â â€œElections into the offices of the President and Vice President, the governor and the deputy governor of a state and to the membership of the Senate and House of representatives and house of assembly of each state of the federation shall be held in the following order:
(a)Â Â Â Senate and House of Reps
(b)Â Â Presidential elections
(c)Â Â Â State house of assembly and governorship elections.
Section 90 (4) (a) says political party that adopts the system of indirect primaries in the choice of its candidates shall adopt the procedure below:
(a)Â Â Â In the case of nominations to the position of presidential candidate, a political party shall â€“
(i)Â Â Â Â Hold special convention in each of the 36 states of the federation and FCT where delegates shall vote for each of the aspirants at designated centres in each state capital on specified dates;
(ii)Â Â Â A national convention shall be held for the ratification of the candidate with the highest number of votes
Meanwhile, even as the funds for the voter registration exercise is released and the Electoral Act getting the presidential assent, the issue of what constitutes the Existing Law meant to guide INEC is yet to be determined.
The reason for this is because the legal framework for elections are represented by both the Electoral Act as passed and signed by President Jonathan and the 1999 Constitution â€“ either as amended or as the status quo stipulates.