By Innocent Anaba
Mr Olisa Agbakoba, SAN, former President, Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Tuesday, expressed concern over plans by the National Assembly to amend the constitution to accommodate the extension of time sought by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, for the review of voters register and the conduct of next year’s elections.
Agbakoba in a statement, in Lagos, said, “the process to extend the time cycle for the 2011 elections has commenced at the National Assembly. This will require further amendment to the constitution. It is again vital to call attention to a very important issue.
Before the contemplated further amendment to the Constitution, to accommodate the extension of time requested by INEC to conduct the 2011 elections, it is vital that the validity of amending the constitution, without presidential assent is determined.
“Second, can the National Assembly “usurp” the power of INEC set out at the 3rd Schedule of the 1999 Constitution by enacting Section 25 of the Electoral Act, 2010 that prescribes the order of elections beginning with the President, Governors, and the National and State Assemblies?
“The third schedule of the Constitution empowers INEC to organise, undertake and supervise all elections into the offices of President and Vice President, Governor and Deputy Governor, the National and House of Assembly of States. It is an express constitutional power of INEC to order the sequence of Elections. It is not within the legislative competence of the National Assembly to encroach into the constitutional powers of INEC as Section 25 of the Electoral Act, 2010 purports.
“This matter bears close scrutiny. The Supreme Court in many cases has declared that INEC has unfettered power to conduct, organise and supervise elections. To set the order of precedence of elections as the National Assembly purports, is a usurpation of the constitutional functions of INEC.
Credible elections will not be possible without a valid Constitution and Electoral Act”, he added.