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2019: Senate, Reps agree on order of elections

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…As NASS fixes Presidential election last
…Override of Presidential Veto looms
…As Saraki Knocks Buhari on Anti- Corruption War
By Henry Umoru
ABUJA – THE Senate yesterday finally adopted a reordered of sequence of elections by the National Assembly conference committee on electoral Act ( amendment) bill which places the Presidential as the last of the elections to be conducted in the country.

With this adoption of the amendment yesterday by the Senate, the National Assembly election is to hold first, followed by gubernatorial and state assembly polls.

Following this arrangement, it is a clear indication that President Muhammadu Buhari and other presidential candidates in the 2019 general election may be made to walk on tight rope to get elected.

It would be recalled that the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has on March 9th, 2017 announced the dates for the 2019 general elections, scheduling the Presidential and National Assembly elections first to hold February 16th, 2019 while the governorship and State Assembly elections will hold two weeks later n March 2nd, 2019.

Also recall that the House of Representatives committee on electoral act ( amendment) bill 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 election before the Presidential election, just as this was against the time table rolled out by INEC.

Meanwhile, the National Assembly has vowed that if the bill was not assented to by the President, it will surely use constitutional provisions at its disposal to make it see the light of the day for the overall interest of Nigeria and Nigerians.

The Senate in adopting the reordered sequence of election contained in the House of Representatives version of the amended electoral act, the Chairman of the committee, Senator Suleiman Nazif, APC Bauchi North, put it to voice votes of the twelve members present to which they all shouted ayes !

The House of Representatives has also maintained that both presidential and governorship candidates will now spend N5 billion and N1 Billion naira as expenses. House of Representatives.

In his remarks after the adoption of the new sequence of election, Senator Nazif who noted that the bill did not in anyway violate any provisions of section 76 of the 1999 constitution which empowers INEC to fix dates and conduct elections, said that the words empowering INEC to that effect were duplicated in the bill just as powers confers on the National Assembly by section 4 sub section 2 of the Constitution were exercised in relation to rescheduling of elections .

Senator Nazif said, “For the avoidance of doubt , this bill with the inclusion of section 25(1) which makes provision for sequence of election different from the one earlier rolled out by INEC has not in any way violates any provisions of the laws governing the operations of the electoral body.”

Also commenting , the Chairman of the House Committee on INEC, Hon Edward Pwajok who noted that what the House did concurred to, by the Senate was very necessary in giving credibility to the electoral process in the country, said, “The sequence of election provision in the bill is not targeted at anybody but aimed at further given credibility to the electoral process by way of giving the electorates the opportunity to vote based on individual qualities of candidates vying for National Assembly seat.”

According to him, if the bill is not assented to by the President, the lawmakers who based their decision on national interest before adopting it , will surely use constitutional provisions at their disposal to make it see the light of the day.

He said, “On whether it would be assented to or not by the President as far as we are concerned remains in the realm of conjuncture for now but if such eventually happens , we ‘ll know how to cross the bridge.”

Also contributing, a member of the Committee, Senator Dino Melaye, APC, Kogi West while making further clarification on the sequence of election, said that while date for election is the prerogative right of INEC, extant laws of the land gives schedules for such elections as sole responsibility of the National Assembly, adding, “So contrary to reports and comments by some Nigerians on the reordered sequence of election, National Assembly have not overlapped its boundaries “, he said.

Other members of the committee, Senators Shehu Sani ( APC Kaduna Central), Gilbert Nnaji ( PDP Enugu South), Abiodun Olujimi ( PDP Ekiti South), Peter Nwaoboshi ( PDP Delta North) etc, also commented in support of the reordered sequence of elections.

It would be recalled that the sequence of election now adopted by the 8th National Assembly was earlier proposed by the 4th National Assembly in the 2002 electoral bill before it was later amended by merging Presidential and National Assembly election together which has been the practice since then.

Also recall that the House amended section 25 of the Principal Act and substituted it with a new section 25 (1) and according to the section, the elections shall be held in the following order: (a) National Assembly election (b) State Houses of Assembly and Governorship elections (c) Presidential election.

Similarly, section 87 was amended by adding a new section 87 (11) with a marginal note “time for primaries of political parties”.

“The primaries of political parties shall follow the following sequence (i) State House of Assembly (ii) National Assembly (iii) Governorship, and (iv), President. “The dates for the above stated primaries shall not be held earlier than 120 days and not later than 90 days before the date of elections to the offices.”

The House also amended section 36 to allow running mate of candidate that dies before the conclusion of elections inherit his votes and continue with the process. Section 35 which states that if before an election, a candidate dies, he will be replaced by the next contestant with the highest vote was also amended.

The amendment indicated that if a nominated candidate died in the election process, the next person from the same political party with the second highest votes in the primary election should replace the deceased. It stated that the name of the new person should be submitted to INEC, which should accept such replacement as if the deceased was alive.

The House also made an increment in the limitation of election expenses to be incurred by candidates for presidential candidates from N1 billion to N5 billion. It raised the governorship bill from N200 million to N1 billion, while Senatorial and Representatives candidates’ expenses are not to exceed N100 million and N70 million, respectively.

For State Assembly and local government chairmanship elections, candidates’ expenses had been raised from N10 million to N30 million while councillorship candidates ceiling was raised from N1 million to N5 million. Similarly, individual contribution had been jacked up from N1 million to N10 million.

Meanwhile, Senate President Bukola Saraki yesterday took a swipe at the Anti- graft war of President Muhammadu Buhari as being carried out by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.

In his Facebook posting yesterday, Senate President Saraki who noted that he sympathized with the Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal CCT, Danladi Umar over what he was presently going through in the hands of the EFCC, said, “I sympathize with the Chairman of the Tribunal, Mr. Danladi Umar, for his travail in the hands of the EFCC which suddenly woke up 4 days to the resumption of this case to file criminal charges against him.

“You will recall that in April 2016, when our lawyers asked the Tribunal Chairman to recuse himself from our case, because of the criminal investigation against him, the EFCC swiftly cleared Mr. Umar of any wrongdoing.

“Now, I find it amusing, that in a dramatic turnaround, this same EFCC now thinks that Mr. Umar has a case to answer just before the commencement of my case before him. What has changed since April 2016?

“As much as many Nigerians want to continue to believe that this my case is merely about asset declaration irregularities, the maneuvers, manipulation, intrigues, schemes, and “House of Cards” nature of this whole case proves otherwise.

“I really wonder whether those who genuinely love this Government appreciate the damage that all this is doing to our so-called ‘War Against Corruption.’

“However, in all of this, my confidence in the judiciary and its ability to do justice in all cases, remains unshakeable.”

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