Clear signs that President Muhammadu Buhari and other presidential candidates in the 2019 general elections will walk on tight rope emerged yesterday, with the rejigging of election timetable by the National Assembly Conference Committee on Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill.
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 assemblies before the presidential election.
This is against the earlier sequence rolled out by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) last year, putting presidential and National Assembly elections first before the governorship and state assembly elections.
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, put it to voice votes of the 12 members present to which they all shouted ayes.
He said the bill did not in anyway violate provisions of Section 76 of the 1999 Constitution, which empowered INEC to fix dates and conduct elections.
He said the words empowering INEC to that effect were duplicated in the bill just as powers conferred on the National Assembly by Section 4 Sub-section 2 of the Constitution were exercised in relation to rescheduling of elections.
“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 violated any provisions of the laws governing the operations of the electoral body,” he said.
Chairman of the House Committee on INEC, Edward Pwajok, 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.
“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 will know how to cross the bridge,” he said.
A member of the committee, Dino Melaye (APC Kogi West), said: “Contrary to reports and comments by some Nigerians on the reordered sequence of elections, the National Assembly has not overlapped its boundaries.”
The sequence of election adopted by the 8th National Assembly was earlier proposed by the 4th National Assembly in the 2002 Electoral Bill before it was amended by merging Presidential and National Assembly elections together.
Meanwhile, Buhari formally wrote to the National Assembly informing it of his rejection of three bills recently forwarded to him for assent.
In the letter dated January 25, 2018, and addressed to the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, but read by the Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, Buhari listed the rejected bills to include Police Procurement Fund (Establishment) Bill, 2017; Chartered Institute of Public Management of Nigeria Bill, 2017; and Nigerian Council for Social Work (Establishment) Bill, 2017.
Buhari wrote: “On Police Procurement Fund (Establishment) Bill, 2017, this due to lack of clarity regarding the manner of disbursement of funds, as well as constitutional issues regarding the powers of the National Assembly to appropriate funds allocated to the 36 state governments and 774 local governments, which conflict with Sections 80-82, and 120-122 of the 1999 Constitution as amended.
“On Chartered Institute of Public Management of Nigeria Bill, 2017, this is due to lack of clarity over the scope of the profession of ‘public management’ that this bill prohibits all persons who are not members of the institute from practicing.
“On the Nigerian Council for Social Work (Establishment) Bill, 2017, this is due to lack of clarity on the scope of the profession of ‘social work’ that this bill prohibits all persons who are not members of the Institute from practicing.”