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NASS reviews stance, backs Buhari on poll sequence


National Assembly

The National Assembly may have backed down from its stand on some amendments to the 2010 Electoral Act and resolved to uphold President Muhammadu Buhari’s objections to the review done in some sections of the law.

The Guardian learnt that the National Assembly, which had earlier threatened to overrule Buhari, has transmitted a new bill for his assent, after expunging all the provisions objected to by the president.

The transmission, according to a reliable source in the Senate, was done on June 25, 2018.

The legislature had been at loggerheads with President Buhari over the amendments to the Electoral Act, including the reordering of the sequence of the 2019 elections as proposed by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

Consequently, the president vetoed the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill 2018 sent to him by the lawmakers in February this year.

He cited three reasons for doing so, one of which was the new sequence of elections included in section 25(1).

The president claimed that the inserted section violated the provisions of Section 72 of the 1999 Constitution which empowers the INEC to fix dates of elections and see to its conduct in all ramifications.

Presenting a report on the new bill on the day of passage in the Senate last month, the Chairman of the Committee on Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Suleiman Nazif (APC: Bauchi North), declared to the lawmakers that it was re-introduced following the president’s resolution to withhold assent due to some observations.

He said Buhari faulted the amendment to the sequence of the elections in Section 25 of the principal Act, arguing that it might infringe on the constitutionally guaranteed discretion of INEC to organise, undertake and supervise all elections in Section 15 (a) of the Third Schedule of the Constitution.

According to him, the president also queried the amendment to Section 138 of the Principal Act, saying 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 was also faulted by Buhari, saying it might raise constitutional issues over the competence of the National Assembly to legislate over local government elections.

Nazif explained that it was on the basis of the observations that the committee resolved to:

• Delete Sections 25 and 152 (3)-(5) in the proposed bill;

• Retain Section 138 (c) and (d) as contained in the Principal Act;

• Further amend Section 49 by including a new subsection (3) which provides that “Where a smart card reader deployed for accreditation of voters fails to function in any unit and a new card reader is not deployed, the election in that unit shall be cancelled and another election shall be scheduled within 24 hours” and

• Amend Section 140 to include a new subsection (c) which states that “Where the election is postponed due to omission of a political party’s name or logo, the commission’s officer responsible for such printing of party names or logos commits an offence and is liable to a fine of Two Million Naira (N2, 000,000) or imprisonment for 2 years or both.”

Nazif affirmed that although INEC had then submitted its observations for consideration, the committee unanimously agreed to deliberate on them in subsequent amendment as the Senate and the House had already harmonised positions on the bill.

In the INEC timetable, the 2019 presidential and National Assembly elections are to hold first, followed by the governorship/state assembly/Federal Capital Territory area council elections.

But the lawmakers proposed the National Assembly election to hold first, followed by the gubernatorial and state assembly polls. The presidential election was scheduled to hold last.

With this development, the challenged sequence of the 2019 general elections, which put the presidential poll first, is reinstated as originally proposed by the presidency.

When signed into law, the bill will be known as 2018 Electoral Act with the provisions serving as guidelines for the conduct of the 2019 general elections by INEC.

Meanwhile, a group, Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ), has urged the National Assembly to intensify its efforts aimed at passing the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit Bill into law.

The group said the passage of the bill, and other related ones, would boost transparency, accountability and effective recovery and management of looted funds in the country.

In a statement yesterday in Abuja, ANEEJ argued that the parliament should prioritise Proceeds of Crime and Whistleblower Protection Bills for the sustainability of asset recovery and the anti-corruption drive.

It added that government and civil society should place more emphasis on preventing fresh looting of assets out of the country, rather than the current reactive regime in tracing and recovering looted money.

“One way to do this is to deepen budget and procurement transparency and accountability work at all levels of government. Repatriated fund should be invested in legacy projects.”

The statement further called on countries where money is hidden, to cooperate with Nigeria on issue of safe havens and deduction of costs of recovery, in order to speed the repatriation of such assets.

“The involvement of civil society in processes for recovery and management of looted money should be institutionalised, and be made an integral element of the ongoing legislative reforms,” it said.

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