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Saturday, 3 February 2018

Executive, NASS can’t dictate election order to INEC – Lawyers

Executive, NASS can’t dictate election order to INEC – Lawyers

Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mike Ozekhome

Senior lawyers said on Friday that neither the Presidency nor National Assembly can dictate to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on the order in which next year’s general elections should hold.

According to them, INEC can only act based on the Electoral Act 2010 and its guidelines without recourse to the two arms of government.

The lawyers, however, said the National Assembly can alter the elections order by an amendment order of the enabling law.

While the Presidency is in favour of INEC conducting the presidential elections first, the lawmakers want theirs to come before the presidential election.

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A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Chief Mike Ozekhome, said the National Assembly can alter the order of the election through an amendment of the Electoral Act.

“What the National Assembly is not allowed to do is to change this law less than six months to any election. We still have 14 months before the election, so they can amend the law to change the order.

“But, beyond it, it is more responsible and more politically correct to put lesser elections first before the biggest election. The little masquerade first dances in the village square before the biggest of them all comes out.

“It will have a negative effect if you hold the presidential election first before others. Others like governors or senators would want to go where the president had gone so that they would not be in opposition.

“Not only that, the person who has won the presidency can decide to muscle others and remove those they don’t want within one week. So, let the small elections come first, which will make the presidential candidate to lobby, work very hard and go down to the remotest parts of Nigeria to campaign, because he cannot take anything for granted.

“So I think the National Assembly is right in terms of political correctness and morality,” Ozekhome said.

Former chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Lagos Branch, Mr. Martin Ogunleye, said INEC is empowered to act independent of executive and the National Assembly.

“The term “independent” in the name of INEC supposes that the Commission ought to be independent of and from external influence. Neither the executive nor the legislature ought to interfere in the time-table,” he said.

The President of Crusade for Justice, Mr. Richard Nwankwo, said based on the Electoral Act as amended, the power to determine the sequence of an election is vested in INEC.

However, he said the lawmakers reserve the right to amend the Electoral Act which would leave INEC with no choice.

“If the National Assembly tinkers with the enabling law and provides the sequence of election, then INEC’s hands would be tied, even though people would look at it as the lawmakers taking undue advantage of their position.

“But, that does not detract from National Assembly’s powers to make such laws. Whether it is morally or politically right is not the issue. What is in issue is whether the National Assembly has the power to tinker with the law, and that is beyond contention,” Nwakwo said.

Lagos lawyer, Mr. Tope Alabi, said neither the Presidency nor the National Assembly can impose anything on INEC except through the Electoral Act’s amendment.

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