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Friday, 16 February 2018

INEC gives condition on reversed election schedule

INEC gives condition on reversed election schedule

Chairman Professor Mahmood Yakubu

* ‘We’ll implement if president signs bill’

* Buhari’s support group slams NASS

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said it will implement the amended Electoral Act, if assented to by President Muhammadu Buhari.

INEC National Commissioner, Voter Education and Publicity, Solomon Soyebi, disclosed this when he appeared on a Lagos-based television programme, yesterday.

He spoke against the backdrop of Senate’s adoption of a conference committee report on the Electoral Act 2010 (Amendment) Bill, which successfully altered the sequence in which elections would be conducted, beginning from the 2019 general election.

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Presidential and National Assembly elections have always held (on the same day) before other polls, while governorship and Houses of Assembly elections follow.

But, senators and members of the House of Representatives have amended the sequence such that the National Assembly polls would be conducted first, followed by the state lawmakers, and the governors while the presidential election would take place last.

Asked if the amendment can be implemented by INEC in 2019, Soyebi replied: “Unfortunately, yes, if the amendment becomes a law now. If it is assented to by the president, it becomes law. We have no basis to disobey the law; we have to work within the law, as it is.”

The INEC national commissioner also reacted to speculations that the electoral body would file a legal suit to challenge the election reordering by the Senate. “There is no iota of truth in that.”

He said the commission operates within the ambit of the law, and noted that it would be difficult for the electoral body to challenge the law, when it is, in fact, bounded by it.

“Everybody has a role to play in the governance of Nigeria; ours is just to conduct elections and we have nothing to do with the making of the law. So, if the law is made today, we are just there to obey it,” he said.

Soyebi, however, said in some cases, INEC can challenge any frivolous court order if it feels unsatisfied with it, but not the law.

He, however, recommended that all elections should be conducted the same day, as it is in some developed countries, stressing that it can also be achieved in Nigeria.

According to him, INEC has realised that elections at the state level garner more interest and generate more violence, pointing out the polls in Rivers and Bayelsa states, as examples.

The national commissioner said it would be the first time the electoral body would conduct a three-layer election since 1999, as it has always been a two-tier election – national and state elections.
Senate was divided on Wednesday, after Senator Suleiman Nazif presented the conference committee report in the chamber.

Senator Abdulahi Adamu, from Nasarawa State, led some of his colleagues to rally against the new sequence of elections, on the premise that it was not debated in the chamber before adoption of the conference report on the amendment of section 25 (c) of the Electoral Act.

Thereafter, at a press conference after plenary, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege said the group has 59 members to force the chamber to rescind the decision.

The pro-Buhari senators said the new order of election was partisan and pre-determined by members of a political party who felt threatened by Buhari’s chances in 2019.

Meanwhile, in Enugu, the Buhari Support Organisation (BSO) has taken offence at the National Assembly’s re-arrangement of elections in 2019.

The BSO said the National Assembly reorder was not only unconstitutional, but mischievous and has asked the president not to assent to the amendment. They urged the president to veto the National Assembly’s exercise, so as to avoid the ‘booby traps’ being set for him.

State Publicity Secretary of the group, Chibueze Eze, in Enugu, yesterday, said the amendment infringes upon the constitutional powers vested on INEC by the 1999 Constitution, as amended.

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