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Saturday, 3 March 2018

Polls re-ordering: Senate backs Reps, to override Buhari’s veto

Polls re-ordering: Senate backs Reps, to override Buhari’s veto

Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki

The Senate has expressed its readiness to override President Muhammadu Buhari’s veto on the Electoral Act Amendment Bill, which seeks to re-order the sequence of the polls during general elections.

The upper chamber of the National Assembly disclosed its intention to exercise its veto powers should Buhari withdraw assent to the bill.

Earlier on Wednesday, the House of Representatives had said the lawmakers would not hesitate to override the President’s decision if he vetoed the bill. The lower chamber had stated that there was no going back on the bill, particularly the provision on the re-ordering of elections ahead of the 2019 polls.

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The Chairman of the House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Mr. Abdulrazak Namdas, told our reporter that members would not change their minds on the Electoral Act as amended, stating that the National Assembly expected Buhari to append his signature to the bill.

He had said, “We are serious about this issue and we are not ready to reverse it. For now, the bill has gone to Mr. President and we are waiting for his response. If his response is that he won’t sign, we are ready to override his veto.

“I can assure you that in both chambers of the National Assembly, we will get the required two-thirds majority to override the veto.”

Confirming the uniformity of the choice by the two chambers, the Deputy Chairman of the Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Ben Murray-Bruce, who spoke to our reporter on Friday, stated that the lawmakers were set to override the President on the bill.

According to him, the position of the Independent National Electoral Commission on the amendment was “irrelevant” to the National Assembly and its legislative functions.

Murray-Bruce said, “If you understand the principle of separation of powers, you will see that is not necessary. We make laws for the country. That is our job, to make laws. We make the law and they obey it. It is non-negotiable.

We make laws for the country and everybody including the executive must obey the laws we make. It is not for them to decide which laws to obey or which ones to accept or not.

“If the bill is not signed within 30 days, then we will override it. It is not important if the President signs it or not. Once it is 30 days, we will override it. It is irrelevant. They have just 30 days. If he vetoes it in 30 days, we will override him.”

A controversial new Section 25 introduced into the Act changed the sequence of elections by making the National Assembly elections to come first, followed by the governorship and state House of Assembly elections, while the presidential poll will now come last.

The amendment had passed in both the Senate and the House and the bill is now awaiting Buhari’s assent.

However, in the elections timetable already released by INEC before the amendment was passed, the presidential election was fixed to come first.

Only on Monday, the Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, had said that the commission would stick to its timetable and not the reversed one by the National Assembly.

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