Senate Suspends Election Reorder Bill
The two chambers of the National Assembly, in different sitting of both chambers, have moved for the suspension of the controversial Election reordering bill.
The bills for an “Act to amend the provisions of the Electoral Act, 2010, to make provisions for sequence of elections in Nigeria and for related matters” was stepped down by the sponsors after it had been listed for second reading in both chambers.
The development raises questions on whether the National Assembly still has the determination to push through, with the piece of legislation that had generated controversies recently, and divided the legislature against the presidency.
The lawmakers had amended Section 25 of the Electoral Act, to change the order of 2019 general elections’ time table. In the initial version, the National Assembly election is to hold first, followed by gubernatorial, state assembly and presidential elections.
The amendment was feared to have the potential to weaken the president, if presidential poll is conducted last, instead of first, due to its bandwagon on other elections.
Both legislative chambers, had earlier started working to override the president’s veto, leading to intense lobbying by the presidency for the National Assembly to abandon the cause.
In the version of the bill presented Wednesday, the governorship elections were slated to be held first, followed by National Assembly and state Houses of Assembly next, and then Presidential polls.
The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Senator Sulaiman Nazif, presenting the new version, named “a Bill for an Act to amend the provisions of the Electoral Act No.6, 2010, to make provisions for sequence of elections in Nigeria.”
As he explained the new sequence, several senators were heard saying ‘No’.
Majority Leader, Senator Ahmed Lawan, opposed the bill, and urged the Senate not to tamper with INEC’s powers on election, on grounds that it would make elections more costly.
“We should not legislate on sequence, but rather, assist INEC to do its job,” he said.
Senator Olusola Adeyeye said INEC should be granted full autonomy to determine issues of elections.
“INEC before now chose dates, and should be allowed to do so. Anything after that is legislative rascality,” he said.
Senator Kabiru Marafa called for all polls to be conducted in one day.
Senator Dino Melaye disagreed that the attempt to create a sequence, was unconstitutional.
“There is a difference between dates and sequence, and the constitution empowers INEC to fix dates,” he said, adding that other issues can be subjected to legislation.
The Minority Leader, Senator Godswill Akpabio, argued that the lawmakers had the powers to legislate on order of elections, he however disagreed with the new order in the bill.
“My disagreement with this bill is that we cannot approbate and repprobate. As a Senate, we are distinguished people; we cannot speak with both sides of our mouth.”
“The sequence, as proposed here, is such that not only has it taken us backwards, it shows that we look confused. And if we are confused, let us go back to the status quo. It is on that note, without joining issues with anybody, that I stand opposed to this bill,” he said.
The session started to get rowdy as several senators verbally indicated their interest to contribute.
The debate was therefore stood down, to be continued on another legislative day.
The situation was also similar in the House of Representatives.
When the bill was mentioned for seconding, the lead sponsor, Hon. Edward Pwajok (APC, Plateau), said after due consultation with members, he had resolved to step down the bill- without further explanation.
Some members protested his decision on the bill which seven other members co-sponsored.
But, in a curious move, the Leader of the House, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, drew the attention of the House to the fact that he was erroneously listed among the sponsors of the bill, and demanded that his name be removed for record purposes.
“I want my name struck out from the bill.” Gbajabiamila said
Later, during a media briefing, House spokesman, Hon. Abdulrazaq Namdas, avoided further comments on the Electoral Act step down, stressing that it was the decision of the sponsor, who has the right to make such decision.