Senate, Lawmakers Panic As President Buhari Rejects Polls Bill

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There was anxiety in the Senate and the House of Representatives yesterday following President Muhammadu Buhari’s rejection of the bill on the reordering of the 2019 election sequence.

Buhari, in a March 8, 2018 letter written to both chambers of the National Assembly, said the amendments by the lawmakers were in conflict with existing laws.

The presidential letter entitled “Presidential decision to withhold assent to the Electoral Amendment Bill 2018” reads: “Pursuant to Section 58(4) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), I hereby convey to the Senate my decision on 3rd March 2018 to decline Presidential Assent to the Electoral Amendment Bill 2018 recently passed by the National Assembly.

“Some of my reasons include the following:

“A.The amendment to the sequence of elections in Section 25 of the principal act may infringe upon the constitutionally guaranteed discretion of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to organise, undertake and supervise elections provided in Section 15(A) of the third statue to the Constitution;

“B.The amend to Section 138 of the principal act 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;

“C. The amendment to Section 152(3)-(5) of the Principal Act may raise Constitutional issues over the competence of the National Assembly to legislate over local government elections.”

President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, read the letter on the floor of the upper chamber on Tuesday. Thereafter, there were no comments.

At the House of Representatives, the Speaker, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, read the letter to lawmakers, there were also no comments.

While the Peoples Democratic Party Caucus and some APC members loyal to the President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, are supporting the amendment, some APC senators loyal to Buhari are against it.

Briefing journalists after the plenary, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Aliyu Sabi-Abdullahi, said the lawmakers would decide on the step to take on the veto later.

“What we have here is a letter coming back to us. It has been read and it is going to be approved tomorrow (Wednesday) in our Votes and Proceedings. And when it is approved, subsequently if there is going to be any action, I am sure we will let you know what the action will be. I will leave it at that,” he said.

The Senate’s spokesman, however, said he did not know what the step would be when he was asked. He stated that the Senate and the House of Representatives would study the issues raised by Buhari and concur on their positions on them.

He said, “If I am speaking on behalf of the Senate and the Senate has not discussed an issue, is it fair for me to speak on it? Things are done through processes and procedures, and there are norms and conventions of the parliament.

“Yes, the letter has been read and, definitely, this is not the first time a letter from Mr. President would be read. It is just the same normal communication from Mr. President. All communications from Mr. President will definitely go through the same legislative process, which means that we have received it now and it is for us to look at it.

“It is going to receive attention. Senators and members of the House of Representatives will begin to look at it because it is a document that is coming back to the National Assembly.”

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