The presidency and the national assembly still do not see eye to eye over the amendments made to the Electoral Act especially as it concerns the reordering of the election sequence.
Based on the amendments which the president has refused to sign, the national assembly elections are to hold first while the presidential poll is expected to hold last.
In a letter written to the lawmakers on Tuesday, Pres. Buhari gave three reasons for declining assent to the bill.
On Thursday, the legal department of the national assembly submitted legal advise to its leadership explaining why President Buhari’s reasons are not valid. Based on their submission, the lawmakers may move to override the president’s veto unless a political compromise is reached.
Below is the argument made by the National Assembly’s legal team:
“The President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria vetoed the 2018 Amendment of the Electoral Act of 2010 passed by the National Assembly in the exercise of its constitutional powers under Section 58(4 oi) Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended following reasons.
“Each of the legal and constitutional reasons advanced by the President as a basis for the veto were examined in details below.
“The President claims that the Amendment introducing a specific sequence for elections under Section 25 of the Principal Act 2010 infringed the discretion of the Independent National Electoral Commission to “organise, undertake and supervise elections.”
This argument is flawed because correct legal position is that by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 First Alteration Act 2010, Act No. 1, specifically, Section 5 provides that “Section 76 of the Principal Act is altered thus
“(a)subsection (1) in line 2, by inserting immediately after the word ’commission’ ’the words’ ’in accordance with the Electoral Act. “
“From the above amendment, it is crystal clear that the power to regulate the principal elements of all Federal Electoral process was expressed by the above amendment, removed from the Independent National Electoral Commission and vested in the Assembly (N.A) which has the power to make laws for peace, order and good government” of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and any part thereof.
“Furthermore, the phrases ‘organize, undertake & supervise’ elections under Section 15(a) of the 3″ Schedule to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, according to the President, allegedly infringed the discretion guaranteed” to lNEC by Section 25 of the of the Principal Act.
“The argument of the President that the sequencing of the elections under Section 25 infringed the discretion of INEC without expressly pointing out what specific aspects or ways and manner cannot be a basis for legal or constitutional argument or decision. With due respect, the opinion expressed is too general to establish a basis for the exercise of a legal or constitutional power, more so because “discretion” is a principle governed by the rules of Administrative Law and not that of Constitutional Law, on which the President claimed to have anchored his arguments.
“Thirdly, the terms “organise, undertake and supervise” may have conferred a wide discretion on lNEC in matters of all logistics in the preparation and conduct of elections, the issue of discretion only comes to fore in the actual details of the preparation, organizing and conducting elections.
”It is respectfully submitted that the sequencing of the elections in a Bill as to which was scheduled as first or last in the conduct does not in any way hamper or affect the discretion and capacity of INEC to organise, undertake and conduct these elections into various constitutional offices provided.
“The new subsection (3) introduced into Section 138 of the Electoral Act, which the President argued repealed two crucial grounds upon which elections could be challenged, is not entirely correct and the view could be misplaced for the following reason:
“The new Subsection (3) to section 138 actually clarifies the ambiguity contained in subsection 1 of the Principal Act and reinforces the constitutional standards specified in Sections 65, 106, 131 and 177 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999. In addition, it further provides that no person shall be qualified to contest elections in breach of any of the ‘Sections 66, 107, 137 or 182 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended.
“The amendment to Section 152 (3)-(5), which collectively imposed an obligation on the State independent Electoral Commissions to apply the standard of ‘free, fair and credible elections in the conduct of Local Government elections’ is within the competence of the National Assembly to make laws in respect of the procedure regulating elections into the Local Government Councils in accordance with item 11 (Eleven) of the Concurrent Legislative List of the 1999 Constitution as amended. What specific aspects or ways and manner cannot be a basis for legal or constitutional argument or decision.
“It is therefore not entirely correct, with all due respect, for the Mr. President to argue that the amendment may raise constitutional issues over the competence of the National Assembly to legislate on Local Government elections. The Supreme Court of Nigeria has decided on this issue in the famous case of Attorney General of Abia State & Ors v Attorney General of the Federation & Ors.”