The two chambers of the National Assembly yesterday perfected the change of sequence in the conduct of the presidential, National Assembly and gubernatorial elections earlier released by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
This followed the adoption of a rescheduled serial arrangement as reordered by the National Assembly conference committee on the Electoral Act (amendment) Bill.
By the rescheduled sequence, the 2019 general election shall commence with that of the National Assembly, followed by governorship and state assemblies’ elections before the presidential poll.
The lawmakers insisted that election date is the prerogative right of INEC, while extant laws of the land gives schedules for such elections as the sole responsibility of the National Assembly.
On whether the president will assent to the Bill or not, the lawmakers said the amendment was adopted based on national interest and that if the bill is rejected by the executive, the National Assembly will surely employ constitutional provisions at its disposal to make it see the light of the day.
President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki had, a week ago, inaugurated a six-man committee of senators to reconcile the Senate’s version of the amended Electoral Act.
LEADERSHIP recalls that the lawmakers in the lower chamber had earlier amended the Electoral Act 2010 and were waiting for the Senate to reconcile it, while considering the report of the House Committee on Electoral Matters.
In the amendment by both chambers, Section 25 of the Principal Act was substituted with a new section 25 (1), which stipulates that the elections shall be held in the following order: National Assembly election, State Houses of Assembly and governorship elections, and finally the presidential election.
Similarly, section 87 was amended by adding a new section 87 (11) with a marginal note “time for primaries of political parties”, which also means that primaries of political parties shall follow thus: (i) State House of Assembly (ii) National Assembly (iii) governorship and (iv), presidential.
In adopting the changes as contained in the House of Representatives version of the amended Electoral Act yesterday, the chairman of the joint conference committee, Senator Suleiman Nazif (APC Bauchi North) put the matter to vote.
The joint committee has 12 members and all of them unanimously voted for the amendment.
The report of the adoption and reschedule of the elections by the joint conference committee would be presented in plenary of both Senate and House chambers for onward validation.
Explaining why the new sequence of the election was adopted, Senator Nazif stated that the change “does not in anyway violate any provisions of section 76 of the 1999 constitution which empowers INEC to fix dates and conduct elections.”
According to him, the powers of INEC to fix elections were duplicated in the bill just as powers conferred on the National Assembly by section 4 (2) of the constitution were exercised in respect of rescheduling of election sequence.
His words: “For the avoidance of doubt, with the inclusion of section 25(1) which makes provision for sequence of election different from the one earlier rolled out by INEC has not in any way violate any provisions of the laws governing the operations of the electoral body.”
Also, the chairman of the House Committee on INEC, Edward Pwajok said, “The sequence of election provision in the bill is not targeted at anybody but aimed at further given credibility to the electoral process by way of giving the electorates the opportunity to vote based on individual qualities of candidates vying for National Assembly seat.”
Other members of the committee including Senator Dino Melaye (APC Kogi West), Senator Shehu Sani (APC Kaduna Central), Gilbert Nnaji (PDP Enugu South), Abiodun Olujimi (PDP Ekiti South), Peter Nwaoboshi (PDP Delta North) concurred with the rescheduled sequence of elections.
INEC To Create More Registration Centres, Acquires Machines
Meanwhile, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) said it is not unaware of the difficulties people go through in trying to get registered as ellegible voters.
Accordingly, it said it will soon create more registration centres, even as it also disclosed that it has acquired more registration machines that will soon be distributed to various communities which, according to the commission, will assuage the suffering Nigerians go through in the ongoing Permanent Voters Card (PVC) registration.
In a statement signed by the director, Voter Education and Publicity, Oluwole Osaze-Uzzi, INEC restated its commitment to compiling a credible voters’ register.
“On our part, INEC is doing all it can to ensure a credible register of voters. In addition to running the Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS), it will employ its Business Process Rules to weed unlawful entries,” the statement added.
On the difficulties encountered in the on-going nationwide voters registration exercise, INEC said it is not unaware of the challenges but added that “steps have been taken to ameliorate the situation, including the acquisition and deployment of new Direct Data Capture (DDC) machines for registration and increasing the number of registration centres”.
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