President Muhammadu Buhari has dared the National Assembly by declining assent to the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill 2018, citing constitutional breaches in some of the actions of the lawmakers in the alteration process. This is as the National Assembly is warming up to override his veto. Already, the parliament is seeking legal advice on the matter.
The president, in separate letters read yesterday at the plenaries of the Senate and House of Representatives, justified the rejection of the amendment. Giving reasons for his decision to veto the bill, Buhari said that the amendment to the sequence of elections in Section 25 of the Principal Act, might 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. He also noted that the amendment to Section 138 of the Principal Act to delete two crucial grounds upon which an election might be challenged by candidates, imposed undue limitation on the rights of candidates in elections to a free and fair electoral review process.
Buhari further pointed out that the amendment to Section 152 Subsection 3 to 5 of the Principal Act might raise constitutional issues over the competence of the National Assembly to legislate on local government elections. Part of the letter 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: The amendment to the sequence of elections in Section 25 of the principal act, may infringe upon the constitutionally guaranteed discretion of INEC to organize, undertake and supervise elections provided in Section 15(A) of the third statue to the Constitution; “The amendment 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 candidate in elections to a free and fair electoral review process; “The amendment to Section 152 Subsection (3)-(5) of the Principal Act may raise Constitutional issues over the competence of the National Assembly to legislate over local government elections.”
The controversy surrounding the amendments to the Electoral Act stems from the insertion of Section 25(1), which now reorders the election sequence different from what INEC has fixed for the 2019 general elections timetable. In the sequence brought out by the INEC in its timetable for 2019, the Presidential and National Assembly elections are to come first, while the governorship and state assembly elections come last.
But in the reordered sequence in the amended Electoral Act, which is now tearing the National Assembly and the Presidency apart, the National Assembly election comes first, followed by governorship and state assemblies, and the Presidential comes last. This has provoked serious agitations within the polity.
The Senate is already factionalized into pro-Buhari and anti- Buhari senators while the executive arm is out to battle the National Assembly over the matter. There are indications that the INEC will be heading for the court to challenge the controversial amendment by the nation’s highest lawmaking institution, just as President Buhari has declined assent to the Bill. New Telegraph learnt that the Presidency has started mobilizing people at the National Assembly to work against the anticipated override from both chambers of the apex parliament.
Meanwhile, New Telegraph investigations reveal that the Senate may override the President Buhari’s veto after due consultations with relevant stakeholders. Our correspondent also learnt that the Senate has resolved to seek legal advice on the decision of Buhari to withhold assent to the Electoral Act Amendment Bill.
A source close to the Senate said that the apex chamber would be in a better position to take decision on the matter after being properly guided by legal experts. The source, which did not want to be named in print, however, said that there were signals that the lawmakers would summarily override Buhari’s veto because the action of the National Assembly was properly guided. The source said that the essence of seeking legal advice was to get the provisions of the law on the action of the National Assembly and the possible implications if the lawmakers resolved to go against the President.
The source further argued that the amendment to the Electoral Act, which reordered sequence of elections in the country, was done in the best interest of the country and not for any parochial interest.
“We believe that what we have done as a Parliament is in the best interest of the country and not for any selfish reason; and that is why I believe that the Senate will go all out to defend its position. However, the legal advice being sought is to make sure that we do everything within the ambient of the law,” the source stated.
However, spokesman for the Senate, Dr. Aliyu Sabi, at a press briefing after plenary, refused to comment on the letter sent by Buhari, explaining that he would not make any statement on the matter because the Senate had not met to take a decision on it.
The Senate had, on February 14, adopted the report of the conference committee of the House of Representatives and the Senate joint Committee on INEC on the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill 2018. In the new amendment, Section 25(1) of the Bill reordered sequence of elections in Nigeria; making the presidential election to come last while the National Assembly elections come first. This angered the pro- Buhari senators, who in their own interpretation, concluded that Buhari was the target of the amendment because of his interest in re-contesting the 2019 presidential elections.
The lawmakers, with this view, made desperate efforts to truncate the passage of the bill or at least, get that section, which they considered unfavourable and offensive to them out of the document, but failed, as the President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, used his discretional powers to ensure that the agitators did not have their way.
Why I Support Restructuring – Dogara
Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Yakubu Dogara, has expressed support for auditing and restructuring the existing federal system to give a sense of belonging to all Nigerians
He said that for true federalism to be achieved in Nigeria, a unique system of federalism that best suits Nigerian people and the local circumstances in the country must be created, in addition to having leaders who are visionary, selfless, prudent, intelligent and indefatigable and having integrity and honour.
He said these while speaking on the topic, “Reforming the Nigerian Federation: Which Way Forward”, at the 3rd annual Political Summit organised by the Save Democracy Africa in Abuja.
The Speaker noted that “The talk of Nigeria’s successor genuine federalism can no longer hold waters giving the state of internal insurgencies, divisiveness, ethnic and religious schism witnessed in several parts of Nigeria. Efforts at wishing away the problem associated with Nigerian federation have only resulted in several tribal, ethnic and religious movements that have even metamorphosed into terrorist syndicates.
“One can, therefore, no longer fold his arms but engage some of the issues that have confronted us as a nation and threatened the Nigerian federation. This forum provides one of the opportunities for such interrogation. Accordingly, I commend the organisers for bringing this issue to the front burner once again.
“That Nigeria could survive despite predictions to the contrary by the World Powers not only portrays a ray of hope but also demonstrate that Nigerian Federation has come to stay.
“It is therefore incumbent on us to fashion out our own type of federalism that is best suited to our people and to local circumstances. There should be genuine efforts to build the nation. Therefore ethnic, religious and sectional agenda should take back place. The essence of federalism is to foster unity and development. This has, however, not been achieved.
Consequently, the recruitment processes of our elective office holders are being re-visited in the Electoral Amendment Bill to ensure that the system is able to recruit the best at all strata of leadership. We need leaders who are visionary, selfless, prudent, intelligent and indefatigable and having integrity and honour.”
He added that the current National Assembly has shown enough determination to ensure that the Federation of Nigeria is managed effectively for the good of every citizen in its several initiatives to address imbalances.
He also added that to take Nigeria to its pride of place, a reorientation of Nigerians to address the political and economic malaise they face must be addressed, along with every other possible measure to take Nigeria to where it rightly belongs among the comity of Nations given her huge and rich minerals and agricultural resources, and population.
Hon Dogara stated, “There should be massive awareness to change the mindsets of the rulers and the ruled. This is where there is the need for proper education and awareness for both the rulers and the ruled. I challenge our tertiary institutions to break the disconnect between them and the political institutions and industries not only to fashion out the appropriate curriculum to drive this new orientation to confront our political and economic malaise but also to lead cutting-edge research in providing correct local solutions to our diverse of problems.”
He also identified the pedestals upon which Nigerian Federation has thrived over the years as multi-party system that allows wider participation in the political process, equity distributive principles of revenue from the Federation Account, states creation, special intervention programme to address specific problems where there are genuine cases of imbalance, marginalisation and injustice such as NDDC and NEDC, growing synergy and improved communication between the National Assembly and the Executive, the judiciary, practice of federal character in the composition and conduct of public institutions at state and federal levels.
The speaker also identified some emerging issues in Nigeria’s federation political gerrymandering, corruption and nepotism, state creation and boundary delimitation, electoral boundary manipulation that discriminates against voters on account of tribe, language, religion, or related status.
“The same is also true of boundary adjustments, state creation and Local Governments in Nigeria. The minority tribes have complained of being short-changed. The issue of fiscal federalism and resource control. The allocation of revenue in Nigeria is presently heated as there are always allegations and counter-allegations of manipulations against the federal government by states. There are also allegations of zero allocation to local governments by states despite very clear constitutional provisions. In addition, there has been complaint of total neglect of the states that generate the revenue as such the derivative formula has been very contentious.
There is over concentration of powers and responsibilities on the federal government. There are several responsibilities that can better be handled by the states. The power sharing between the Federal Government and the states will have to be revisited and the issue of the autonomy of local governments in Nigeria which state Houses of Assembly keep voting against,” he further stated.
Hon Dogara, therefore, stressed the need to fashion out our own type of federalism that is best suited to our people and to local circumstances, with genuine efforts to build the nation, the need for proper education and awareness for both the rulers and the ruled, awareness and re-orientation on the issue of political gerrymandering, and vesting the responsibility of delaminating constituencies to the Boundary Commission as is the case in several countries like Britain.
He added, “The issue of resource control must be properly addressed. The communities where those resources are found should be adequately compensated. The Host Community Bill initiated by the House of Representatives on the Oil and Gas industry will be a test case. The call for resource control may by implication have a semblance of territorial devolution.”
The speaker noted that since assumption of the 8th House of Representatives, they have engaged the executive (mostly ministers and heads of parastatals) in several sectoral debates at plenary and have enacted cutting edge legislations in emerging, reviewed over 300 laws with the hope of bringing them in tune with modern realities and has been guided by the need to adjust our political, social and economic system to meet local circumstances and engraft the existing laws to conform.
UTME: 110 blind candidates sit exam in Lagos, hail JAMB over welfare
The about 110 visually-impaired candidates, who sat the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME), in Lagos today, have commended the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) for what they described as an improved conduct of the examination.
The candidates, who sat for the examination at the Distance Learning Institute of the University of Lagos (UNILAG), Akoka, are part of about 340 candidates who are billed to take part in the examination in five centres across the country’s six geopolitical zones.
Some of them, who spoke to New Telegraph in Lagos, also hailed JAMB for the provision of welfare packages including hotel accommodation and feeding.
The examination, which was conducted by the Equal Opportunity Group created by JAMB and headed by the former Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC), Prof. Peter Okebukola, also had in attendance in Lagos, Emeritus Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Nini Briggs.
According to Okebukola, the dictation method was adopted for the candidates to carry all the candidates along, and pending the time adequate provision of braille machines are provided and candidates are well trained to handle them.
He said; “What the Equal Opportunity Group is saddled to do is to conduct UTME for visually-impaired candidates and those in prisons. Those in prisons concluded theirs on Saturday but the blind candidates are scheduled to sit their exams between Monday and Tuesday.
“This examination is holding simultaneously across five centres in each zone, and the candidates are catered for with the provision of accommodation and feeding.”
Meanwhile, the Executive Director of the Bethesda Home for the Blind, Lagos, Mrs. Chioma Ohakpe, also commended the examination body for the improvement but also called on JAMB to fast-track efforts towards providing the CBT facilities for the candidates like their sighted counterparts.
One of the candidates, Adebisi Oluwashina of the Government Special School for the Blind, Ikere-Ekiti, said he was sure of good results, saying the dictation option was far better than expected.
Yahaya Bello gave herdsmen blank cheque to operate in Kogi – Faleke
A federal lawmaker and running mate to late Abubakar Audu in the 2015 governorship election in Kogi state, James Faleke, has accused Yahaya Bello, the Kogi state governor, of giving herdsmen a “blank cheque to operate in Kogi”.
Suspected herdsmen had invaded three communities in the state, killing 25.
The attacks, which occurred in Oganienugwu and Ikende communities in Dekina local government area and Abejukolo in Omala local government, happened after Bello said Kogi had land to accommodate herdsmen.
In a statement, Faleke described the killings as the “height of wickedness”.
He called on the state government to “accept responsibility for its failure”, and call the attention of the Miyetti Allah breeders association to the situation.
“The news came to us as a shock. That is wickedness of the highest order. What can we ever equate with human lives? How did we come to this sorry pass as a people?” Faleke asked.
“We are calling on the state government led by Governor Yahaya Bello who gave the Fulani herdsmen a blank cheque to operate in Kogi state in the first place to urgently move to draw the attention of the leadership of the herdsmen, the Miyetti Allah, to this wicked assault on the people of Kogi, while also rallying the various security organizations to action.
“We find it difficult to believe the statement credited to the state government after the attack which said ‘the attack was politically motivated’ instead the government should be bold enough to accept responsibility for its failure.
“We note that we have lived with Fulanis in our various communities since times past and had never had cause to fight them. We are therefore appealing to the original peaceful Fulanis living in our midst to be more accommodating and volunteer information to security agencies on invaders and criminals parading themselves as Fulanis.”
The group asked who would appear before the judicial panel set up by the government when the perpetrators were yet to be identified.
“How can the state government set up a judicial panel when investigations are still ongoing to unravel and arrest perpetrators of the henious crime?” he asked.
“So, who and who would appear before the panel? We sincerely hope this is not another opportunity for the witch hunt of perceived political enemies.
“We are aware that the government bought over 300 GSM handsets to some of its political informants to give information to it on anybody or group discussing or found to be speaking ill against government in all the 21 local governments.
“We advise that those informants be used to help track the movement of the herdsmen and not the peaceful Kogites.
” We hereby call for support for the displaced members of these communities. Public-spirited individuals, government and international agencies are urged to come to the aid of these people.”
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