Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja
There is anxiety in the House of Representatives over the new electoral law passed recently by the National Assembly.
In the aftermath of the refusal of President Muhammadu Buhari to assent to the new electoral law, the chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Hon Abdulrasak Namda said the House would re-gazzete the law, take it through the lawmaking process again and re-transmit it to the president for his assent.
However, the House spokesman said if President Buhari still refuses to assent to the bill, then the House will know what to do.
“We agreed with Mr President on two grounds, but we are in disagreement with him on his first reason which relates to the amendment to the sequence of Elections in Section 25 of the principal Act.
“That is why we will look at the bill again, correct those errors the president pointed out and send the bill back to him. If he still withholds his assent, then we will know what next to do,”Namdas said.
Sunday Sun reliably gathered that the plan of the House ultimately is to override the veto of the president.
But unlike the Senate, which has already declared its intention to override the president’s veto immediately, the Green Chamber is approaching the issue cautiously, so that whatever decision it arrives at will stand the test of time.
Apparently, that is why the House has decided to re-gazzete the bill.
A very authoritative source told Sunday Sun that baring any last minute change of plan, the electoral bill will be re-introduced in the House on Tuesday, March 19.
It is believed that like all “other special interest bill,” work on the electoral bill will be accelerated after its re-introduction.
Analysts say the main battle over the new electoral law will be fought in the House of Representatives. This is because the decision of the House to re-introduce the bill has given those opposed to the electoral act an opportunity to determine if the controversial sequence of election would still be part of the law.
The sequence of election was introduced into the law in the House, during a consideration of the Committee report, following a motion by a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) lawmaker from Rivers State, Hon Kingsley Chinda.
Recall that some All Progrressives Congress(APC) legislators led by the Chief Whip, Hon Alhassan Ado-Doguwa staged a walk out after they failed in their spirited bid to foil the motion.
Therefore, whether or not the National Assembly is eventually able to override the President’s veto would be dependent on what happens at the House during the passage of the new bill.
If the sequence of election is expunged in the House, the bid to override President Buhari’s veto would have run into troubled waters. But if the House still retains it, then the stage would be set for the overriding of the president veto, in the event that he fails to assent to the electoral law, when it is transmitted to him, a second time.
Both chambers of the National Assembly must be in agreement on any piece of legislation before it becomes law.
Process of override
Although section Section 58(5) of the constitution gives the National Assembly the power to override the veto of the president, it is a road less travelled.
Since the inception of the present democratic dispensation, the National Assembly has only activated Section 58(5) of the constitution once.
That was in 2000 during the administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo, when the parliament passed the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) law into an act after the then President declined assent.
After that incident, the federal legislature has not bothered to override the President’s veto on any other bill, as they have always deffered to the president, no matter how strongly they feel about any bill.
However, this time around, the situation appears different, owing to the cat and mouse relationship between the Presidency and the leadership of the National Assembly.
Therefore, it is not unlikely that the National Assembly would make good its threat to override the president’s veto on the electoral law.
However, this would not be without some opposition.Already, there is a division among members of the House on the issue.
While some lawmakers, particularly members of the opposition PDP are warming up to overide the president’s veto on the electoral law, some APC lawmakers, especially those from North West are plotting to frustrate the venture.
A PDP member of the House, Hon Iduma Igariwey, who is one of those in support of the overriding of the president’s veto on the new electoral law told Sunday Sun that
“legislative override is a process that reinforces the principle of separation of powers as envisaged by our constitution.”
The lawmaker added that “ it (legislative override) gives effect to the overriding superiority of the legislature in law making as established under several sections of our constitution, including Sections 4 & 58.
So, it’s a process that is meant to serve and deepen our democracy.”
Regardless, an APC lawmaker from Kaduna State, Hon Bala Yusuf confirmed to Sunday Sun that lawmakers from North-West are working underground to ensure that the National Assembly does not succeed in overriding the president on the electoral law.
According to him,”we should make laws that will be for the betterment of the common man not a law that is targeting somebody. This sequence of election is targeting Mr president. We are going to kick against it whenever it comes to the floor of the House and we are many. We are many. Our number will supersede those who will vote for it. We have the number and we have the capacity.”
The determination of the leadership of the National Assembly to override the president on the electoral law, notwithstanding, a school of thought believes that the parliament may not muster the required 2/3 majority in both chambers for the venture.
Igariwey said: “As for whether NASS can muster the necessary numbers, the taste of the pudding is in the eating. However, NASS is expected to act in the national interest, partisan differences notwithstanding.”