Fred Itua; Abuja, with agency report
Plans by the National Assembly, to clean up the Electoral Act Amendment Bill, 2010, yesterday, suffered a major setback when lawmakers loyal to President Muhammadu Buhari, opposed the amendment.
Lawmakers were sharply divided on the legality of the amendment at plenary.
This came even as the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, called for caution. He warned that, in order not to kill other important aspects of the amendments, the controversial issue of sequencing should be separated from other amendment clauses.
Buhari recently rejected the Amendment Bill, on the grounds of inconsistencies with the 1999 Constitution, as amended.
The Bill, which was re-introduced by the chairman of the Committee on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and Electoral Matters, Senator Sulaiman Nazif, was brought up, yesterday, for debate on its general principles.
But, in debating the Bill, majority of senators, drawn from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who spoke, called for outright rejection of the amendment.
They noted that changing the sequence of elections would not only serve as slight on the constitutional role of INEC, but would place additional financial burden on the Federal Government in the organisation and management of elections.
But, the Minority Leader, Godswill Akpabio opposed the idea of changing the sequence of elections.
“As a Senate, we cannot approbate and reprobate” and added that the sequence, as contained in the bill, has taken the Senate back several steps. He stressed that Senators should be honourable people and stand by their position whenever they take one and as such, he could not support the bill.
Regardless, Ekweremadu intervened: “The president returned the bill with a number of observations which includes the lack of constitutional basis for us to legislate for State Electoral Commissions, which is in order. Another one was the powers of INEC as contained in the Constitution, but, I don’t want to go into the legality of these issues. On the other hand, we cannot, on the basis of the observations made by the president, say that the entire bill should be thrown away…”
Further debate on the bill was stood down for another legislative day. The committee was also mandated to separate sequencing from other items contained in the bill.
In the House of Representatives, Edward Pwajok, a Plateau lawmaker, who sponsored the bill, said he was withdrawing it.
The lawmaker, after consultations, said he was advised to withdraw the bill.
When he called for the withdrawal of the bill, Femi Gbajabiamila, leader of the house, raised a point of order, saying he was not informed of the intended withdrawal, despite his name being on the bill.
The house, however, adopted Pwajok’s prayer and subsequently dropped the bill.