Members of the National Assembly have started mounting pressure on President Muhammadu Buhari to assent to the amended Section 84 (12) of the Electoral Act, which some analysts have said would amount to altering rules of the electoral process in the middle of the game.
This is coming at a time the Supreme Court has joined the Rivers State government in a suit seeking its interpretation of the controversial Section 84 (12) of the Electoral Act, 2022.
However, analysts also expressed concern that if the president yields to the pressure of the lawmakers and assents to the amended section of the Act, it might affect the timetable for the 2023 general elections that had been released by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) because under the electoral body’s schedule of activities, elections for delegates ought to taken place this weekend.
More so, some analysts pointed out that what members of the National Assembly did was that they amended the Act for their own personal gains.
“Essentially, once they passed the Electoral Act, INEC released the timetable and the process started. They now went back and changed the rules when the game has already started,” the source added.
The federal legislature, had last week amended Section 84(12) of the Electoral Act to enable some categories of non-elected offices within the executive officers of the 18 registered political parties vote at the various categories of party executives, including the President, Vice President, Governors and Deputy governors, at the congresses and national convention expected from Saturday.
In view of this, the 18 registered political parties have not been able to present their delegates lists, because the President has yet to assent the amended act.
The implication is that only the statutory delegates and the elected three man-delegate as well as local governments’ delegates could vote at the congresses expected to commence Saturday.
In the PDP, for instance, a source said the delegates list was not ready, because the NWC was waiting for the signing of the amended section 84 (12) to enable the party compile a list of the executives from the wards to the states congresses.
Specifically, Section 84(8) of the Electoral Act, initially allowed only elected delegates of a party to participate in conventions and congresses. But the National Assembly, last week, amended the Electoral Act to allow statutory delegate participate and vote in party conventions, congresses, and meetings.
However, in his argument, the Deputy Senate President Omo-Agege, said the amendment sought to make provision for those who would not be elected as ad-hoc delegates to participate in the conventions, congresses, or meetings of political parties.
He further asserted that the initial section of the Bill was an error on the part of the legislature.
Corroborating Omo-Agege’s presentation, Senator Uche Ekwunife, said the amendment was a straightforward one, adding that, “without this amendment, most of us will not have the liberty of voting during the convention. I support the amendment. Let us have it for second reading.”
Senator Sabi Abdullahi, said, “This Bill is a very straightforward Bill, and let us put in on record that this error was something that happened inadvertently. We have seen the error and that is why we are back here to ensure nobody suffers any harm.”
The Bill was read the second time and referred to the Committee of the Whole where it was passed.
THISDAY, however, gathered that if by the end of Friday, the bill was not signed into law by President Buhari, then, executives of the 18 political parties would not be allowed to vote at the presidential conventions, National Assembly congresses, governorship congresses and other congresses to elect the standard bearers of their candidates.
S’Court Joins Rivers in Case over Section 84 of Electoral Act
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court, yesterday, joined the Rivers State government in a suit seeking its interpretation of the controversial Section 84 (12) of the Electoral Act, 2022.
The apex court joined the state after its application for joinder was not opposed by other plaintiffs in the suit filed by President Buhari and the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN).
The hearing was earlier slated for May 19 but has now been adjourned to May 26 to enable parties exchange processes.
But the Speaker, Rivers State House of Assembly and the State Attorney General, were joined as second and third defendants in the suit. The National Assembly is the first defendant.
According to the applicants, they would be affected one way or the other by the outcome of the case since the subject matter in the originating summons relates to the validity and constitutionality of the provisions of Section 84(12) of the Electoral Act enacted by the National Assembly and applicable through-out the country, including Rivers state.
The 1st applicant claimed that the outcome would affect the, “Legal rights of the Rivers State House of Assembly and impinge upon its legislative powers to make laws in addition to, but not inconsistent with Section 84(12) of the Electoral Act enacted by the National Assembly and applicable in Rivers State and will affect the scope of its authority to make laws as conferred on it by Section 7 and Item E. 12 of the concurrent legislative list of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended).”
The AG of Rivers, said he should be joined in the suit as the state was constitutionally bound to be governed democratically in accordance with letters and spirit of the constitution.
Responding, Buhari’s counsel, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), said he was not opposed to the applicants joining the suit.
In the suit filed on April 29, 2022, marked: SC/CV/504/2022 by the President and the Chief Law Officer of the country, wherein they are contending that the said Section of the Electoral Act 2022 was in conflict with constitutional provisions, has the National Assembly as the sole defendant.
The plaintiffs noted that the Constitution has made provisions for qualifications and disqualifications for the offices of the President and Vice President, Governor and Deputy-Governor, Senate and House of Representatives and House of Assembly, Ministers, Commissioners and Special Advisers.
Buhari and Malami added that the same Constitution has equally, “The qualifying factors for election into the office of President, Vice President, Governor, Deputy Gravenor, Senate, House of Representatives, Houses of Assembly and Ministers.”
They also prayed the apex court to declare that, by the joint and or combined reading of Sections 65, 66, 106, 107, 131, 137, 147, 151, 177, 182, 192 and 196, of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, (as amended), the provisions of Section 84 (12) of the Electoral Act, 2022, which also ignores Section 84(3) of the same Act, is an additional qualifying and/or disqualifying factors for the National Assembly, House of Assembly, Gubernatorial and Presidential elections as enshrined in the said constitution, hence, unconstitutional, unlawful, null and void.
“A declaration that having regard to the clear provision of Section 1(3) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, as amended, read together with Section 4 of the same Constitution, the legislative powers vested in the defendant do not permit or empower it to make any other law prescribing additional qualifying /disqualifying grounds for election to the National Assembly, House of Assembly, Gubernatorial and Presidential election outside the express constitutional qualification and disqualification provisions as already provided in each or all of Sections 65, 66, 106, 107, 131, 137, 147, 151, 177, 182, 192 and 196 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), and without amendment to any of those sections is for reason of inconsistency, unconstitutional and therefore null and void.
“A declaration that Section 84 (12) of the Electoral Act, 2022 disqualifying a political appointee from being a voting delegate or be voted for at a convention or congress of any political party for the purpose of the nomination of candidates for any election is discriminatory, inconsistent with and in violent breach of the provision of each or all of Sections 42, 65, 66, 106, 107, 131, 137, 147, 151, 177, 182, 192 and 196 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, (as amended), as well as Article 2 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights and some is null and void by reason of its inconsistency.
“A declaration that by the introduction of the provisions of Section 84(12) into the Electoral Act, 2022, but in disregard of Section 84(3) of the some Act, the Defendant has acted ultra vires the legislative powers vested in it under the provision of section 4 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) and/or in violation or breach of the provisions of Sections 65, 66, 106, 107, 131, 137, 147, 151, 177, 182, 192 and 196, thereby rendering Section 84(12) of the Electoral Act, 2022 unconstitutional, null and void.”
They also prayed for an order nullifying the provisions of Section 84 (12) of the Electoral Act, 2022 by application of the blue pencil rule, for being unconstitutional, illegal, null and void and having been made in excess of the legislative powers of the defendant as enshrined in Section 4 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
House Minority Caucus Urges Buhari to Sign Electoral Act
The Minority Caucus in the House of Representatives, has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately sign the one item amendment to the Electoral Act 2022 transmitted to him by the National Assembly, last week, to avert imminent political crisis in the country.
The caucus, in a statement by its leader, Hon. Ndudi Elumelu, said the President’s delay in signing the single amendment to Section 84 (8), has thrown the nation into serious confusion and constituted a huge threat to democracy and the smooth conduct of the 2023 general election.
The lawmakers, therefore, warned that any further delay in signing the amendment to the Electoral Act to give political parties a sense of direction in the conduct of primaries for the election of candidates for the 2023 general election has the capacity to derail the entire democratic process and destabilise the nation.
“As representatives of the people, the Minority Caucus, urges Mr. President to avert an imminent political crisis, which has the capacity of exacerbating the security situation in the country by immediately signing the Amendment to the Electoral Act 2022 and leaving a legacy of a credible electoral process to the nation.
“Our caucus calls on all Nigerians, the Civil Society, the International Community and all lovers of democracy to prevail on President Buhari to immediately sign the amendment to the Electoral Act 2022 and save our nation from an avoidable crisis.”
Mark: PDP Will Not Compromise Her Rules
In a related development, Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) 2023 National Convention Organizing Committee, Senator David Mark, has urged party faithful across the country to imbibe the spirit of sportsmanship in the conduct of the exercises, promising that the PDP would not compromise her own rules.
In a statement issued ahead of the party primaries, which began with the election of candidates for the state Houses of Assembly seats on Saturday (May 21, 2022), Mark urged party men and women to comply with the rules of the game.
The former senate president between 2007 and 2015, said, “The Party has clear guidelines and rules for the exercises. Every aspirant should be guided by the processes. The party will not compromise any of the rules.”
He counseled delegates to the congresses and conventions to consider the integrity and past accomplishments of aspirants in order to make informed choices of candidates for the elections.
“In making your decisions, consider the interest of the people. Politics is a conveyor belt to serve humanity. The greater interest of our people is paramount,” he said.
He, therefore, cautioned against politics of acrimony, bitterness or violence, saying, “see politics like a sporting competition. If you don’t win today, you can win tomorrow “.
Culled from THISDAY