Ahead of today’s proceedings at the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, the National Assembly has assembled a team of lawyers, made up of at least six senior advocates and other experts knowledgeable in law and law drafting to assist it as it concludes plans to override President Muhammadu Buhari’s veto of the 2018 Electoral Bill, Daily Sun has learnt.
Following Buhari’s refusal to sign the bill last Tuesday, Accord Party (AP) had rushed to the court last Wednesday, to stop the National Assembly from activating the relevant provisions of the constitution to override Buhari’s veto.
Although the Senate had last Thursday resolved to write the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, to caution his judges with a view to asking them to respect the principle of separation of powers, Daily Sun could not readily ascertain if the letter had been written.
What Daily Sun can, however, confirm that the leadership of both chambers has assembled a team of lawyers and experts to guide it “appropriately and accordingly “.
All the sources contacted yesterday confirmed the development, adding that one of the presiding officers of the National Assembly is expected to receive his experts’ opinion on Monday evening.
Picking holes on the three grounds which President Buhari relied on to refuse assent to the bill, one of the experts said: “I think that the first ground has been adequately dealt with. No need repeating it. Suffice it to say, however, that what this amendment seeks to do is to prevent INEC from being influenced by any incumbent president to determine election sequence by making it statutory. In the US where we borrow from, everyone knows when the presidential election will hold. That is what our legislators want to achieve with the latest amendment.
“Two, there is nothing in the Act that limits candidates’ right to free and fair electoral review. You recall the case of Abia where the nation was apprehensive about whether or not the governorship election was going to be nullified on the basis of tax clearance. But in the constitution, not having a tax clearance certificate is not among the grounds of disqualification. The courts too were giving conflicting judgments, thereby expanding the scope of issues of disqualification. All these issues are not constitutional requirements and as such should not be grounds for disqualification. So what the new law sought to cure is to ensure that grounds for disqualification are strictly in accordance with the constitution.
“On the third issue, what the 2018 Electoral Act prescribes is national minimum best practices. If you look at the Second Schedule of the constitution, part 2, item 11, it gives the National Assembly the power to make law for the procedure regulating elections in LGs. And item 12 goes further to state that whatever laws the state House of Assembly is making must be consistent with the one made by the National Assembly as it relates to LG elections. So you can see that those advising Mr President are not giving him sound advice concerning these issues. What we are doing is to help our lawmakers’ deepen our democracy. We must strive to build a strong institution and not strong man. That is what 2018 Electoral Act is out to achieve. We see INEC’s release of a 35 –year timetable as preemptive” one of the expert said.
But INEC dismissed the charge, saying that it rolled out a 35-year timetable to entrench the culture of proper planning for elections in the country.
Speaking through his Chief Press Secretary, Rotimi Lawrence, the Commission’s Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, said “nothing could be further from the truth. First of all, the Commission did not roll out a 35-year election schedule. Those who have this impression are missing the important point. (The Sun)