By Henry Umoru & Levinus Nwabughiogu
ABUJA—House of Representatives, yesterday, dropped the change of electoral sequence bill sponsored by Edward Gyang Pwajok from Plateau State and seven others.
It also passed the constitution alteration bills okayed and returned by the 36 state Houses of Assembly.
Spokesman of the House, Abdulrazaq Namdas, told newsmen after plenary, yesterday, that the change of electoral sequence bill was dropped because the sponsor chose to withdraw it.
Recall that speculation was rife last week that the National Assembly had decided to halt the electoral amendment process, which seeks to put the National Assembly and governorship polls ahead of the Presidential election in 2019 general elections to placate the governors.
On the passage of constitution alteration bills, the House secured the required two-thirds majority during voting on the items, and transmitted same to the state Houses of Assembly for their input.
All the states participated in the process except Lagos, which preferred the statusquo.
In adopting the motion, entitled, “Adoption of returns from the State Houses of Assembly on the Constitution Alteration Bills, 2018,” sponsored by Deputy Speaker of the House, Yusuf Lasun, but moved by the House Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila, the House said the items had met the constitutional requirements of the provisions of Section 9 of the 1999 Constitution and be processed in line with the Acts Authentication Act.
Bill suffers set back in Senate
Meanwhile, there was sharp division among senators, yesterday, over moves to reorder sequence of the 2019 general elections after Presidential veto on the earlier one proposed by the National Assembly through the 2010 Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill 2018.
The attempt, however, failed with withdrawal of a new bill proposed to that effect.
In his lead debate on the bill, entitled “A Bill for an Act to amend the provisions of the Electoral Act to make provisions for sequence of elections in Nigeria and for related matters,” Chairman , Senate Committee on INEC, Suleiman Nazif, disclosed that the new reordered sequence of elections would start with Governorship/State Houses of Assembly elections, followed by National Assembly and Presidential election last.
When it was time for debate on the bill, majority of senators kicked against it, which made Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, who presided over yesterday’s plenary to rescue it from total death by reverting it to the committee for more legislative inputs.
In his contribution, Senate Leader, Ahmad Lawan (APC Yobe, North) who kicked against the bill, said he was totally and comprehensively against the bill, adding that the right thing was not to legislate for new sequence of elections but to support INEC in the conduct of the elections.
On his part, Senator Kabiru Marafa (APC Zamfara Central) who also kicked against the bill, said: “This bill will further divide us, it is unnecessary and we should not go to that I don’t want us to finish the way we started.”
But Ekweremadu was, however, quick to respond to Marafa, saying “let me assure Marafa that nothing will divide this Senate; we will continue to work as one entity, we will aspire toward that.”
The Senate Minority Leader , Godswill Akpabio also kicked against it, saying, “when we initially did the first one that President sent to us, I believe strongly that the National Assembly has the powers to fix sequence of election in the law as opposed to dates, all the judgments so far have talked about dates.
“INEC has the right to fix dates for election but in terms of sequence of election, I believe we can legislate on it. But my disagreement with the bill is that we cannot aprobate and reprobate, as a Senate we are distinguished people and we must not speak with both sides of our mouth. The sequence that is proposed here is such that not only has it taken us backwards it shows that we look confused”
On his part, Senate Chief Whip, Senator Olusola Adeyeye ( APC Osun Central) who also kicked against the bill by describing it as unconstitutional, said: “ As vice chairman of Senate Committee on INEC, I state categorically that I totally oppose this bill. There cannot be sequence of elections unless there are dates. And if INEC is given the prerogative to choose and INEC chooses to put one day before the other, let us leave things as they are.
“INEC in the past chose their date, and INEC in the 8thNational Assembly must be given the respect again to choose their date. Anything else in my opinion is legislative rascality.”
Though Senators Dino Melaye ( APC Kogi West) and Mao Ohuambuwa ( PDP Abia North) , made spirited attempts to get the bill passed for second reading, but the overwhelming opposition against it by other senators, rendered their efforts fruitless.
Senator Melaye said, “there is a difference between date and sequence. These are two different issues. While the constitution empowers INEC only to fix daes of election but the power for order and sequence of election is within the Constitutional mandate of the National Assembly that ab initio even created the law that enacted INEC as an institution. If we have the powers to enact INEC as institution in this country, then we should also have powers to moderate our activities without tampering with dates.’’
In his remarks , Ekweremadu said : “essentially we here to serve the interest of our people, if anybody has ulterior motive, I don’t understand myself. It is important for all of us to be on the same page in matters such as this.
“We passed the electoral act and then we sent it to the president, the president returned that bill with a number of observations. One of the observations he made was in respect of order of election, he also made observation with regards to local government elections which the national assembly was given power under that bill to make laws.’’