Presidency in Grand Plan to Abort New Order of Elections

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DOUBLE LEAD INSIDE BOX

• President to veto bill
• INEC plots challenge of amendment in court

Tobi Soniyi in Lagos

The Presidency has put in place an elaborate plan to frustrate the implementation of the amendment to the Electoral Act 2010 that has proposed alterations to the sequence of the general elections in 2019 and beyond.

By the amendment, the National Assembly election will be conducted first, followed by state Houses of Assembly elections and governorship elections, while the presidential election will be conducted last.

The amendment to Section 25 of the Electoral Act, which was substituted with Section 25 (1) has been adopted by a joint session of the electoral committees of both chambers of the National Assembly and is expected to be passed by their plenaries before transmission to the president for assent.

According to the amended version, the elections shall be held in the following order: (a) National Assembly elections; (b) State Houses of Assembly and Governorship elections; and (c) Presidential election, on separate days.
But the presidency fears that the fate of President Muhammadu Buhari may have been sealed by the time election into the National Assembly, state assemblies and the governorship have been concluded, and is, therefore, strategising to frustrate the implementation of the amendment.

A source conversant with the plan told THISDAY that the presidency is viewing the amendment as a “coup” against the president, and must be vehemently resisted.
“For obvious reasons, the presidency is not comfortable with the new sequencing of election as proposed by the National Assembly and will do everything possible to ensure that the 2019 elections are not conducted in accordance with the new amendments to the Electoral Act,” he said.

According to him, the president will not only veto the amended bill when it is sent to him for his assent, he would also encourage the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to challenge it in court.

“The Presidency expects that the National Assembly will override the president’s veto. That is when the second phase of the plan will be activated,” the source said, explaining that INEC would be working hand in glove with the executive to thwart the mandatory re-ordering of the elections.

The source, who asked that his identity be protected for fear of reprisal, said INEC on its part would put together a team of seasoned lawyers to challenge the amendment in court.

The commission, according to the source, would among others ask the court to determine who between it and the National Assembly has the power to determine the order of elections.
He said INEC genuinely believes that the responsibility for determining the order of election is its sole prerogative and not that of the National Assembly.

He gives details of the plot: “When INEC files the suit, the Acting Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Abdul Kafarati will assign the case to himself and subsequently declare the amendment invalid.
“As we talk, the Department of State Security has already collected ‘enough dirt’ on the judge. He will be left with no choice but to rule in favour of INEC.”

He cited the dispatch with which the judge granted the order to proscribe the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) as one example of the judge’s readiness to do the bidding of the federal government.
“Besides, the judge desperately wants confirmation. He will need to convince the executive of his usefulness before he can get such confirmation,” the source added.

The source also said that INEC would quickly comply with the judgment and that by the time the National Assembly applies to the Court of Appeal to challenge the high court judgment, it would be too late for INEC to comply with the order of election preferred by the lawmakers.

The conference committee on the Electoral Act amendment bill, comprising the Senate Committee on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and its House of Representatives counterpart, had last Tuesday voted to change the order of the general elections.
The committee, by its action, adopted the position of the House of Representatives, which on January 23, 2018 voted for the elections to be reordered.

The conference committee also voted to concur with all other amendments made in the version of the Act passed by the House of Representatives, at a session presided over by the chairman, Senator Suleiman Nazif.
Section 87 was harmonised with the new Subsection (11) on the order and timing for the conduct of primaries of political parties.

Subsequently: “The primaries of political parties shall follow the following sequence: (i) State Houses of Assembly (ii) National Assembly (iii) Governorship, and (iv) Presidential.
“The dates for the above stated primaries shall not be held earlier than 120 days and not later than 90 days before the date of elections to the offices.”

The co-chairman of the conference committee, Hon. Edward Pwajok, responding to questions from newsmen after the voting session, said the harmonised bill would be presented to both legislative chambers for adoption.

He said: “From here, we are going to consider other items that need concurrence where there are differences between the Senate’s version of the Electoral Act amendment bill and the House’s version. When we harmonise all the areas of differences between the Senate and the House, then we will report progress to both chambers.

“It is expected that when we concur, the Senate would sit and vote in support and the House would also sit and concur. After the concurrence by both chambers, we will send the harmonised bill to Mr. President for his assent.”
The development confirms recent reports by THISDAY on fears in the presidency and at INEC that the Senate would adopt the amendment of the House, which would affect the 2019 general election.

The fear in the presidency is that the bandwagon effect of the first set of elections into the National Assembly could affect the other elections. Under the current order, the reverse is the case as the outcome of the presidential elections, in particular, has a bandwagon effect on the governorship and state assembly elections.
The amendment would also disorder INEC’s timetable for the 2019 general election, which was released about a month ago.
Going by the INEC timetable, the presidential and National Assembly elections were slated for February 16, 2019, while the state assembly and governorship elections were scheduled for March 2, 2019.

  • shakara123

    The NASS must swing into action to checkmate the executive. Call for immediate public hearings of INEC officials to ascertain if they are owned by the Presidency.
    Prevail on the DSS and AGF to prosecute any judges that have cases to answer. The game is on and the consequences for losing will be dire. The NASS must act now!

  • Iskacountryman

    if na you nko?

  • Asuk

    Only those opposed to the true growth of our democracy will oppose the order of elections proposed by the National Assembly. Lazy unpopular politicians who cannot win elections without Buhari are behind this evil plot.

  • Basil Chijioke

    the presidency when this amendment was first mentioned resisted it so its not news if a plan is the pipeline to thwart the amendment. Inec does not have the exclusive right on order of election but only on days for its conduct. inec said the will abide if passed 6 months before days of election. the national assembly is within the time frame to send for assent by the president and veto if he declines assent. once assent is declined and veto is passed it becomes law and inec must abide until a court rules otherwise.

  • pheliciti

    Thisday named a judge and impugned his partiality. Seems like contempt to me…. but the media would raise hell about press freedom if the editor is cited for contempt.
    Secondly, why is Thisday not seeing that it would require a constitutional amendment for the NASS to exercise INEC’s power to set order of elections. That would still require the concurrence of State Houses of Assembly.

    • samG60

      The amendment to the constitution on that already happened years ago. You need to check the latest version of the constitution as amended.

      • pheliciti

        You need to check, Jonathan vetoed it.

        • samG60

          Nigerian President does not have the power to veto a constitutional amendment already passed by 2/3 majority of 2/3 of all state assemblies + 2/3 majority national assembly.

  • oyoko

    Nonsense report! another example of small boys in journalism, and managed by small boy editor. There is no meat in this report.

  • Larry Azuh

    Speculative thrash

  • Oparafo Ugakwu

    Any competent administration should not be this hypersensitive and afraid of the order of election. Nor should a supposedly independent electoral commission be this overzealous and eager to do the partisan bidding of the presidency.

    A lot of concerns were raised when Mr. President staffed INEC with his loyalists. That was the first salvo in tampering with the elections that would happen during his term. Why is anybody surprised by this development? An outrage is in order because this type of tampering is an act of corruption, but nobody should be surprised. It follows a familiar pattern.

  • KWOY

    It then seems the president is not so confident of the votes of the Issa Aremus, Duro Onabules, Olakunle Abimbolas, Johnpauls, Olusegun Adeniyis, Tatalo Alamus, Simon Kolawoles, Ahmed Bola Tinubus, etc in the bid to come back back to office to continue the anti-corruption war. Otherwise why the ceasure of the NNPC ministerial portfolio, appointment of a relative as INEC chairman, this present measure to fight the order of elections, among others?

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  • T george

    At times when I read THISDAY’s reports such as this one, it baffles me where the ethics of journalism in Nigeria has disappeared to.

    Firstly, this report shows obvious biased against the executive and went to ridiculous speculation to create reasons for an actions yet to be taken – like dirt on a judge been the reason for assigning a case that is yet to be filed to himself.

    Secondly, the report is blinded by biases not to question the reason for the National Assembly attempting to amend the electoral act now after the electoral body has released the timetable. Instead, it is speculating on the reason why the president will veto the bill. Pure bias.

    The reporter should know that it is the right of the NA to propose to amend and it falls within the purview of the president to decline his assent to the bill, just as INEC has every right to challenge in court an amendments that will jeopardize its already set-out plans.

    THISDAY, please be objective and fair in your report and not use your medium to fight back against the accusation of your involvement in Dasuki funds scandal

    • bigdaddy

      I dont really see that motive as you alluded to in your last paragraph. The story is plausible and from the “body language” of the executive , i wont be surprised at all if this script plays out.

      • T george

        What is the ‘body language” of the legislators with respect to this amendment?

        I won’t be surprised at all……As a matter of fact, I am expecting the president not to give his assent.

        You cannot give someone a ram and still hold on to the rope around it’s neck. So it is generally expected that INEC too would challenge it in court. More so when elections timetable have been released. Were members of the NA been sleeping before now, since 2015?

        So, tell fellow THISDAY’s staff, reporters or editors to be objective in their reports.
        If at all that is their motto, this report should have questioned the rationale behind the proposed amendment and not swing into speculative mood to question the integrity of a judge, malign the executive and INEC for a bill yet to passed, suit yet to be filed and judgement yet to be given.

        Even the so called “fake CNN News” will not go into such elaborate speculation on Trump. Totally against the ethics of Journalism.

        Thus, one can only conclude that THISDAY is fighting back against Dasuki’s fund accusation

        • CousinBrother

          Have you forgotten that the first letter of INEC stands for Independence? INEC should not be too concerned about the order of the election. Doing so will expose them as being partisan, which should not be. Is anything wrong with the new order? ABSOLUTELY NOT! Our lawmakers are saying that the president should not ride on their backs or o the governors back to Aso Rock. If he thinks he is popular, let him test it out with the people, period! Of course, because the NA election comes first, they too would have to be voted in on their individual merit. This is fair enough and as such, there should be no hullabaloo of any form.

          • T george

            “If he thinks he is popular, let him test it out with the people, period!”
            So this amendment is all about one man? Shame!

          • CousinBrother

            There could only be one president at a time so, logically, any law affecting the president is about one man

    • Mukhtari

      Reread today’s breaking news that senator pro Buhari walk out of plenary over this amendment and you may have a change of opinion. When a drama in Nigeria is unfolding, just grab the script instead of awaiting suspence because they are so daft they can’t vary the cast nor narrative. It will be interesting because INEC would have become compromised given way for a rehash of 1993 and NADECO not of the southwest but of the youth, unemployed, impoverished and disenfranchised.

    • The_Voice

      You want THISDAY to be objective but can’t even set an example. Your last paragraph outrightly showed why you picked fault in this report.

  • James Gunn

    This shows Inec is kowtowing to the presidency. In any case the amendment has come to stay and when his dissent is vetoed, we will see what happens next. Everybody is tired of Buhari and his incompetent indolent administration.

    • bigdaddy

      “…we will see what happens” ??? You did not read the plan? Dont be surprised it will succeed.

  • Toby

    I love this fight.