No controversy over proposed change of election sequence

Timothy Choji, Abuja

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Chairman of the Senate Committee on Police Affairs, Senator Abu Ibrahim.

The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Police Affairs, Senator Abu Ibrahim says the alteration of the election sequence by the National Assembly has not caused any problem or disagreement among Senators.

Senator  Ibrahim said contrary to the perceived disaffection among Senators, “what actually happened is democracy in action.”

“Actually, it has not created a problem; it is just democracy in action. First, the amendment of the sequence of the election was passed from the House. When we set for harmonisation, the House version was adopted. But those of us who are old in this chamber know that it was absolutely illegal. If you look at Section 72 of the constitution, it is clear that it is INEC that is mandated to fix date, already INEC has fixed date and nobody can change it,” he said.

The Senator further said a similar scenario played out before the 2003 general elections but the court resolved it.

“There was a case in 2003, during the Obasanjo era, when the National Assembly passed a law to hold all elections in one day. That matter went to court because the then President, Obasanjo, refused to sign it, they over ruled his veto by two-third, then INEC went to court. The Court in its jurisdiction declared that nobody can interfere with INEC. That was upheld by the court of appeal and we didn’t go to Supreme Court, so it stopped there. Therefore, that judgement is still subsisting that nobody can interfere with the functions of INEC in terms of fixing dates of elections. Now I learnt the committee erroneously used the aborted constitutional amendment which was made in 2014. I agree that was done, I was part of it, it went through everything but it was not signed into law. The amendment was sent to the then President, Goodluck Jonathan, to sign into law, it was a constitutional amendment then, I think Jonathan found some discrepancies, so he refused to sign it.

 “Then we even brought another argument after all it was a constitutional amendment why shouldn’t the President sign, so we went to the Supreme Court. Unfortunately, it was late, election came, and everybody was swept away. The National Assembly left, the State Assembly left, so, the constitution amendment was not implemented because it was not signed into law. Therefore, if the committee was using that amendment, it might have amended Section 72 of the constitution it is wrong because it was never amended and the constitutional amendment has not become law, so obviously, that amendment is illegal,he explained.

Senator Ibrahim used the opportunity to give his own view on the controversial issue.

He said: “Unfortunately there is a lot of misconception. One, it is too costly. You cannot afford the elections; look at the amount of money that will be spent, where will you get that amount of money, what about the timing? Even it will expose some of our colleagues to danger. If you have a Senator who will contest the election alone, he must pay his agents, he must pay for security, he must pay for everything. And if he is afraid of his governor, his governor is now free to deal with him. Of course if he contests together with the President as put by INEC, the security aspect even the funding will cover him up. So, obviously my colleagues have not thought much on this issue. But what is important, is that the proposal is not legal at all.”

On the statement credited to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, that President Buhari will re-contest in 2019, the Senator said it might be true, that himself and many Senators are in support of the calls for President Buhari to contest for a second term of office in 2019.

“Well, SGF is SGF, so he has better ears of the President than me, so they might have discussed. But I think President Buhari has started a lot of good things for this country and he needs second term to continue to consolidate what he has achieved so far and I am in support. Well, senators are senators but I know the majority will do so. All the promises he has made, anti corruption, security, he has finished the Boko Haram although there are lingering security problems now which I am sure he is taking serious action to stop what is going on now, like the killings in Zamfara which I read today, in Benue and so on and so forth. I am sure within few weeks, the issue will be over,” Senator Ibrahim stated.

On calls for the establishment of State Police, the lawmaker said he was in support.

Confidence Okwuchi