The Nigerian Senate has joined the House of Representative in starting a fresh move towards reordering the sequence of elections, by reintroducing the Election Act 2010 (Amendment) Bill, 2018.
The bill, presented by the Chairman Senate committee on INEC, Senator Suleiman Nazif, passed its first reading during Thursday’s plenary session.
The House of Representatives had last week re-introduced its version of the controversial Bill which President Muhammadu Buhari refused to assent into law.
The Senate in particular had on February 14, 2018 in its passage of the Bill, adopted section 25(1) inserted into it by the House of Representatives containing reordering of sequence of 2019 general election different from the earlier one announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
The sequence as proposed by the new amendment put the National Assembly election first and to be followed by the Governorship and State Assembly Elections while that of Presidential election would come last.
However, according to the arrangement of INEC, the Presidential and National Assembly elections would hold first on February 16, 2019 while the Governorship and House of Assembly elections will take place on March 2 of the same year.
President Buhari in a letter forwarded to the two chambers of the National Assembly, a copy of which was read on the floor of the Senate by its President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, specifically withheld assent to the bill on March 3, for reasons bordering on infractions on constitutional provisions particularly the one on new sequence of elections.
In addition, the President stated that he was complying with the provisions of Section 58 of the 1999 Constitution, particularly sub-section 4, by refusing to sign the bill.
However, the development generated controversy whereby some lawmakers led by Senator Abdullahi Adamu (APC Nasarawa West) alleged that it was targeted at Buhari on the 2019 elections.
Also, the Federal High Court, Abuja, on March 14, asked the National Assembly not to take any further action on the Electoral Act amendment bill.
The court, in a ruling delivered by Justice Ahmed Mohammed, ordered all the parties to maintain status quo antebellum, “at least between now and the next adjourned date”.
Justice Mohammed had invoked section 6(6) of the 1999 constitution, as amended, which he said empowered the court to protect the Res (subject matter) of the substantive suit pending before it.
The court said it took into cognizance, the fact that the National Assembly could activate its powers under section 58(5) of the Constitution and commence the process of securing two-third majority it would require to override President Buhari’s refusal to assent to the bill, while the suit is pending before it.