– The presidency is allegedly uncomfortable with new order of elections
– The order was recently altered by the National Assembly
– A media report says the presidency is planning to frustrate the implementation of the new amendment
A report by Thisday newspaper suggests that 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.
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.
There are however fears within the presidency 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.
A source conversant with the plan to frustrate the new order of elections was quoted as saying the presidency is viewing the amendment as a “coup” against the president.
His words: “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.”
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.
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 and would among others, asks the court to determine who between it and the National Assembly has the power to determine the order of elections.
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.
“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 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.
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Meanwhile, Senator Shehu Sani (APC, Kaduna Central) has revealed the reason why the National Assembly altered the election order.
“We changed the sequence of elections so as to give all political parties a level playing ground during elections.
“The new sequence will arraign each candidate, alone in the dock before “Justice Electorate.” The new sequence will prevent mass trial,mass conviction,mass acquittal and mass burial of candidates or politicians,” the senator wrote on his Facebook page on Thursday, February 8.
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