It has been three days since President Muhammadu Buhari declined to sign the amended Electoral Act forwarded to him by the national assembly.
Since then, three major things have happened as it concerns the amendments which deal with the principle of separation of powers among the three arms of government in the country:
1. A Federal High Court restrained the National Assembly from acting any further on the bill until the next hearing in a suit filed by the Accord Party challenging the constitutionality of the Electoral Act amendment by the National Assembly.
Justice Ahmed Mohammed on Wednesday ordered parties in the suit not to take steps that could affect the subject of the suit. That means even if the National Assembly has the required numbers to veto the president, it cannot take action, pending the next hearing on the suit.
2. The senate has resolved to write to the Chief Justice of the Federation, Justice Walter Onnoghen over the court ruling.
During plenary on Thursday, the upper legislative house said it would express its reservations about Justice Mohammed’s judgment which basically stopped the National Assembly from overriding President Muhammadu Buhari’s veto on the amended Electoral Act.
Minority Leader of the Senate, Godswill Akpabio, moved a motion at the plenary, on Thursday, stating that the judgment amounted to “an abuse of the principle of separation of powers.” His prayer for the senate to write the chief justice over the matter was unanimously adopted.
3. The House of Representatives has said it would resend the contentious Electoral Act Amendment Bill to President Muhammadu Buhari for assent. It however said it would expunge the areas causing discomfort to the president.
It is unclear which of the three grounds of opposition highlighted by Pres. Buhari would be expunged by the lawmakers. It is unlikely however that the lawmakers would remove the section which reorders the conduct of the polls.
According to the Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Abdulrasak Namdas, the constitution gives the lawmakers the powers to do what they did on that matter.
“The National Assembly would re-gazette the electoral act, expunge the contentious areas and debate on it as the procedure requires the House, and transmit it to the President for assent,” said Namdas at a media briefing.
President Muhammadu Buhari rejected the Electoral Act amendment on three grounds:
- That it may infringe upon the constitutionally guaranteed discretion of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to organize, undertake and supervise elections;
- That the deletion of two crucial grounds upon which an election may be challenged by candidates, unduly limits the rights of candidates in elections to a free and fair electoral review process, and;
- That the amendment to section 152 subsection 325 of the principal act may raise constitutional issues over the competence of the national assembly to legislate over local government elections.