Electoral Act: House, ex-Rep clash over revised poll timetable

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The House of Representatives on Monday clashed with a former member, Dr Junaid Mohammed, who served in the Second Republic (1979-1983), over the Electoral Act (amendment) Bill 2018.

 The controversial bill, particularly Section 25, has reordered the timetable for elections ahead of the 2019 polls.

The bill, which fixes the presidential poll as last in the schedule, has been the subject of disagreement between President Muhammadu Buhari and the National Assembly. While Buhari has withheld his assent to the bill, the National Assembly insists on having the law in place.

But as the National Assembly reconvenes on Tuesday after the Easter break, Mohammed has said the 8th National Assembly is abusing the powers not given to it by the constitution.

 Mohammed said, “Frankly speaking, those in the National Assembly are simply shamelessly seeking for what they want; they don’t care about the people. They only care about returning to their offices untainted by the lack of popularity or the scandals that have been the hallmark of their existence.

“The thing to do is to refer the matter to the Supreme Court for interpretation; otherwise anyone, who has an ambition to contest the next elections, should stand by the stipulation of the Independent National Electoral Commission with regard to the sequencing, which INEC has since announced.

“The noise coming from the National Assembly over the issue should be treated with the contemptuous disregard it deserves. These people have brought so much shame to the institution of the National Assembly. They have brought so much disgrace to the constitution; so much disgrace to the democratic system that sometimes, I begin to wonder what shameless sort of people they are. Haven’t they done enough to discredit themselves and democracy?”

But in its response, the House asked Mohammed to read the 1999 Constitution (as amended) again, noting that he would realize that the National Assembly had the powers to amend the Electoral Act and fix the order of elections.

The Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Mr. Abdulrazak Namdas, who reacted on behalf of the legislature, also advised the former legislator to approach the courts to resolve his grievances with the current National Assembly, instead of resorting to verbal attacks on members.

Namdas argued that the National Assembly had no business going to the Supreme Court to seek any interpretation because the former had no doubts about its constitutional powers.

He explained that it was the responsibility of those who doubted the powers of the National Assembly to make laws to go to court.

“Tell him (Junaid Mohammed) that we have the powers to amend the Electoral Act. He should go and read the constitution carefully again.

“We are using the 1999 Constitution (as amended) not the constitution in use when he was in the House of Representatives in the Second Republic.

“Also, about going to the Supreme Court; that is not our problem. It is the problem of those who say we don’t have the powers to amend the Act. Let them go to the Supreme Court and challenge our powers. We are already using the powers that we have.”