Electoral law: we welcome the retention by the Senate of article 84 (12)


Here is another example of the political class taking Nigerians for a ride. In February 2021, Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), Danladi Umar, was caught in a viral video assaulting a security guard, Clement Sargwak, on duty at Bannex Plaza Abuja. This was met with public outcry as Sargwak, through his lawyer, Timizing Venyir Ramnap, petitioned the Senate which referred the complaint to its Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions Committee for investigate the assault allegation made against Umar by Sargwak.

Midway through its sessions, the Senate committee said it was suspending the investigation of Umar in deference to the litigation he launched against it and the upper legislative chambers. Umar had, in the numbered suit FHC/ABJ/CS/671/2021, challenged the committee’s constitutional powers to conduct the inquiry. Ramnap, however, insisted that the original summonses issued to the panel by Umar’s lawyer were merely legal proceedings and not declaratory orders to be complied with.

While arguing that the court did not ask the committee to suspend its investigation into the TCC chairman, he said: “if it was a valid order of the competent court, the Senate could back down, but since it is not not the case, the Senate, through this committee, still has its constitutional powers over the matter and may continue the investigation. We hereby submit that the Senate consider its position as contained in the statute in rejecting this temptation.

Despite this submission and the assurance of the committee chairman, Senator Ayo Akinyelure “that the case will not die like this”, the 9th Senate has since moved forward without hearing any more of its investigation into the abuse of poor Clement by the powerful. . This past development should be invoked to shed light on the duplicity of Senate President Ahmed Lawan that a court ruling cannot stop the National Assembly to modify the electoral law 2022.

President Muhammadu Buhari had, in a letter to the National Assembly last week, called on federal lawmakers to amend the recently signed electoral law, removing Article 84(12), which he said amounted to deprivation of the voting rights of political appointees. This particular section requires political appointees to resign from their appointment before participating in primary elections as delegates or aspirants.

The Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) quickly filed an ex-parte petition in the Inyang Ekwo Court, arguing that the 2022 Election Law has become a valid law that cannot be changed without following due process. Ruling on this motion on Monday, Judge Inyang Ekwo Bans President Buhari, Federation Attorney General and Senate Speaker to remove Section 84(12) of the Elections Act or prevent its operation for the purposes of the 2023 general election.

The Federal High Court in Abuja agreed that the Electoral Law had become a valid law and could not be changed without following due process. In an effort to pursue his avowed promise to approve anything that comes from the president, Lawan disregarded this reasoning from the court and failed to recall that his Senate had stopped investigating the assault on Citizen Clement on a simple summons. How do Nigerians reconcile this pecking and what example is the Senate setting for Nigerians in respecting declaratory orders or court judgments?

During the first reading of the bill requesting an amendment to the electoral law on Tuesday, Lawan considered it “very necessary” to assert that “the judiciary can in no way prevent the legislative power, the National Assembly from exercising its legislative duties… It is within our exclusive right to consider any request we receive from Nigerians, whether from the Executive Bill or Private Members.” Fortunately, there were other legislators who were able to save the Speaker of the Senate from himself by altering Nigerians’ perception of the Senate as a convenient buffer.

Senator Adamu Aliero had, in a point of order, drawn the attention of his colleagues to rule 52(5) of the Rules of the Senate and had declared: “Continuing the examination of the bill will obviously mean that we do not respect not that order, and it is an institution of the Senate – the symbol of the legislative body of Nigeria. We should not be seen as disobeying the court order. No matter how bad this court order is, we have to respect it. So I’m of the opinion that we should stop looking at this bill until the court overturns this order, and I think I’m speaking to the opinion of my colleagues here.

Warts and all, Naija News welcomes this bold assertion of independence by the Senate, especially since most Nigerians are happy with their refusal to remove section 84(12) of the Elections Act 2022. This section requires government appointees to resign from office three months before political party primaries. It is incomprehensible that President Buhari should make this request at a time when he has received many accolades for leaving a real legacy with the new electoral law.

It is difficult to see how this section 84(12), with which the President and his men are uncomfortable, is ultra vires the Constitution. Section 137(1)(g), 182(1)(g) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) already provides that a public servant is disqualified for contesting the office of President, Vice -President, Governor and Deputy Governor respectively if the latter has not resigned from this position within 30 days before the date of the election.

What Section 84(12) of the Elections Act has now done is to clarify this constitutional provision and extend the period within which an ambitious politician must resign to a date before a primary election is held. by political parties. Naija News does not believe this is a disenfranchisement as the appointee has the option of resigning from office to exercise their right to vote. It is heartening that this provision ends the situation where appointees can eat their cake and have it.

It is also a welcome development as the layout ensures a level playing field for all aspirants so that office paraphernalia will no longer confer undue advantages on those serving in government who wish to run. in the elections. This prospect should easily excite every Democrat as it is a new dawn in the nation’s quest to practice true democracy. We further welcome the retention of Section 84(12) in the Elections Act 2022 as it will retain public funds spent on the emolument of political appointees who abdicate their responsibilities for the arduous task of campaigning.

We understand the sentiment that the controversial provision may incentivize elected officials to perpetuate themselves in office since they will not be challenged by political heavyweights like senior government appointees. This concern is countered by the fact that elected officials, especially those in the powerful executive branch of government, cannot serve beyond the two-term limit.

Although a national newspaper headlined: “[For the] first time in 22 years of democracy, the Senate goes against [the] agreement reached with the incumbent president”, this newspaper would prefer that Buhari not plot to return to the National Assembly. The President should bear in mind that it would not have come to this if he had dealt with the Election Law Amendment Bill expeditiously from the start. Naija News therefore warns against any mistrust or animosity between the executive and the National Assembly which could jeopardize future bills. Indeed, the relationship between the three branches of government can be harmonious without any of them being subservient.