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Senate gazettes president’s letter as court stops lawmakers
Fred Itua, Abuja
Less than 24 hours after President Muhammadu Buhari refused to assent the Electoral Act Amendment Bill (2018), some governors, Senators and members of the House of Representatives have started moves to override the president’s veto.
Daily Sun gathered that three governors, one from the South East and two from the North West, met with a topshot in the Senate leadership on Tuesday night to give support to the National Assembly’s next move on the Electoral Act amendment.
Conversely, as the governors met with and lobbied the Senate, another governor from the South West, in company with some members of the National Working Committee (NWC) of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), on Tuesday night, met in Lafia, Nasarawa State capital, to work out modalities on how to frustrate plans by both chambers of the National Assembly to override the president’s veto. They reportedly met in the home of a pro-Buhari senator from the state.
In a letter addressed to the President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki and read on Tuesday, Buhari listed three reasons why he is opposed to the new election arrangements.
Buhari, in the letter, said: “Pursuant to Section 58(4) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), I hereby convey to the Senate, my decision, on 3rd March 2018, to decline Presidential Assent to the Electoral Amendment Bill 2018 recently passed by the National Assembly.
“The amendment to the sequence of elections in Section 25 of the principal act, may infringe upon the constitutionally guaranteed discretion of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to organise, undertake and supervise elections provided in Section 15(A) of the third statute to the Constitution.
“The amendment to Section 138 of the principal act to delete 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.
“The amendment to Section 152(3)-(5) of the Principal Act may raise constitutional issues over the competence of the National Assembly to legislate over local government elections.”
Daily Sun gathered yesterday that four governors, five serving ministers, 15 senators and some members of the NWC of APC met in the private home of a senator in Nasarawa State.
One of the senators from the South West who attended the meeting, told some newsmen in confidence that APC governors and party leaders were threatening not to give them return tickets if they go ahead and support the planned override of President Buhari’s veto.
He further claimed that the other senators who were in attendance were expected to have more separate meetings where they would lobby other lawmakers to frustrate the move.
The parliamentarian revealed that some members of the House of Representatives who were in attendance are expected to play similar roles in the lower legislative chamber.
The lawmaker, who said he only attended the meeting at the behest of his state governor maintained that he would support plans by the leadership of both chambers of the National Assembly to coordinate the planned override of Buhari’s veto.
On the other side, it was learnt that some APC and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governors are rooting for the override of the president.
A serving governor from North West and a former lawmaker, on Tuesday night, met with the President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki with some senators in attendance.
Meanwhile, strong indications have emerged that the National Assembly will likely hold a special session next week where it is expected to override the veto of the President.
Yesterday, the Senate officially gazetted the letter of Buhari, where he stated his reasons why he vetoed the amendment bill. This followed the adoption of votes and proceedings of Tuesday’s plenary.
It was gathered that the senators in favour of the planned veto have already consulted the legal department of the National Assembly to get further clarifications before going ahead with the planned override of the veto.
The 1999 Constitution requires that the National Assembly can override the presidential veto with a two-thirds majority of members.
Section 58 (4 & 5) provides the procedures by which the National Assembly may override the veto where a president withholds assent to a bill passed by both chambers.
Section 58 (4) reads: “Where a bill is presented to the President for assent, he shall within 30 days thereof signify that he assents or that he withholds assent.”
Section 58 (5) also reads: “Where the President withholds his assent and the bill is again passed by each House by two-thirds majority, the bill shall become law and the assent of the President shall not be required.”
Investigations in the Senate revealed that no fewer than 74 senators have signed up to join in the battle to override the president’s veto.
It was gathered that 43 Senators of the PDP and over 40 senators of the APC are supporting the idea.
Investigations by Daily Sun revealed that senators loyal to the Senate President met last night to consolidate on their plans.
At the meeting, the lawmakers decided to reawaken the senators of Like Minds, which projected the Senate President for the position in 2015.
A source said members of the Like Minds were in excess of 35 senators, but added that a number of lawmakers were sitting on the fence.
Further investigations showed that technicians were carrying out routine maintenance of the electronic voting machine on the floor of the Senate, which is expected to be used during the exercise.
It was learnt that Saraki and his loyalists backed the use of the electronic voting option to protect the identities of lawmakers who are facing threats from their governors and the Presidency not to support the move.
Meanwhile, the National Assembly has been ordered not to take any further actions on the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill, 2018.
The restraining order issued by Justice Ahmed Mohammed of the Federal High Court, Abuja yesterday would last till March 17, which is the next hearing date.
Delivering ruling on an oral application by Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), counsel to the plaintiff, Accord Party, Justice Mohammed held that the restraining order was made to preserve the substance of the main suit.
The Accord Party, is by its suit challenging the constitutionality of the ongoing amendment of the Electoral Act
The oral application by Olanipekun for a “preservative order” was opposed by the counsel representing the National Assembly, Chinelo Ogbozor.
The Attorney-General of the Federation, the second defendant to the suit, was not represented by a counsel.
But INEC, the third respondent, was represented by its lawyer, Mr. Taminu Inuwa, who said he had no objection to the application.
Ruling, the judge held that the National Assembly was not likely to suffer any prejudice if it was restrained from going ahead with the amendment processes before the next hearing date.
He added that on the other hand, if no restraining order was issued and the National Assembly proceed to exercise its powers under section 58(5) of the Constitution by overriding the president’s withholding of assent, the essence of the whole suit would have been defeated.
The judge, therefore, ordered all parties to maintain “status quo.”
He fixed Tuesday for the hearing of the motion for the interlocutory injunction, the same order which was granted during yesterday’s proceedings but would likely last till the final determination of the suit if the application succeeds.