Barely 168 days to the February 16, 2019 Presidential and National Assembly Elections along with those of the Governorship and State Houses of Assembly slated to hold on March 2, 2019 to be conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission ( INEC), might not be possible as two critical determinants of the elections suffer set backs.
One of such is the electoral Act to be used in carrying out the conduct of the elections by INEC as the 30 days constitutional duration for signining of the 2010 Electoral Act ( Amendment) Bill 2018 transmitted to President Muhammadu Buhari on the 3rd of last month by the National Assembly elapsed yesterday , September 2, 2018 without the required presidential assent.
This is even as the source for funding of the proposed and adopted N143bn INEC component of the N164bn elections budget for this year, is tearing President Muhammadu Buhari and the National Assembly apart.
While the President in a virement seeking letter forwarded to both chambers of the National Assembly in July, sought for virement of the money along with other elections related budgetary proposals totalling N228bn, from the N578bn allegedly inserted into the N9.12trillion 2018 budget by the National Assembly, the federal lawmakers in their adoption of the N143bn INEC component of the monies, recommended for its virement from the N943bn service wide votes put in the budget by the executive.
Disagreement on source of funding of INEC budget for the election came to the fore last week Thursday through an unanimous decision taking by the National Assembly joint committee on INEC that the N143bn should be vired from N943bn service wide votes and not from N578bn earmarked for execution of 1,403 special projects added to the 2018 budget by the National Assembly .
Making the announcement , the Chairman of the joint committee , Senator Suleiman Nazif ( PDP Bauchi North), said : “The committee is suggesting to the Leadership of the National Assembly and the Committee on Appropriation to source the funding of INEC’s N143bn election budget for this year through virement from other Service-wide votes under the Special Intervention Programme (Recurrent) totalling N943bn , to ease consrderation and avoid increase in the size of the 2018 expenditure frame work”.
The committee according to the Chairman, would send report on the recommendation to leadership of both chambers of the National Assembly and their committees on Appropriation for more legislative inputs and final approval.
Also, with the President not assenting to the 2018 electoral bill sent to him, INEC will have to rely on provisions and guidelines prescribed by the 2010 Electoral Act for conduct of the 2019 general elections which were largely manual.
Adherence to electronic provisions in the bill like legalisation of the card readers , electronic transmission of results from polling units to collation centres etc, will no no longer be compulsory.
The bill passed by both chambers of the National Assembly on the 24th of July ,2018 ,the very day the federal lawmakers embarked on their ongoing long recess, according to the Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters ( Senate), Senator Ita Enang , was transmitted to President Muhammadu Buhari for assent on the 3rd of last month.
Ita Enang who made clarification on the status of the bill on the 14th of last month against the backdrop of report published by one of the national dailies that President Muhammadu Buhari had again vetoed 2018 electoral bill forwarded to it for assent by the National Assembly , said the vetoed bill was the one sent to the President on 27th June , 2018 and not the one passed by both chambers of the National Assembly on July 24th 2018.
” The reported vetoed bill was the one passed by the National Assembly and transmitted to the President for assent on the 27th of June 2018 duration of which in line with constitutional provisions expires on the 26th of July, 2018 , warranting the said veto .
” Yes , an electoral bill was vetoed or refused assent by the President but not the last version of the 2018 electoral bill transmitted to the President for assent on the 3rd of this month that has just spent 11 days on his table and still having 19 days more for possible consideration and assent “, he explained.
It would be recalled that aside the vetoed version of the 2018 electoral bill forwarded to the President on the 27th of June 2018 and vetoed on the 26th of July 2018 by the President in line with the 30 days constitutional life lines for such bill, the President had earlier in the year , rejected the first of the 2010 Electoral Act ( Amendment ) Bill 2018 forwarded to it in February this year .
President Buhari had in vetoing the earlier one in February this year, cited three reasons for doing so, one of which was the new sequence of elections included in the bill through section 25(1).
The President in his rejection, said the inserted section in the Electoral Act violates the provisions of section 72 of the 1999 constitution, which empowers INEC to fix dates of elections and see to its conduct in all ramifications.
With the 30days expiration of the latest of the bills yesterday, President Muhammadu Buhari has altogether refused assent to three electoral bills this year at different times.