Reordering of elections by National Assembly – By WASEEU ADEBAYO
Let me begin by saying that the National Assembly itself is established by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999) as amended. Section 47 of the Constitution provides that, “There shall be a National Assembly for the Federation which shall consist of a Senate and a House of Representatives”. This provision of the constitution shows clearly that the National Assembly itself is a creature of the constitution. The constitution, which is the ground-norm of all other laws in the land including any Act made by the National Assembly, also provides for legislative powers exercisable by the same National Assembly. Section 4(1) of the Constitution provides that “The Legislative powers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be vested in a National Assembly for the Federation which shall consist of a Senate and a House of Representatives… for the peace, order and good Government of the Federation or any part thereof”… Suffice it to say that the National Assembly also derives its legislative powers from the same constitution. Now, Section 1(1) of the constitution provides that: “This Constitution is supreme and its provisions shall have binding force on all authorities and persons throughout the Federal Republic of Nigeria.” Section 1(3) provides that “If any other law (this time, Electoral Act) is inconsistent with the provisions of the Constitution, this Constitution shall prevail, and that law shall to the extent of the inconsistency be void”.
Therefore, I hereby opine that the effect of Section 1(1) and Section 1(3) is that the Constitution has a binding force either on the National Assembly as an Authority or senators and members of House of Reps as individual persons.
Section 153(1)(f) of the Constitution provides for the establishment of the Independent National Electoral Commission just as Section 47 of the Constitution as herein above mentioned, provides for the establishment of National Assembly. The composition and powers of INEC are as contained in Part 1 of the Third Schedule of this Constitution.
For the purpose of this piece, Paragraph 15(a) which provides that: “The Commission (INEC) shall have power to Organise, Undertake and Supervise all elections to the offices of the President and Vice President, Governor and Deputy Governor of a state and to the membership of the Senate, the House of Representatives and the House of Assembly of each State of the Federation”.
I therefore, humbly opine that the effect of Section 153 (1) (f) of the Constitution and paragraph 15 of Part 1 of the Third Schedule to the Constitution is that the INEC shall even conduct elections in the order stated in the constitution, that is, from President to Governor and finally or lastly membership of the Senate, the House of Representatives and the House of Assembly of each state of the Federation. Alternatively, since the commission shall have power to organise, undertake and supervise all elections to the offices of the President and Vice President, Governor and Deputy Governor of a state and to the membership of the Senate, the House of Representatives and the House of Assembly of each state of the federation, and the literary meaning of the word, “Organise”, simply means arrange systematically, order.
Therefore, the constitution by virtue of these provisions has given the commission (INEC) power to arrange systematically or order elections as it deems fit and necessary without any input from the National Assembly or the executives. And so far, Section 1(3) of the Constitution says, “If any other law (this time, Electoral Act) is inconsistent with the provisions of the constitution, this constitution shall prevail and that other law shall to the extent of inconsistency be void.”
I dare submit therefore that the part of the amendment to the Electoral Act touching on the reorder of elections is void ab initio. Since it is in conflict with the power constitutionally given to the commission, I hereby urge the members of the National Assembly to stop unnecessarily heating up the polity. Similarly, I urge the National Independent Electoral Commission to challenge this unconstitutional amendment to the Electoral Act in a competent court of jurisdiction. The rule of law is the bedrock of democracy.
Waseeu Gbola Adebayo,
Osun State House of Assembly, Osogbo