20180317

Buhari Didn't Discuss Elections Order When He Met Saraki, Dogara?

There were indications last night that the order of the 2019 general election was not one of the issues President Muhammadu Buhari discussed with the Senate President Bukola Saraki, House of Representatives Speaker Yakubu Dogara and other leaders of the National Assembly at a meeting they held on Thursday night.

A principal officer of the National Assembly at the meeting disclosed that “the matter was never discussed.”

Rather, the source told The Nation, the Presidency and the leadership of the National Assembly are engaged in behind-the-scene talks on the row over the order of the elections.

Investigation conducted by The Nation revealed that efforts were on to resolve the crisis concerning the alterations amicably.

Out of three issues raised by the President, the contentious one is the new Section 25(1) which says that the elections shall be held in the following order: (a) National Assembly elections; (b) State Houses of Assembly and Governorship elections and (c) Presidential election.

President Muhammadu Buhari was also said to have bowed to National Assembly’s demand by directing all Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to submit budget details to the lawmakers.

It was learnt that based on the presidential directive, the National Assembly has promised Buhari “expeditious passage” of the 2018 Budget into law.

The President was said to have briefed the leadership of the National Assembly on all the steps he has taken to address the security challenges facing the nation.

The principal officer of the National Assembly, who spoke in confidence, said: “We did not discuss the amendment to the Electoral Act, especially the order of elections, with the President.

“But I can tell you that there are behind-the-scene talks between the Presidency and the National Assembly on how to resolve our differences on the alterations amicably.

“Lobbying, exchanging ideas on motions, bills and amendments to any Act are parts of democracy.

“Some of our colleagues believe the National Assembly can expunge two out of the three alterations objected to by the President.

“But a few others had been asking the National Assembly to override the President’s veto on the bill.

“We are engaging in behind-the-scene talks to compare notes. If these attempts fail, the two parties will allow the law to take its course.”

The National Assembly Conference Committee on the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill on February 6 adopted the reordering of the sequence of elections approved by the House of Representatives.

Both chambers of the National Assembly subsequently adopted the decision which was then forwarded to President Muhammadu Buhari for his assent.

The President, however, declined assent, explaining in a letter to the National Assembly that his action was motivated in part by the threat posed to the independence of the commission to “organise, undertake and supervise elections.”

On the more than 50 outstanding nominations yet to be considered by the National Assembly, the source added: “The Senate gave exemption to those nominated to the board of the Central bank of Nigeria (CBN), but the National Assembly members believe we need to deal with this matter once and for all.

“We are already considering the fact that we should have a holistic approach to the pending nominations.

“We are working hard on this, but again, it was not discussed at the meeting with the President.”

The source, however, explained that the 2018 Budget and security challenges in the country were the main issues at the Thursday session.

The source added: “Everybody was concerned about the budget. We promised the President that we can pass the budget as quickly as possible if the MDAs provide the required details.

“If these MDAs comply with our demand, we will pass the budget expeditiously.

“I think not quite long, the budget will be passed.

“The President gave a commitment, and from what we have seen on Friday, he has given directive to all MDAs through the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Boss Mustapha.

Mustapha told newsmen as follows: 
“Mr. President has given instructions that all ministries and parastatals should ensure that they appear before the National Assembly to defend their submissions so that we can get this out of the way.

“This is a very dynamic year. There are preparations for elections and we are having quite a number of security challenges.

“And so, if we do not appropriate, where will the money come from to be able to prosecute some of the assignments the Federal Government has in the appropriation of 2018?

“So, this is a very good meeting; we intend to build on it. It is a confidence-building mechanism, and it is an interface that would definitely get a new dimension of the governance of this country for the betterment of the people of Nigeria.”