By Sani Tukur
The Chairman, Senate Committee on Police Affairs, Abu Ibrahim, has said that the recent decision by the two chambers of the National assembly to reorder the sequence of the 2019 election is illegal.
The National Assembly Conference Committee on Electoral Act (amendment) Bill on Tuesday adopted the reordered sequence of the 2019 General Elections, making presidential election last.
The lawmakers want their elections held first, to be followed by that of governors and members of state assemblies.
About 10 senators criticised their colleagues for passing the bill, while it was unanimously adopted by the House of Representatives. President Muhammadu Buhari has not indicated whether or not he would sign the bill.
Speaking with State House correspondents at the Presidential Villa where he observed the Friday prayers, Mr. Ibrahim said the decision is illegal.
Q: What is your take on the altercation that followed the review of sequence of elections which has created problem among senators?
A: Actually, it has not created a problem, it is just democracy in action. First, the amendment of the sequence of the election was passed from the House. When we sat for harmonisation, the House version was adopted. But those of us who are old in this chamber know that it was absolutely illegal. If you look at Section 72 of the constitution, it is clear that it is INEC that is mandated to fix date, already INEC has fixed date and nobody can change it.
There was a legal case in 2003 during Obasanjo when the National Assembly passed a law to hold all elections in one day. That matter went to court because Obasanjo refused to sign it, they overruled his veto by two-third, then INEC went to court.
The court in its jurisdiction declared that nobody can interfere with INEC. That was upheld by the Court of Appeal and we didn’t go to the Supreme Court, so it stopped there. Therefore, that judgement is still subsisting that nobody can interfere with the functions of INEC in terms of fixing dates of elections.
Now I learnt the committee erroneously used the aborted constitutional amendment which was made in 2014.
I agree that was done, I was part of it, it went through everything but it was not signed into law. The amendment was sent to Jonathan to sign into law, it was a constitutional amendment then, I think Jonathan found some discrepancies, so he refused to sign it.
Then we even brought another argument, after all it was a constitutional amendment why shouldn’t the president sign, so we went to Supreme Court. Unfortunately, it was late, election came, everybody was swept away. The National Assembly left, the State Assembly left, so, the constitution amendment was not implemented because it was not signed into law.
Therefore, if the committee was using that amendment, it might have amended Section 72 of the constitution it is wrong because it was never amended and the constitutional amendment has not become law, so obviously, that amendment is illegal.
Q: What are the fears of those that don’t want to change the sequence of election?
A: Unfortunately there is a lot of misconception. One, it is too costly. You cannot afford the elections, look at the amount of money that will be spent, where will you get that amount of money, what about the timing?
It will even expose some of our colleagues to danger. If you have a senator alone, who will contest the election, he must pay his agents, he must pay for security, he must pay for everything. And if he is afraid of his governor, his governor is now free to deal with him.
Of course, if he contests together with the president as put by INEC, the presidential election, the security aspect even the funding will cover him up. So, obviously my colleagues have not thought much on this issue. But what is important, it is not legal at all.
Q: President Buhari’s second term bid is becoming a burning issue, the SGF was quoted as saying the president will contest, what is the feeling among you senators?
A: Well, SGF is SGF, so he has better ears of the president than me, so they might have discussed. But I think President Buhari has started a lot of good things for this country and he needs a second term to continue to consolidate what he has achieved so far and I am in support.
Q: Are senators going to support him also?
A: Well, senators are senators but I know the majority will do so.
Q: What attracts you to Buhari’s performance?
A: All the promises he has made, anti-corruption, security, he has finished the Boko Haram although there are lingering security problems now which I am sure he is taking serious action to stop what is going on now. Killings in Zamfara which I read today, in Benue and so on and so forth. I am sure within few weeks, the issue will be over.
Q: We have not heard anything from the senate on El Rufai’s Committee on restructuring
A: This is going to the party and the party will most likely pass it to the Senate or the National Assembly. But, what I realised from my own investigation is that there is serious opposition on state police from the National Assembly and that is as a result of the relationship between some governors and their National Assembly members. They feel they are not handling local government elections democratically let alone if they have state police.
So obviously if the governors want that portion to pass, they must have good relationship with the National Assembly members.
Q: Are you yourself opposed to state police?
A: Yes and I have my reasons. I am Chairman, Senate Committee on Police Affairs and I have made a lot of research on the issue of state police and regional police. It was on before, there was a Willink Commission in 1954 which decided for fear of minorities not to allow regional police. Of course, if you want to do state police, you may do it but it must be confined to specific aspect of law enforcement, you can take away things like national elections but probably local issues, arrest of local thieves, local control of security, but it must be lineated and limited.