The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was established by the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to among other things organize elections into various political offices in the country.
The functions of INEC as contained in Section 15, Part 1 of the Third Schedule of the 1999 Constitution (As Amended) and Section 2 of the Electoral Act 2010 (As Amended) include the following:
1. Organise, undertake and supervise all elections to the offices of the President and Vice-President, the 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;
2. Register political parties in accordance with the provisions of the constitution and Act of the National Assembly;
3. Monitor the organization and operation of the political parties, including their finances; conventions, congresses and party primaries.
4. Arrange for the annual examination and auditing of the funds and accounts of political parties, and publish a report on such examination and audit for public information;
5. Arrange and conduct the registration of persons qualified to vote and prepare, maintain and revise the register of voters for the purpose of any election under this constitution;
6. Monitor political campaigns and provide rules and regulations which shall govern the political parties;
7. Conduct voter and civic education;
8. Promote knowledge of sound democratic election processes; and
9. Conduct any referendum required to be conducted pursuant to the provision of the 1999 Constitution or any other law or Act of the National Assembly.
According to the above constitutional provisions the National Assembly has no right to dictate to INEC.
“They have no right to dictate for INEC, the sequence of elections. Nigeria’s provisions in the constitution, does not give them the power to fix dates for elections.
“The provisions for various sections of the constitution, are very clear, especially section 15 part I of the third Schedule. Section 15 part I of the third schedule gives INEC the power to organise and undertake elections. You organise a thing by systematising it.
“So the section 15 part I of the third Schedule makes it very clear that INEC is the only one that has the sole responsibility to fix dates for elections as well as determine the sequence for the election.
“What the NASS are doing is illegal and unconstitutional. Once any provision of the electoral act conflicts with the constitution, that provision should be null and void.”
Therefore, the move by the National Assembly is against the law.
It is against all known laws of the land.
“The essence of law making is to do things that would take care of the interest of the citizens, but unfortunately, in this part of the world, lawmaking and governance is just in the interest of the political office holders. Everybody wants to wage power on their own side alone without putting the people into consideration.
“Of course, whatever sequence the election takes, does not in anyway affect the people and those who are shouting against it, are not shouting against it because it is going to affect the people but because it’s going to affect their own personal interest.
“As far as the law is concerned it is INEC that has the prerogative to determine when and how elections should be held”.
On the other hand, the National Assembly does not have such power under the constitution and under the electoral act to legislate power that has been given to the commission.
In the same taken people may argue that the National Assembly is not “debating date but sequence of the election.”
INEC can subsequently, decide to just fix the date, which believes the commission should not have problem with.
“The school of thought is of the view of that if the National Assembly goes ahead to determine the election sequence, in the name of re-amending the electoral act, they will be infringing on the power that has been given to INEC by the constitution and the procedures for amending the electoral act and the constitution are both apart.
“So indeed, if they want to bring down the general power that has been given to INEC, then it will involve amendment of the constitution, which apparently, they are not ready to do,” they opined
They added that the National Assembly may want to change the sequence of election for political reasons.
“The political view of the fact that the moment people elect whoever is going to be the president, there is a tendency that most people are likely to vote along that line.
“There’s also economic implication of what the National Assembly is attempting to do. By the time the election is broken into three series, they will have to deploy ballot boxes and papers as well as officials all over the country.
“Are we really willing to over-burden INEC?”, they said.
Of course, the National Assembly has the power to make laws for the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“And in making those laws, they have to consider existing laws, which involves the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria and the electoral act.
“The power has been given to the chairman of INEC to conduct and organise free and said election. So, it is the administrative power that has been conferred on the commission.
“Teaching the electoral commission how to organise an election is not right by the National Assembly. I think it is an unnecessary adventure of the national assembly to dictate for INEC, which of the elections should be held first or second it last. It is purely the administrative work of INEC because the power had been conferred in them.”
the electoral commission needs “to be left alone to operate as an independent body.”
because INEC as a body needs to be independent. As an independent body, they have the heart that establishes INEC, empowers them to fix dates and everything that has to do with election.
“An independent body is that body that has the control of it’s own activities without unnecessary interference from an external force.
“So intereferrence of the National Assembly is not right.”