The Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, and Speaker of the House of Representative, Yakubu Dogara, have vowed to jointly give an appropriate response after President Muhammadu Buhari withheld his assent to the Electoral Act Amendment Bill.
Spokespersons for the Senate President and Speaker, Yusuph Olaniyonu and Turaki Hassan, revealed this in a statement on Saturday.
Contrary to reports that both National Assembly leaders are divided over the President’s position to the amended bill, Saraki and Dogara noted that they are working “in agreement on what to do”.
Both leaders added that the move by the lawmakers to change the sequence in which elections are conducted was not personal but in the interest of the nation’s democracy.
Presidential and National Assembly elections are always conducted (on the same day) before other polls, while the governorship and State Houses of Assembly elections follow.
The lawmakers have, however, amended the sequence such that the National Assembly polls would be conducted first, followed by the state lawmakers, and the governors while the presidential election should take place last.
The development consequently sparked criticism in the country, as well as a division among members of the Upper House.
Rejecting the proposal, President Buhari noted that the amendment to the sequence of the election in section 25 of the Principal Act might infringe on the constitutionally guaranteed discretion of INEC to organise, undertake and supervise all elections provided in section 16(a) of the constitution.
The National Assembly leadership, on its part, maintained that both upper and lower chambers were working jointly to take the appropriate next step.
Read the statement jointly signed by Saraki and Dogara’s spokesmen below:
Our attention has been drawn to reports in a national daily insinuating that there was a disagreement between Senate President, Dr Abubakar Bukola Saraki and Speaker, Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara, over how both chambers of the National Assembly will react to the withholding of assent by President Muhammadu Buhari on the Electoral Act Amendment Bill.
We wish to inform the public that there is no such disagreement between the two leaders, and indeed the two chambers of the National Assembly.
“The Senate President and the Speaker, as heads of the two chambers of the National Assembly and representing the views of their colleagues, will want everybody to know that they are on the same page on what is the appropriate reaction to the President’s withholding of assent on the Electoral Act amendment bill.
“There is no disagreement between the two chambers as well as their presiding officers. The leadership of the two chambers constantly hold discussions and are in agreement on what to do, how to do it, when to do it and why it must be done.
“The issue at stake is not personal. It is about deepening democracy. It is about improving our democracy and the National Assembly is on firm constitutional and legal grounds to amend the law as well as make decisions in the manner they have been responding.
“We see that story and the insinuations contained in it as a mere distraction and unnecessary misrepresentation aimed at creating division in the Federal Legislature. The Senate President, Speaker and their colleagues urge members of the public to discountenance the report.