The Senate President, Bukola Saraki, while declaring open a public hearing on the bill seeking to establish the National Electoral Offences Commission on Monday, made reference to the controversy generated by the recent amendment to Section 25 of the Electoral Act, which seeks to re-order the sequence of polls during the general elections.
INEC had expressed its intention to challenge the amendment in court but later made a U-turn.
Speaking at the hearing conducted by the Senate’s Joint Committee on INEC; and Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, Saraki stated that the National Assembly had powers to legislate over the electoral body and other agencies of government.
Saraki, who was represented by the Deputy Majority Leader, Senator Bala Ibn Na’Allah, also pointed out that the lawmakers could not be involved in any legislation that would violate the constitution.
“Of recent, there have been arguments on who has power to do what,” he said, adding that Nigeria had a lot of people who knew how to go to court to get all kinds of judgments.
“INEC should be cautious of who it is listening to. We would not sit anywhere this constitution will be violated. It is necessary we caution ourselves. We need this country, we love this country,” Saraki said.
The Senate President also decried that some political aspirants and parties were already campaigning when INEC had yet to declare electioneering open.
He said, “The Senate in particular would be very worried, if INEC begins to condone the actions of some political parties. You have not declared campaigns open, and some are already campaigning.”
Saraki asked INEC to exercise its powers and sanction such persons or parties.
The Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, in his presentation to the committee, disclosed that the electoral umpire currently had about 1,080 cases in courts relating to the 2015 general elections.
He added that the commission had received 124 case files of electoral offenders from the police, out of which 60 had been prosecuted.
Yakubu, who expressed support for the establishment of the Electoral Offences Commission, stated that INEC could not effectively prosecute electoral offenders and focus on its enormous responsibilities simultaneously.
The electoral body’s tasks, he said, included registration and regulation of political parties as well as monitoring of parties’ congresses and finances.
The INEC boss, however, noted that the Secretary of the NEOC should be appointed by the commission and not by the President as being proposed.
He also warned against appointment of ex-officio members, while calling for a proper definition of “electoral offences.”