The chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Corruption (PACAC), Itse Sagay, has said the federal government can fund the 2019 general election by invoking the “doctrine of necessity” should the National Assembly fail to pass the budget.
The doctrine of necessity is the basis on which extra-legal actions by state actors, which are designed to restore order, are found to be constitutional.
It was last used in Nigeria in 2010 when the National Assembly passed a resolution making the Vice President, Goodluck Jonathan, the Acting President.
This, Mr Sagay said in a statement, could be invoked following the delay by the National Assembly to approve the proposed budget of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for the general election.
While stating that the overriding necessity of elections and survival of democracy supersede the National Assembly’s powers where democracy is threatened, Mr Sagay said the failure or refusal by the National Assembly to approve funds for the 2019 elections would constitute a sabotage of the country’s democracy, of which the Constitution is the embodiment.
He said while the power to approve the budget is only a single item in the 1999 Constitution, democracy and its processes, including elections, are what the Constitution are about.
“If elections are not held, it will mean the collapse of our democracy, leading to chaos and anarchy. The question that arises is simple.
“Which is more critical to democracy and the survival of Nigeria: Is it (1) the power of the National Assembly to approve budgets or (2) the survival of democracy and Nigeria itself?
“If the survival of democracy is more important and fundamental to Nigeria’s existence, then failure to approve the budget for elections will trigger the doctrine of necessity, thus compelling the funding of election without the approval of the National Assembly,” he said.
He further explained that it is simply a question of the survival of democracy and the continued existence of Nigeria and the power of approval of budget is just a single item in the whole of the Constitution.
“On the contrary, elections and democracy which they support, constitute what the whole Constitution is about.
“Therefore, the overriding necessity and imperative of elections and democracy simply override the power of National Assembly.
“If the National Assembly refuses or fails to approve the budget for election, the doctrine of necessity will validate the provision of the funds without the National Assembly’s approval,” he added.
President Muhammadu Buhari had asked the federal lawmakers to approve N189 billion for INEC for the polls shortly before they embarked on their annual recess on July 24.
Although the president asked the money be released in two parts, the election commission requested for the entire sum.
Even though they are yet to reconvene, the necessary committees have met to consider the demands of Mr Buhari and INEC for the general election.
The committee had failed to harmonise the divergent positions of the senate and the house of representatives last week, necessitating an adjournment for more consultations to be made on the differential between Mr Buhari’s request for N143 billion and INEC’s N189 billion estimates for the funding of the impending 2019 elections.
The national assembly joint committee on INEC is to reconvene on Monday to conclude work on the 2019 INEC budget submitted to it by the president.