Nigerians are worried that President Muhammadu Buhari’s refusal to sign the Electoral Act Amended Bill 2018 into law may negatively affect the conduct of 2019 general elections
By Anayo Ezugwu
Nigerians are worried that President Muhammadu Buhari’s refusal to sign the Electoral Act Amendment Bill 2018 may affect the credibility of the 2019 general elections. Some politicians and lawyers, who spoke to Realnews, expressed fear that the president’s refusal to sign the bill poses grave danger to the forthcoming elections.
Monday Ubani, former second vice president, Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, said the president acted as if he did not want the country to conduct the election under the new amendment. He said the failure to conduct the 2019 election with the act would be very dangerous for the country.
“That means that the card reader will not be used. The government should tell us that they don’t want to use card reader in the next election. I think something is fundamentally wrong. He refused to sign it before and there was a reason for that. The House had to amend the particular section he complained about and returned to him in accordance with what he had wanted. It will be catastrophic if he failed to sign it and it portends danger for the 2019 election,” he said.
Yinka Odumakin, national publicity secretary, Afenifere, is disappointed with the development, urging Nigerians to be ready for another June 12 protest. “It is clear at this stage that Nigerians must gird their loins for another June 12 protest with this president. He (Buhari) is living out his confessions months back that he is still shocked that Jonathan handed over to him. It would take concerted efforts to have a smooth and democratic transition under him.”
In his reaction, Akin Osuntokun, director of Media and Public Communications, Coalition for Nigeria Movement, said there is an ulterior motive to manipulate the 2019 general elections to suit someone’s personal agenda. “Well, against the background that he has disputed the precedence of the authority of the National Assembly over his own powers, in prescribing the order of the 2019 general elections (as encapsulated in the electoral bill) it comes as no surprise.
“Effectively, he has now vetoed the bill and it will require a two-thirds majority of the national assembly or judicial pronouncement to overturn the veto. Both the president and the National Assembly are playing a game of cat and mouse over the bill. “Why should either of the two organs of government worry over the sequence of the election if there is good faith in what they are doing? It is yet another indication of ulterior motives of manipulating the elections to suit personal agenda,” he said.
Clement Nwankwo, lawyer, is worried that issues raised by the president could not be immediately corrected unless the National Assembly reconvenes to address the issues as soon as possible. “The president has the right to raise the objections but what bothers me is the amount of time it takes for the president to make his observations. This bill was first sent to the president and he rejected it based on election sequence. The National Assembly worked on it and sent it back to him and it took more than a month for the president to come back to say he has observed typographical wrongs.
“I think the issues he raised justify the allegations that the president is not ready to see a new electoral act in place. We did see that also play out in the build up to the 2015 elections where former President Goodluck Jonathan had the amended act and didn’t sign it or when he did we didn’t know till after the elections. So there is a concern here that each time an incumbent is in office, there is always refusal to sign amendments made as a result of the concerns raised from the previous elections into law,” he said.
But Ahmed Gulak, APC chieftain, thinks that the president reasons are clear and undisputable. He said the president has told the leadership of the National Assembly in clear terms what he wants them to do before he can assent the bill to become an act of the National Assembly. “It is now left for the National Assembly within purview of the constitution to do the needful either to do as the president have stipulated or to veto the bill by two third majority of the National Assembly.
“The president has every right under the provisions of our law to refuse assent to bills sent to him by the National Assembly. And it is equally provided in our constitution that where the National Assembly disagrees with the president, they have also constitutional rights to pass it into law by two third majorities.
“But as it is today, the National Assembly are in recess and as a result we are in a dilemma. And if we are in a dilemma, all of us need to agree we will not conduct the 2019 election with the 2018 amended act. If we agree it means that the 2019 elections would be conducted with the 2010 electoral act,” he said.
Justifying the rejection of the bill, Senator Ita Enang, senior special assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters, on Monday, September 3, said the president was declining assent to the bill due to some drafting issues that remain unaddressed following the prior revisions to the bill.
“There is a cross-referencing error in the proposed amendment to Section 18 of the Bill. The appropriate amendment is to substitute the existing sub-section (2) with the proposed subsection (1A), while the proposed sub-section (1B) is the new sub-section (2A).”
The president’s aide said there is also an issue with the conduct of primaries by political parties and the dates they should submit names of their candidates to INEC. He said if signed into law as it is, INEC would have only nine days to collate and compile lists of candidates in the 91 political parties.
“The proposed amendment is to include a new Section 87 (14) which stipulates a specific period within which political party primaries are required to be held which has the unintended consequence of leaving INEC with only nine days to collate and compile lists of candidates and political parties as well as manage the primaries of 91 political parties for the various elections.
“This is because the Electoral Amendment bill does not amend sections 31, 34 and 85, which stipulates times for the submission of lists of candidates, publication of lists of candidates and notice of convention, congresses for nominating candidates for elections.
“Clause 87 (14) states that the dates for the primaries shall not be earlier than 120 days and not later than 90 days before the date of elections to the offices” which is at variance with Section 31 of the Electoral Act 2010. Section 31 of the Electoral Act 2010 states, every political party shall not later than 60 days before the date appointed for a general election submit to the commission the list of candidates the party proposes to sponsor at the elections.
“Section 34 of the Act adds, that the commission shall at least 30 days before the day of the election publish a statement of the full names and addresses of all candidates standing nominated.”
Citing Section 85 (1) of the Electoral Act which states that a party shall give the commission at least 21 days’ notice of any convention, congress etc., for electing members of its executive committees or nominating candidates for any of the elective offices, Enang said this was at variance with the bill proposed by the National Assembly.
He said since the constitution did not empower a president or governor to whom a bill was forwarded by the legislature to edit, correct, amend or in any manner alter the provisions of any such bill to reflect appropriate intent before assenting to same, Buhari had no choice but to return it to the National Assembly.
It is pertinent to recall that President Buhari had on March 3, declined assent to the bill, saying it usurped the constitutional powers of Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to decide on election matters, including fixing the dates and the order they would be held.
– Sept. 7, 2018 @ 14:59 GMT