President Muhammadu Buhari has again declined assent to the Electoral (Amendment) Bill, 2018.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters, Senator Ita Enang, said this on Monday in a statement titled, ‘Presidential decision to decline assent to Electoral (Amendment) Bill 2018.’
The development comes less than six months after the President rejected the first one.
According to Enang, the President has already communicated his decision in letters sent to the two chambers of the National Assembly.
Enang said the President was declining assent to the bill due to some “drafting issues that remain unaddressed following the prior revisions to the bill.”
The statement added, “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 was also an issue with the conduct of primaries by political parties and the dates they should submit names of their candidates to INEC.
Enang 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.
He said, “The proposed amendment to include a new Section 87 (14) which stipulates a specific period within which political party primaries are required to be held 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.’’
He noted that 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.
Enang called on the National Assembly to quickly rectify the necessary sections and return the bill to the President for assent.
Others bills which Enang said the President had communicated action to the National Assembly include: National Agricultural Seeds Council Bill, 2018; the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Related Offences (Amendment) Bill, 2017; and the Chartered Institute of Entrepreneurship (Establishment) Bill, 2018.
Others are: The Subsidiary Legislation (Legislative Scrutiny) Bill, 2018; National Institute of Hospitality and Tourism (Establishment) Bill, 2018; National Research and Innovation Council (Establishment) Bill, 2017; and the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (Amendment) Bill, 2017.
The President, had in March refused to sign the electoral amendment bill. In a letter to the President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, he explained why he did not sign the bill.
According to him, the bill usurped the constitutional powers of INEC to decide on election matters, including fixing the dates and the order they would be held.
He also stated that he was complying with the requirements of Section 58 of the 1999 Constitution, particularly sub-section 4, by refusing to sign the bill.
Buhari’s letter in March read, “Pursuant to Section 58(4) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), I hereby convey to the Senate, my decision on 3rd March, 2018 to decline presidential assent to the Electoral Act Amendment Bill 2018 recently passed by the National Assembly.
“Some of my reasons for withholding assent to the bill include the following: the amendment to the sequence of the elections in Section 25 of the principal Act may infringe upon the constitutionally guaranteed discretion of theINEC to organise, undertake and supervise all elections provided in Section 15(a) of the Third Schedule of the Constitution.
“The amendment to Section 138 of the principal Act to delete two crucial grounds upon which an election may be challenged by candidates, unduly limits the rights of candidates in elections to a free and fair electoral review process.
“The amendment to Section 152 Subsection 325 of the principal Act may raise constitutional issues over the competence of the National Assembly to legislate over local government elections.”
A new Section 25 in the Electoral Act, which states that the sequence of the elections will commence with the National Assembly, to be followed by governorship and state Houses of Assembly, while presidential poll will come last, had polarised the All Progressives Congress Caucus in the National Assembly.
Following the refusal of the President to sign the bill, the National Assembly removed the controversial section, where the lawmakers fixed dates of elections and resent the bill to Buhari on August 3.
Senate, Reps keep mum on assent withdrawal
Meanwhile, both the Senate and the House of Representatives on Monday did not react to Buhari’s withdrawal of presidential assent to the bill.
Efforts to get key officials of the two chambers of the National Assembly to speak on the matter proved abortive.
When contacted, the Special Adviser to the Senate President on Media and Publicity, Mr Yusuph Olaniyonu, said he could not confirm if his boss, Saraki, had received the letter.
For further comments, Olaniyonu referred one of our correspondents to the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Aliyu Sabi-Abdullahi; and the Chairman of the Senate Committee on INEC, Senator Suleiman Nazif, who sponsored the bill and who was Chairman of the Senate and House of Representatives’ Joint Committee on the Electoral Act Amendment Bill.
Nazif could not be reached for comments as calls made to his telephone did not connect.
The spokesperson for the Senate could not be reached to react to the assent withdrawal.
The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Aliyu Sabi-Abdullahi, rejected a call made to him by one of our correspondents. He had yet to reply a text message sent to him as of press time on Monday.
Calls to the telephone of the Vice-Chairman, Senator Ben Murray-Bruce, did not connect.
The Majority Leader, Senator Ahmad Lawan, who is leader of the All Progressives Congress Caucus, also could not be reached as calls made to his telephone line rang out. He had yet to reply to one of our correspondents’ enquiry as of the time this report was filed.
Leader of the Peoples Democratic Party Caucus, Senator Godswill Akpabio, had recently resigned as Minority Leader.
At the House of Representatives, the telephone of the spokesman, Abdulrazak Namdas, indicated that it had been switched off.
While the Special Adviser to the Speaker on Media, Turaki Hassan, asked one of our correspondents to send his enquiry through a text message as he was on a trip, he neither replied it nor picked subsequent calls made to him.
Also, while telephone calls to the Majority Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila, did not connect, the line of the Minority Leader, Leo Ogor, indicated that it had been switched off. Both of them had yet to reply the text message sent to them as of press time.
PDP asks N’Assembly to override Buhari
But the PDP has urged the National Assembly to override the President by vetoing the Electoral Act 2010 (Amendment) Bill.
The PDP said Buhari’s refusal did not come to the party as a surprise, alleging that his commitment to a free and fair 2019 elections was mere lip service.
The National Publicity Secretary of the party, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, said in a statement in Abuja on Monday, that it was now manifestly clear to Nigerians that all the reasons adduced by President Buhari for withholding his assent in the past were lame.
He said, “The clerical and drafting arguments put forward by President Buhari could not in any way outweigh the importance of amendments meant to engender free, fair, credible and transparent elections in 2019.
“The PDP therefore charges the National Assembly to stand with Nigerians in the overall quest for credible elections by immediately overriding President Buhari on the bill.”
APC keeps mum
Attempts to get the APC’s reaction to President Muhammadu’s refusal to assent to the Electoral Amendment bill were unsuccessful. Calls to the mobile telephone number of the party’s acting National Publicity Secretary, Yekini Nabena, were neither picked nor returned.
A response to a text message sent to him on the subject was still being awaited as of 8.22pm on Monday.
Buhari betrays Nigerians by declining asset to bill – Secondus
Reacting, the National Chairman of the PDP, Prince Uche Secondus, scolded President Buhari for not signing the amended Electoral Bill into law.
Secondus described the President as an excuse giver, saying that he had yet to shed the toga of a military dictator.
Secondus, who spoke with one of our correspondents in Abuja on Monday, said the President was used to denying Nigerians.
He said it was unfortunate that the President, who he said just gave an assurance that he was committed to free, fair and credible elections, would refuse to sign a law aimed at strengthening democracy.
Secondus asked Nigerians and the international community to hold the President responsible if “the next general elections failed.”
He added, ”We have said it on many occasions. This President is not a democrat. He is a pretender. He never believed in democracy. He is a dictator to the core.
“Here is a man who just told the world that he was not afraid of credible elections. Yet, he is busy working openly and secretly against the interest of the nation.
“His renewed rejection of the bill is an indication that he is either myopic about the tenets of democracy or against the workings of the National Assembly.”
Secondus appealed to the National Assembly to either veto the President or “make sure in whatever way, that the law is passed.”
APC, not ready for 2019 polls – Labour Party
Meanwhile, the President’s refusal to sign the bill attracted different reactions on Monday. The National Chairman of the Labour Party, Alhaji AbdulkadirAbdulsalam, in an interview with The PUNCH, said the APC and its government were not ready for elections.
He said, “It seems the APC and this government it leads is not prepared for the (2019) elections. In fact, they want to scuttle it and give an impression to the international community that we are running a military dictatorship. If not, how can a National Assembly consisting of 109 senators and 360 members of the House of Representatives pass a bill and one man throws it out? If there were errors like he said why didn’t he cite those errors, get them corrected and sign if the errors are that serious?”