President Muhammadu Buhari, has for the third time vetoed the Electoral Act Amendment Bill 2018, putting in jeopardy the mandatory use of card readers, and electronic transmission of results, the alteration proposals provided to engender a more transparent electoral process for the country.
The President’s decision to veto the Bill was announced on Monday, by his Senior Special Assistant on National Assembly Matters, Senator Ita Enang, after keeping the country in suspense for several days.
Enang said in a statement, that Buhari’s decision was contained in a letter, dated August 30, 2018, addressed to the National Assembly.
According to him, the President withheld his assent to the Bill, because the Federal Legislators failed to effect the earlier observations he asked them to review.
The veto has drawn the anger of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, which said that it was obvious all along that the President would not sign the Bill, because some of its provisions would inhibit the capacity of the All Progressives Congress, APC, to compromise the 2019 general elections.
Enang stated however, that Buhari in his preparedness to assent to the Bill, had earlier called a meeting of both members of the Senate and House of Representatives, asking them to review some sections, which if retained, would leave the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, with only nine days to compile the list of candidates.
According to him, given the provision of Clause 87 (14) in the Bill, which gives political parties between 120 and 90 days to elections as the latest period to submit names of their candidates, INEC will be left with only nine days to compile the list of candidates of 91 political parties, which he felt would be insufficient for the electoral body.
According to him, this is so because the Bill did not amend sections 31 and 34 of Electoral Act 2010, which give political parties 60 days to the elections, as the latest date to submit the list of candidates, and 30 days to elections respectively, for the publication of names of candidates by INEC.
He also cited what he described as drafting and referencing errors, as parts of the reasons for rejecting the Bill.
He said the President was left without an option than to reject the entire Bill, because Bills do not give room for any alteration, but to either wholly accept them as they are, or reject them.
Enang stated further, that he was compelled to make these clarifications to avert misinformation.
The statement reads: “President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, has by communication dated August 30, 2018, to the Senate and the House of Representatives, declined Assent to the Electoral (Amendment) Bill, 2018.
“I pray for leave, that in view of public interest, the fact of the National Assembly vacation, the imperative to avoid speculation and misinformation, that I give just a few of the rationale by Mr. President.
“Mr. President is declining assent to the Electoral Amendment Bill, due to some drafting issues that remain unaddressed, following the prior revisions to the Bill.
“Mr. President invites the Senate and House of Representatives, to address these issues as quickly as possible, so that he may grant President Assent to the Electoral Amendment Bill.
“A few of the outstanding issues are:
“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 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 stipulate times for the submission of lists of candidates, publication of lists of candidates, and notice of Convention, Congresses for nominating candidates for elections.
“For clarity, may I provide some details of the provisions referenced?
“Clause 87 (14) states: 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.
“The Electoral Act 2010 referred to, herein states in section 31: That 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: 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.
“Section 85 (1): That a political party shall give the Commission at least twenty-one days notice of any Convention, Congress, etc, for electing members of its Executive Committees, or nominating candidates for any of the elective offices.
“For the avoidance of doubt, neither the Constitution nor any written law allows a President or a Governor to whom a Bill is 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. He is to ASSENT in the manner it is, or to withhold ASSENT.
“On the under listed Bills earlier transmitted, namely:
“National Agricultural Seeds Council Bill, 2018; The Advance Fee Fraud and Other Related Offences (Amendment) Bill, 2017; The Chartered Institute of Entrepreneurship (Establishment) Bill, 2018; The Subsidiary Legislation (Legislative Scrutiny) Bill, 2018;
“National Institute of Hospitality and Tourism (Establishment) Bill, 2018; National Research and Innovation Council (Establishment) Bill, 2017;
“Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (Amendment) Bill, 2017;
“Mr. President has communicated his ACTION to the National Assembly.”
Reacting to the development, the PDP said that the veto would not stop Nigerians from voting Buhari out of office, in 2019.
The National Publicity Secretary of the party, Kola Ologbondiyan, in a statement, said that the APC and Buhari are not ready for a free and fair election.
He stated: “They are afraid of contesting the election. They are not prepared for a free and fair election. So, they do not want INEC or the National Assembly to bring in amendments that will guarantee free and fair elections; that is why the President has refused to sign the amendment Bill into law.
“Nigerians are ready to vote out Buhari, under whatever guise he conducts that election. Whether he wants to guarantee a free and fair election or not, Nigerians are sick and tired of him, and they will vote him out.”
He pointed out that the clerical and drafting arguments put forward by the President, could not in any way outweigh the importance of amendments meant to engender free, fair, credible, and transparent elections, in 2019.
Ologbondiyan stated: “It is now manifestly clear to Nigerians, that all the reasons adduced by President Buhari for withholding his assent in the past, were lame excuses.
“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.”