NASS, PDP, SANS kick as Buhari de­clines as­sent to elec­toral bill again

The Punch - - NEWS - John Ameh, Lekan Ade­tayo, Suc­cess Nwogu and Ade Ade­s­o­moju, Abuja

The Na­tional As­sem­bly, Peo­ples Demo­cratic Party, over 45 op­po­si­tion po­lit­i­cal par­ties un­der the aegis of the Coali­tion of United Po­lit­i­cal Par­ties, and some prom­i­nent Se­nior Ad­vo­cates of Nige­ria on Fri­day kicked as Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari fi­nally with­held his as­sent to the Elec­toral Act (Amend­ment) Bill 2018 passed by the Na­tional As­sem­bly.

The Pres­i­dent had ear­lier on Fri­day an­nounced his de­ci­sion to with­hold his as­sent to the cru­cial elec­toral bill which the Na­tional As­sem­bly trans­mit­ted to him on Novem­ber 7.

The con­tro­ver­sial bill has been re­turned to the Na­tional As­sem­bly af­ter the Pres­i­dent re­fused to sign it the fourth time.

The Pres­i­dent had ear­lier re­jected it for the third time and re­turned it to the leg­is­la­ture on Au­gust 30.

Con­firm­ing Buhari’s lat­est de­ci­sion in Abuja, his Se­nior Spe­cial As­sis­tant, Na­tional As­sem­bly Mat­ters (Sen­ate), Sen­a­tor Ita Enang, said the Pres­i­dent gave his rea­sons in a let­ter to the Na­tional As­sem­bly.

Enang, a mem­ber of the All Pro­gres­sives Congress from Akwa Ibom State, merely said, “Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari has taken de­ci­sion on the Elec­toral Act (Amend­ment) Bill 2018 in ac­cor­dance with his power un­der the 1999 Con­sti­tu­tion and has com­mu­ni­cated that de­ci­sion to the Sen­ate and the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives in ac­cor­dance with the law.”

He added that Buhari acted within the law, which com­pels him to com­mu­ni­cate his de­ci­sion to the Na­tional As­sem­bly.

Enang noted, “The Pres­i­dent has taken a de­ci­sion in ac­cor­dance with the pow­ers vested in him by the con­sti­tu­tion. And by con­ven­tion that de­ci­sion con­tained in the com­mu­ni­ca­tion can only be re­vealed by the per­son to whom that de­ci­sion is ad­dressed.

“But the elec­toral bill has left Mr Pres­i­dent be­cause he has taken a de­ci­sion and has re­mit­ted it back.”

My re­fusal is in na­tional in­ter­est -Pres­i­dent

Ac­cord­ing to Satur­day PUNCH find­ings, Buhari made the with­drawal known in a let­ter to the Sen­ate and the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, which was ad­dressed to the Pres­i­dent, Bukola Saraki and the Speaker, Yakubu Dog­ara, re­spec­tively.

The let­ter, a copy of which our cor­re­spon­dent ob­tained by Satur­day PUNCH, was dated De­cem­ber 6, 2018.

It read, “Pur­suant to Sec­tion 58(4) of the Con­sti­tu­tion of the Fed­eral Repub­lic of Nige­ria 1999 (as amended), I hereby con­vey to the Sen­ate/house of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, my de­ci­sion on 6th De­cem­ber, 2018, to de­cline pres­i­den­tial as­sent to the Elec­toral (Amend­ment) Bill, 2018, re­cently passed by the Na­tional As­sem­bly.

“I am de­clin­ing as­sent to the bill prin­ci­pally be­cause I am con­cerned that pass­ing a new elec­toral bill this far into the elec­toral process for the 2019 gen­eral elec­tions, which com­menced un­der the 2015 Elec­toral Act, could cre­ate some uncer­tainty about the ap­pli­ca­ble leg­is­la­tion to gov­ern the process. Any real or ap­par­ent change to the rules this close to the elec­tion may pro­vide an op­por­tu­nity for dis­rup­tion and con­fu­sion in re­spect of which law gov­erns the elec­toral process.

“This leads me to be­lieve that it is in the best in­ter­est of the coun­try and our democ­racy for the Na­tional As­sem­bly to specif­i­cally state in the bill, that the Elec­toral Act will come into ef­fect and be ap­pli­ca­ble to elec­tions com­menc­ing af­ter the 2019 gen­eral elec­tions.”

Buhari also raise some draft­ing is­sues, call­ing for in­ser­tion and dele­tion of some words.

We will veto bill, Sen­ate vows

How­ever, uncer­tainty may be loom­ing over the con­duct of the forth­com­ing 2019 gen­eral elec­tions as the Sen­ate has vowed to veto the Elec­toral Act (Amend­ment) Bill 2018, fol­low­ing Pres­i­dent’s de­ci­sion to as­sent to the vi­tal bill.

The Sen­ate on Fri­day vowed to veto the bill say­ing the new elec­toral draft was very sig­nif­i­cant to the con­duct and out­come of the 2019 elec­tions.

The Vice-chair­man of the Sen­ate Com­mit­tee on Me­dia and Pub­lic Af­fairs, Sen­a­tor Ben Mur­ray-bruce, told Satur­day PUNCH that the up­per cham­ber of the Na­tional As­sem­bly would lobby mem­bers of the rul­ing party, the All Pro­gres­sives Congress, in the cham­ber to veto the bill.

Mur­ray-bruce, who had ini­tially with­held the Sen­ate’s re­ac­tion on the sub­ject mat­ter in or­der to get brief from the Sen­ate Pres­i­dent, Bukola Saraki, later spoke to Satur­day PUNCH af­ter get­ting in touch with Saraki.

Mur­ray-bruce, who said the amend­ments to the bill would guar­an­tee free and fair gen­eral elec­tions in 2019, said the Sen­ate would do ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble to veto the bill.

The Sen­ate’s spokesman said, “First of all, we think it is a mis­take not to sign the bill. We think Buhari should have signed it. We want the APC sen­a­tors and all Nige­ri­ans to un­der­stand that, that bill was the right thing to do at this pe­riod of our na­tional life.

“We will do ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble to work with the pro­gres­sive APC sen­a­tors to get the right num­ber of votes to over­ride it. We will over­ride it.”

He added, “We want cred­i­ble elec­tions and that was why we hoped the Pres­i­dent would sign the (amended) Elec­toral Act. Now that he has re­fused to sign it, we will talk to the APC mem­bers in the Sen­ate to look at Nige­ria and not their party. They should look at Nige­ria and not their party.

“There are as­pects that INEC can im­ple­ment on their own without the law.”

When asked later if he was re­act­ing in his per­sonal ca­pac­ity as a sen­a­tor or as the Sen­ate’s spokesman, Mur­ray-bruce said, “It was the Sen­ate re­act­ing, I told you.”

Re­act­ing, the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives said it would take ac­tion on the as­sent with­drawal af­ter Dog­ara had read the let­ter to law­mak­ers in ple­nary.

The Chair­man of the House Com­mit­tee on Me­dia and Pub­lic Af­fairs, Mr Ab­dul­razak Nam­das, who spoke to one of our cor­re­spon­dents on the tele­phone, said, “The House can only take a de­ci­sion af­ter the let­ter had been read on the floor of the cham­ber.”

PDP, CUPP, SANS urge NASS to over­ride Buhari

But the PDP Pres­i­den­tial Cam­paign Coun­cil on Fri­day urged the Na­tional As­sem­bly to im­me­di­ately over­ride the Pres­i­dent’s re­fusal to as­sent the bill.

The Di­rec­tor, Me­dia and Pub­lic­ity of the coun­cil, Kola Olog­bondiyan, in a state­ment said over­rid­ing Buhari would save the na­tion’s democ­racy

He added that the leg­isla­tive ac­tion had be­come im­per­a­tive as Buhari’s de­ci­sion was a cal­cu­lated at­tempt to in­ject cri­sis into the elec­toral process.

Ac­cord­ing to him, Buhari’s re­fusal to sign the Act could ul­ti­mately scut­tle the con­duct of the 2019 gen­eral elec­tions.

Olog­bondiyan said, “Pres­i­dent Buhari’s re­peated re­fusal to sign amend­ments passed to check rig­ging in the elec­tion, raises is­sues of his sin­cer­ity of pur­pose and has the ca­pac­ity to trig­ger po­lit­i­cal un­rest and vi­o­lence, which can, in turn, trun­cate our hard­earned democ­racy.”

Ac­cord­ing to him, Buhari is afraid of the amend­ments be­cause they es­sen­tially checked the APC’S al­leged rig­ging plans.

He also charged all po­lit­i­cal par­ties, other crit­i­cal stake­hold­ers and Nige­ri­ans in gen­eral, to rise in the in­ter­est of the na­tion and de­mand the en­trench­ing of rules and pro­cesses that would guar­an­tee the con­duct of free, fair and cred­i­ble elec­tions.

Re­jec­tion in­vi­ta­tion to an­ar­chy –CUPP

Mean­while, the CUPP said Buhari’s de­ci­sion not to sign the bill was an in­vi­ta­tion to elec­toral an­ar­chy.

The coali­tion in a state­ment by its first na­tional spokesper­son, Imo Ugochinyere, said Buhari’s lat­est ac­tion por­trayed him as a jittery Pres­i­dent who was afraid of elec­toral de­feat.

The state­ment read, “Pres­i­dent Buhari has ex­pect­edly failed again to take ad­van­tage of the rare op­por­tu­nity of the Elec­toral Amend­ment Bill to write his name in gold as the Pres­i­dent that signed the laws that guar­an­teed elec­toral cred­i­bil­ity in Nige­ria.

“But yet again, as usual of him, he failed to rise to the oc­ca­sion, be­ing blinded by am­bi­tion and the love of the perks of of­fice.”

Mean­while, renowned Se­nior Ad­vo­cates of Nige­ria have ad­vised the Na­tional As­sem­bly to evoke its con­sti­tu­tional pow­ers to over­ride the Pres­i­dent’s as­sent in re­spect of the elec­toral act.

The SANS in­clude Olisa Ag­bakoba, Mike Ozekhome, Femi Falana and Ifedapo Adedipe.

Ag­bakoba, who is a for­mer Pres­i­dent of the Nige­rian Bar As­so­ci­a­tion and a mem­ber of the CUPP, said without the sign­ing of the bill, some of the chal­lenges ex­pe­ri­enced in the 2015 elec­tions would re­peat them­selves.

He ex­pressed the ex­pec­ta­tion that the Sen­ate would over­ride Buhari’s de­ci­sion to pave the way for a smoother elec­toral ex­pe­ri­ence in 2019.

Ag­bakoba said, “The 2018 Elec­toral Bill is clearly bet­ter than the 2010 (Elec­toral Act) as it re­moved all the con­straints and chal­lenges that marred the 2015 elec­tions.

“So, re­tain­ing the weak­nesses of the 2010 (Elec­toral Act) on whether the card reader and trans­mis­sion of re­sults elec­tron­i­cally are al­lowed is go­ing to make the 2019 elec­tions a lot more dif­fi­cult and chal­leng­ing. So, I ex­pect the Sen­ate to over­ride the pres­i­den­tial veto.”

Ozekhome also said the Na­tional As­sem­bly had the power to over­ride the Pres­i­dent’s de­ci­sion.

He said, “The Na­tional As­sem­bly can go ahead with twothirds ma­jor­ity to over­turn the Pres­i­dent’s de­ci­sion. If af­ter 30 days he (Pres­i­dent) de­clines his as­sent, the Na­tional As­sem­bly can meet and by two-thirds ma­jor­ity coun­ter­act his de­cline of as­sent and the bill be­comes a law au­to­mat­i­cally.”

Adedipe, in his re­marks, said, “Any demo­crat who be­lieves in a free, fair, cred­i­ble and trans­par­ent elec­tion will be con­cerned. This is be­cause the ear­lier Elec­toral Act was found to have some in­ad­e­qua­cies and that was what gave rise for the need for an amend­ment.

“But now that the Pres­i­dent, in his wis­dom, clearly aided by his sup­port­ers, has re­fused to as­sent to the amend­ment, my worry is that be­fore this gov­ern­ment came on board, the var­i­ous in­di­vid­ual re­spected Nige­ri­ans were rather very vo­cif­er­ous in their re­quest for a trans­par­ent elec­tion. And so, if the Na­tional As­sem­bly dom­i­nated by mem­bers of your own party is try­ing to amend the law, it is cu­ri­ous that the Pres­i­dent will refuse to as­sent, then you’ll be­gin to sus­pect that per­haps there’s more than meets the eye in the re­fusal. It is prob­a­bly be­cause the rul­ing party is afraid of trans­par­ent elec­tions.

Falana re­called that he had warned rel­e­vant stake­hold­ers to ex­pe­dite the process of pass­ing the new bill as pass­ing a law within a pe­riod shorter than six months to the elec­tion had been pro­hib­ited un­der Ar­ti­cle 2 of Pro­to­col on Democ­racy and Good Gov­er­nance of ECOWAS.

Falana said, “Once the Pres­i­dent with­holds his as­sent, the choice the Na­tional As­sem­bly has is to over­ride his as­sent.

Buhari fi­nally de­clines as­sent af­ter spec­u­la­tions

Buhari’s de­ci­sion con­firmed spec­u­la­tion that be­came rife af­ter the bill spent nearly one month on his desk, that he would re­ject it.

By the pro­vi­sion of the con­sti­tu­tion, the Pres­i­dent is to ei­ther sign or write the Na­tional As­sem­bly within 30 days of a piece of leg­is­la­tion be­ing trans­mit­ted to him, con­vey­ing his de­ci­sion/rea­sons to with­hold his as­sent.

Buhari had thrice re­jected the bill, the third time be­ing Au­gust 30, when he re­turned it to the Na­tional As­sem­bly.

The law­mak­ers quickly in­cor­po­rated the ar­eas the Pres­i­dent raised ob­jec­tions to and sent the bill back to him for his as­sent on Novem­ber 7.

The new bill has pro­vi­sions to im­prove on the coun­try’s elec­toral process ahead of the 2019 gen­eral elec­tions, in­clud­ing the use of the card reader as the sole means of ac­cred­i­ta­tion of vot­ers.

In re­ject­ing the bill on Au­gust 30, Buhari raised ob­jec­tions to 11 sec­tions, all of which the Na­tional As­sem­bly ad­dressed in the lat­est ver­sion pend­ing on his ta­ble.

The Chair­man, House Com­mit­tee on Elec­toral and Po­lit­i­cal Party Mat­ters, Mrs. Aisha Dukku, had while brief­ing mem­bers on the bill shortly be­fore it was passed on Oc­to­ber 24, stressed that all the ar­eas Buhari queried had been amended ap­pro­pri­ately by the Sen­ate/house joint com­mit­tees.

Dukku, a mem­ber of the APC from Gombe State, had stated, “All the is­sues raised by Mr Pres­i­dent have been cap­tured and ad­dressed.

“Both the Sen­ate and the House worked on these amend­ments and all the is­sues have been ad­dressed.”

The con­tro­ver­sial sec­tions that were cor­rected in­cluded 9,18, 27, 30, 34, 36, 44, 87,112,151.

For ex­am­ple, in Clause 87(14), one of the ar­eas raised by Buhari on dead­line for pri­mary elec­tion, Dukku said the leg­is­la­ture ad­dressed it by in­sert­ing “the date of the pri­maries shall not be ear­lier than 150 days and not later than 120 days be­fore the date of elec­tion to the elec­tive of­fices.”

The orig­i­nal pro­vi­sion that Buhari re­jected cap­tured 120 days and 90 days.

Photo: Goke Fa­madewa

•L-R: Gospel Artiste, Don­nie Mc­clurkin; wife of the con­vener, The Ex­pe­ri­ence, Pas­tor Ifeanyi Ade­farasin; Con­vener,The Ex­pe­ri­ence, Pas­tor Paul Ade­farasin; and an­other gospel artiste, Don Moen, dur­ing the press con­fer­ence on The Ex­pe­ri­ence 13 in La­gos... on Fri­day.

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