Buhari’s Faux Pas on Revised Electoral Bill


Ihave spent quality time reading the memo of President Muhammadu Buhari to the National Assembly dated August 30, 2018, justifying why he declined assent to the reworked 2018 Electoral Act Amendment Bill. For me, most of the points cited by the President for declining assent were largely drafting issues and inconseque­ntial. They do not substantia­lly outweigh the good things the alteration bill seeks to enthrone. These drafting issues should not have warranted an outright rejection of a bill that aims at a credible and transparen­t election for this country.

The other objection to the bill by the president, which I find prepostero­us, was his opposition to the proposed deadline to political parties for submition of the names of their candidates. Clause 87(14) of the bill, gives political parties between 90 days and 120 days to elections as the latest period to submit names of their candidates. The president objected, saying if retained, INEC will be left with only nine days to compile the list of candidates of the 91 registered political parties for the 2019 election, which he felt would be insufficie­nt for the electoral body. Haba! In this technologi­cal era, INEC would need just few hours to do such compilatio­n. Besides, what would appear on the ballot papers would be the names of the parties and not candidates. So, it would not pose any logistic problem for the election umpire.

The amendment bill, if signed into law, would have given legal teeth to the use of card readers. This rejection, clearly contradict­s our President’s consistent avowal to deliver a trustworth­y election next year. As noted by the Supreme Court in an appeal by Dakuku Peterside challengin­g the election of Nyesom Wike, legalising the card reader will boost the accuracy and transparen­cy of the election accreditat­ion process and maintain the democratic norm of one man, one vote, by detecting multiple voting. The lawmakers aim to actualise the dream of the apex court and the entire country in this direction with the rejected amendment bill.

There are other sections in the rejected election bill that would have enhanced our democracy. The bill also provides for mandatory electronic transmissi­on of results.

It is pertinent to note that when our president refused to sign the first version of the bill into law, an obviously committed National Assembly took it back and removed the clauses the President had opposed, including the one that re-ordered general elections sequence. The Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, was very clear about this during the adoption of the report on the revised bill. Ekweremadu, who presided at the session, noted then: “From the report we have here, it means that those areas that appear to be controvers­ial or where the president had some issues, no matter how we feel, whether we like it or not, whether we believe in what he said or not, that is not the issue now; what is important now is that to save the other provisions (clauses), our committee resolved to remove those aspects. They may come up maybe some other time but for now, they are not part of this process. That has been removed to make the rest non-controvers­ial.”

I guess this was why the opposition PDP said it was obvious, all along, that the president would not sign the bill because “some of its provisions will inhibit the capacity of the APC to compromise the 2019 general election.”

The National Assembly must not allow this revised version of the Electoral Act to die. Transparen­t poll is a vital part of any democracy. Once they resume plenary on September 25, our lawmakers must take steps to override the president’s veto, in accordance with the provisions of the constituti­on. There will be very little or no chance of this bill becoming a law, even if they still expunge new areas the president is opposed to.

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