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APC Reps disagree over Buhari’s refusal to sign electoral bill

By Adamu Abuh, Terhemba Daka (Abuja), Kelvin Ebiri (Port Harcourt), Chido Okafor (Warri) and Kehinde Olatunji (Lagos)
10 December 2018   |   4:17 am
Three members of the House of Representatives, Kayode Oladele, Aliyu Magaji Dau and Mohammed Sani Zorro, have expressed divergent views on President Muhammadu Buhari’s refusal to assent to the Electoral Amendment Bill.

President Muhammadu Buhari

• President’s action unpatriotic, dangerous, say IYC, others
Three members of the House of Representatives, Kayode Oladele, Aliyu Magaji Dau and Mohammed Sani Zorro, have expressed divergent views on President Muhammadu Buhari’s refusal to assent to the Electoral Amendment Bill.

Oladele, who chairs the House Committee on Financial Crimes, argued that the president’s action would not affect the conduct of the 2019 general elections. A member of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) from Ogun State, he also faulted claims that the move was aimed at preparing the ground for the APC to rig the polls.“I still don’t think that Mr. President has done anything that is not acceptable. I don’t think it is a big deal. If you look at the election preparation, we are almost done with 75 per cent of the entire process. Since we have been using the 2010 Act, I don’t see any reason why we cannot use the same to conduct this election.

“Of course, after this one, we can then sit down and take a holistic look at the Electoral Act and see how we can harmonise everything. That would be in the next Assembly. For this one, it is already too far into the election.”Dau (APC, Jigawa) noted that signing the bill would have been in the best interest of the country. According to him, “I feel it’s a mixed bag because if he had signed it, it would have added to the quality of the election. I will appeal to Mr. President to sign the bill because of some of the reforms in it. But I don’t agree that what the president did was to help the APC rig the election because APC is a popular party.”

Zorro (APC, Jigawa) expressed disappointment over the president’s decision, noting that the leadership of the National Assembly would decide the next line of action this week. He also ruled out the possibility of the National Assembly overriding the president.He warned that the integrity of the polls would be compromised if the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) takes advantage of the president’s position and discards the use of card readers.

The presidency declined comment on the matter yesterday. Asked if there was any political undertone to the withholding of assent, Special Adviser on Media and Publicity Femi Adesina in a terse email, replied: “Ask Senator Ita Enang.”The senator is the Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate).

But while briefing State House correspondents on Friday, Enang was not forthcoming either. He insisted the reason Buhari withheld assent was contained in the communication to the National Assembly. He added that the president had simply taken a decision in accordance with the powers conferred on him.The Hope Democratic Party (HDP) meanwhile warned that the refusal to sign the bill would hurt the credibility of the 2019 election. In a statement, Yusuf Ibrahim, publicity director of the campaign organisation of HDP presidential candidate, Ambrose Owuru, said the president followed wrong advice when he declined assent. He maintained that Buhari owed it a duty to save the nation unnecessary acrimony.

The Ijaw Youth Council (IYC), on its part, said Buhari’s refusal amounted to elevating personal interest above national concern. It urged the National Assembly to override the president’s veto and pass the bill into law.In a statement, IYC President Eric Omare said: “One of the innovations introduced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) under President Jonathan was the card reader. The courts however could not enforce its use because the Electoral Act did not back it. President Buhari, who is therefore a beneficiary of electoral reforms in Nigeria, ought to support efforts at making the use of the card reader mandatory.”

Also, Mr. Buba Galadima, a presidential campaign council spokesman of the Peoples Democratic Party, appealed to the international community, civil society organisations and well meaning Nigerians to prevail on Buhari to sign the bill. He claimed the APC is desperate to hold on to power.Speaking on a television programme, he maintained that the Attorney General of the Federation, Independent National Electoral Commission and the National Assembly had already stated that the bill should be signed.Presidential campaign spokesman of the APC, Festu Keyamo, however said it would be improper for the president to sign the bill two months to the elections. According to him, “We got to this point because of the self-serving nature of the National Assembly.”