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Despite assent, Nigerians still losing sleep over Electoral Act

By Adamu Abuh and John Akubo, Abuja
28 February 2022   |   3:35 am
The lead up to President Muhammadu Buhari’s assent to the long-awaited Electoral Act 2022 was attended by protests. The aftermath doesn’t appear to have ushered in much quiet either...

Buhari

Groups, others kick on the proposed amendment
• Urge National Assembly to ignore the president
• Constitutional lawyer backs presidency on the planned revision
• Passage is a landmark for the nation, says Garba Shehu

The lead up to President Muhammadu Buhari’s assent to the long-awaited Electoral Act 2022 was attended by protests. The aftermath doesn’t appear to have ushered in much quiet either.

Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), yesterday, kicked against the proposed amendment of Section 84 (12) of the Electoral Amendment Act.

CDD’s Director, Idayat Hassan, maintained there was no need to alter the Act since it was in tandem with tenets of democracy.

The rights activist argued that the extant provision of the law would ensure a level playing field for aspirants seeking party nominations for various elective seats in the country.

She noted: “If not amended, Section 84 may partly cure the problems of incumbency and money politics in Nigeria, as this takes away the right of political office holders to impose their will on the party and the people.

“In the All Progressives Congress convention, it means all these classes of people will not vote or use their incumbency to impose their will on the people and party.”

This was as two former senators from Kogi State, Dino Melaye and Alex Kadiri, asked the National Assembly to ignore President Muhammadu Buhari over his complaint on the Act

Melaye represented Kogi West in the 8th Senate and briefly in the 9th, while Kadiri represented Kogi East from 1999 to 2003.

He said: “My take is that the National Assembly should disregard the suggestion of the President. If after they have amended the act to suit the Presidency, they do it a second time, then that means the National Assembly has confirmed itself to be a department of the Presidency.”

Kadiri, on his part, said: “I think he has signed what they wanted. They should just ignore him and continue with what they are doing.”

Also, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) warned against the amendment.

National coordinator, Emmanuel Onwubiko, enjoined the National Assembly not to heed the call by President Muhammadu Buhari to amend Section 84(12).

He maintained that the extant provision of the law is a safeguard to prevent the hijacking of the electoral process by incumbents, to the detriment of Nigerians.

He said: “Anyone seeking elective office ought to be permitted to hold executive office in his/her party and ideally, someone wanting to run for a certain office that is elective ought not to do so from a position of advantage because democracy is a process that should provide equality of rights and opportunities.

“The National Assembly should let the newly signed Electoral Act 2022 be tested first before any amendments could be considered to avoid time-wasting.”

But a rights activist and constitutional lawyer, Chief Festus Oguche, threw his weight behind the call by Buhari for amendment of the Act.

The Port Harcourt-based lawyer argued that the extant provision of the Electoral Act is in breach of Section 315 of the 1999 Constitution as amended.

Said he: “The President is correct on this point and I’m just wondering how the National Assembly thought it was possible to exclude political appointees from participating in the electoral process, including the conduct of primaries.

“I don’t think the legislators would have hesitated, one bit, if the President had returned the bill to them to enable that section be expunged legislatively, and that would have been a better and more elegant manner of doing it than enacting it into law wholesomely with the rest of the provisions.”

But a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Dan Orbih, told News Agency of Nigeria (NAN): “There is no Constitution that is totally bad. It is the operators that can be bad. The same applies to the Electoral Act when you think about it positively or negatively. What is important actually is the politicians; the political actors. They must learn to play by the rules.”

Meanwhile, Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to the President, Garba Shehu, has praised the passage into law of the Electoral Act 2022.

In a statement, yesterday, titled, ‘Assent into Law of the Electoral Act 2022: Landmark moment for the Nation’, he said although “no democratic system of elections is perfect”, “the Electoral Act makes better and makes good on the circumstance in which citizens cast their ballot. It ensures that the ballot is fair and free and that every vote cast is equal, respected, and counts.”