Electoral Bill: All eyes on lawmakers at decisive plenary today
• Buhari, NASS likely to dump public interest, vote parties’ choice
• Imposing direct primary on political parties will cause trouble in polity, says Buhari
• APC mum on refusal to assent bill
• Outright rejection of bill shows APC’s hatred for democracy – PDP
• Wike: Refusal to sign amendment bill is APC’s scheme to rig 2023 elections
• Exercise your veto power now, YIAGA, NCP challenge lawmakers
• ADP insists on electronic transmission of results, urges lawmakers to resend bill
A day after the expiration of the 30-day window for the President’s assent or rejection to the electoral act amendment bill, President Muhammadu Buhari, it was gathered yesterday, may have declined assent to the 2021 Electoral Act Amendment bill, stating that signing it into law will cause trouble among political parties in the country.
All eyes will be trained on the National Assembly today as lawmakers convene for their last plenary of 2021. Members of the National Assembly are expected to convene today before embarking on the Christmas and New Year break immediately after.
There are strong indications that the plenary at both green and red chambers will today be turbulent as lawmakers will take a decision on the growing uncertainty in the political atmosphere after the 30 days deadline for President Buhari to sign the electoral act amendment elapsed on Sunday.
While Chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriation, Senator Jibrin Barau, yesterday, disclosed that the 2022 budget will be laid, debated, and passed today, the weightier matters of concern is the reaction from the two chambers of the Assembly to President Buhari’s veto of the electoral act amendment bill.
The Guardian gathered that the letter of rejection of the bill, which is before the President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan, will be read today at plenary.
From leaks, the letter from Mr. President indicated that he refused to sign the bill, citing the direct primary as approved by the National Assembly, for picking candidates by political parties in the amended Electoral Act, as dangerous to the political atmosphere.
A source from the Presidency last night confirmed that a letter had been sent by the President to the National Assembly stating his position on the bill. “It is a privileged communication so it is not for us to disclose the contents until it is officially presented.”
Watchers are hopeful that members of the House of Representatives would be true to their words to override the President and pass the amended electoral bill into law. However, there is just little hope of resistance from the red chamber.
The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has, however, maintained studied silence on the decision by President Buhari to reject the bill.
Reacting to the decision last night, the APC’s caretaker committee secretary, Senator John Akpanudoedehe, said: “We will study it and issue a statement on the matter in due course.”
The President’s spokesman had earlier at the weekend said President Buhari would inform the National Assembly of his decision. The much-anticipated bill, which was passed by the Senate and the House of Representatives on November 6, empowered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to transmit results electronically.
Speaking during an interview on Channels Television’s Sunday Politics, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, said his principal owes no obligation to make his decision public despite the provision of the Constitution.
“The President will be communicating with the National Assembly on what he decides, whether yes or no. I am not in a position to tell you. Given the way things are done, the President would have completed his consultation.
“And as I said, it would be disrespectful of the National Assembly, for me, at this time, to say this is the content of the President’s communication, assuming that the communication has been sent to them. So as I said, allow them to resume, I believe that the President will not act in breach of the Constitution. No, he will do what is right.
“The Constitution says the President must sign within 30 days, the Constitution did not say that there should be the disclosure of that decision within 30 days to the public when the disclosure to the National Assembly has not been made.”
According to a source, the President refused assent to the bill against the backdrop that the parties have their various Constitutions that indicate that primary should be conducted either directly or indirectly and until such provisions are amended, asking parties to do that through direct means would mean forcing the parties to conduct primary through direct means, which according to President Buhari, amounts to abuse of the constitutions of the parties.
The source said: “With all these reasons given by the President, he has returned the bill to the National Assembly, asking the lawmakers to look at the clause that has to do with direct primary by political parties, work on it and return the document for assent.”
THE Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), yesterday, said the reported rejection of the Electoral Act Amendment bill by President Buhari is a demonstration of his hatred for the growth of democracy in the country. The party also decried the insensitivity of the APC towards nurturing democracy in the country.
Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Ibrahim Abdullahi, who spoke with The Guardian on Monday evening, said since 2015 when the administration of President Buhari and the APC emerged, it had not demonstrated any commitment to growing democracy in Nigeria.
He lamented the rejection of the Electoral Bill passed by the eighth Assembly, a development, he noted would have promoted the credibility of the 2019 elections.
Abdullahi said free, fair and credible elections across the world remains the bedrock of sound democracy, adding that it is unfortunate that President Buhari has failed to identify with democracy.
According to him, the APC and its government had never hidden their disdain for democracy and interest of the people.
YIAGA Africa has challenged the National Assembly to show that they are not rubber stamp by overriding the President. Speaking yesterday in Lagos during the Not Too Young To Run fest organised by Jude Abaga, in partnership with UKAID and YIAGA, Director of Programmes, YIAGA Africa, Cynthia Mbamalu, said the National Assembly must prove to Nigerians that they are not only seating to occupy space but also working in the interest of Nigerians.
She said: “President Buhari should realise that he is failing Nigerians, because this is one electoral amendment a lot of Nigerians are interested in. The National Assembly has the power of veto. National Assembly needs to exercise that power; they are the arm of government that has the power to check the President.
“We already know that we have lawmakers who think that whatever the President says is final, but this is the time for Nigerians to also put the pressure on them because we can no longer have a system where electoral amendment as critical as this is being toyed with.”
Also, the national chairman of the National Conscience Party (NCP), Dr Yunusa Tanko, while expressing disappointment with President Buhari over his refusal to assent to the amendment bill, called on the National Assembly to override the President by passing the bill into law in the interest of Nigerians.
Tanko, in a chat with The Guardian, described the development as a huge disservice to the Nigerian electorate. “This is a heinous crime against Nigerians. The President has missed the rare opportunity of writing his name in gold by taking power back to the people. It is unfortunate and sad for democracy.”
This will not be the first time that the National Assembly will carry out such an action if the President fails to sign a bill. The first time during the fourth Republic was on June 7, 2000, when the National Assembly, under the chairmanship of Anyim Pius Anyim, overrode President Olusegun Obasanjo’s veto of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) Establishment Bill.
The National Assembly had proposed that 15 per cent of Federal Government’s monthly statutory allocations be contributed to the funding of the Commission, but the then President, Obasanjo wanted it reduced to 10 per cent, even as he also wanted the three per cent annual budget of all oil and gas companies operating in the Niger Delta region proposed by the National Assembly as the companies’ funding contribution to the Commission be reduced to 1.5 per cent.
HOWEVER, Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, has said the National Assembly lacks the temerity to veto President Buhari’s refusal to sign the electoral act amendment bill because it is part of APC’s scheme to deny Nigerians free, fair and transparent election in 2023, adding that the only way for Nigerians not to repeat the 2015 and 2019 mistakes of voting the APC-led Federal Government into power is to send them packing in 2023.
Wike in a statement signed by his media aide, Kelvin Ebiri, made the assertions at the flag-off of Chokocho-Igbodo Road, which was performed by Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State, yesterday, in Etche Local Government Area.
He recalled how most people did not believe him when he raised the concerns that President Buhari will not sign the bill into law to give legal impetus to electronic transmission of election results.
He said: “Three weeks ago, I told Nigerians that there is a conspiracy not to have a free, fair and transparent election in 2023 and that conspiracy was very clear. And I told Nigerians, Mr. President will not sign the electoral act amendment bill.”
Wike stated that having known the modus operandi, style, and strategy of the APC, it was obvious to him and all discerning minds that the clause on direct primary was inserted into the bill as a ploy for the President to refuse assent to the bill.
According to him, the APC members are afraid that if results are transmitted electronically, they will not survive the 2023 general elections.
He accused APC governors and their National Assembly members of deceiving Nigerians that they were engaged in a battle of supremacy over the issue of direct primary, whereas they had secretly agreed to scuttle the possibility of transmitting election results electronically in 2023.
Wike said, unfortunately, the National Assembly does not have what it takes to veto the President’s refusal to assent to the bill.
He said the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is different because it is waxing stronger as a true political party, and working every day in improving the socio-economic conditions of the people in PDP-controlled states.
THE Action Democratic Congress (ADP) has insisted on the need to have the electronic transmission of results in the electoral system of the country. ADP national chairman, Yabagi Sani, who spoke while reacting to the decision by President Buhari to withhold assent to the bill, argued that electronic transmission of results would instill confidence in the electoral system in the country.
The ADP chieftain, though, noted that the President’s decision was in tandem with the dictates of the law.
“This is democracy in action. The President has done what he deems fit for the country. It is in line with the powers conferred on him by the Constitution. He is the leader of the APC, which is the party with the dominant numbers of lawmakers in the National Assembly. They are not likely going to go against his wish as it stands. We can only talk about the way forward.”
Sani, however, canvassed the need to sustain the debate on the feasibility of the use of the direct primary mode in the choice of candidates aspiring for elective positions in the country. He urged the National Assembly to reconsider the bill and input the electronic transfer of results and resend it to the President for assent.
Senator Matthew Urhoghide (PDP, Edo South) urged the National Assembly to extricate itself from what he described as public odium and disrespect by going ahead to override President Buhari, just as he said history stares the lawmakers in the face if indeed it is not a rubber stamp.
Urhoghide said: “We must be reminded that members of the National Assembly are truly the representatives of the people because every Federal Constituency and Senatorial District seat is allocated to a segment of the Nigerian people who are their constituents.
“The members of the National Assembly consulted with a cross-section of their constituents to reach an informed position on any matter of national interest and development.”