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Electoral Bill: Senate halts action to override Buhari, to consult Reps

By Azimazi Momoh Jimoh, Adamu Abuh, John Akubo, Msugh Ityokura, Matthew Ogune, Sodiq Omolaoye (Abuja) and Opeyemi Babalola (Lagos)
23 December 2021   |   3:44 am
After some chest-thumping and tough-talking, Senators, yesterday, climbed down on their threat vow to override President Muhammadu Buhari’s decision to veto the Electoral Act 2010 (Amendment) bill...

National Assembly. Photo/facebook/TopeBrown/NigerianSenate

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After some chest-thumping and tough-talking, Senators, yesterday, climbed down on their threat vow to override President Muhammadu Buhari’s decision to veto the Electoral Act 2010 (Amendment) bill.

In its place, President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, said the red chamber would consult with the House of Representatives on how to respond to the President, cancelling the earlier decision that the majority of Senators were gathering signatures for the purported bid to override the President.

Lawan made this known after the Senate emerged from a closed-door executive session to deliberate on the President’s decision to withhold assent to the electoral bill.

The Senate President noted, yesterday, that the provisions of the 1999 Constitution do not permit the chamber to exclusively take any action on such matters in the absence of the House.

The House had, however, embarked on recess Tuesday, adjourning plenary till January 2022. The Speaker had also prevented similar moves from representatives, urging them to wait till resumption next year.

Lawan stated that a joint position would be reached with the House after due consultation with Nigerians to determine the appropriate line of action after both chambers reconvene from the Christmas and New Year break.

This was an anti-climax after all the grandstanding by some senators on Tuesday when they threatened fire and brimstone on their determination to override the President. It would be recalled that the Senator representing Benue South Senatorial District, Abba Moro, had given the assurance that the majority of senators, including himself, were prepared to override the President.

Also Senator George Sekibo (PDP River East) disclosed that about 73 signatures of aggrieved lawmakers had been collated, adding that there was no going back on the decision to override President Buhari.

HOWEVER, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) caucus in the House has vowed to mobilise members towards overriding the President on the bill.

Leader of the caucus, Kingsley Chinda, in a statement issued, yesterday, alleged that Buhari declined to sign the bill into law due to the provision for electronic transmission of election results and not a restriction of political parties to direct primary as the President noted in his letter to the National Assembly.

“As was postulated in several quarters, he has declined assent to same, using the cost of direct primary as a decoy. The untold reason for declining is to avoid the electronic transmission of results, which will improve the credibility of the electoral system.”

“This refusal, though contemplated, has left Nigerians confounded by a President who continues to show utter disdain for the Constitution and the reform of the institutions of the state. Under him, our institutions of state have regressed to the point that the gains of previous institutions’ reforms, embarked by PDP while in power, have been either lost to his inaction or to his deliberate ploy to leave our country worse than he met it. On this point alone, we are not convinced that he is interested in the reform of the electoral process.

“As an opposition caucus, we will ensure that our members exercise their power under Section 58(5) of the Constitution to veto the President whenever the National Assembly deems it fit table the issue for discussion.”

THE immediate past President of the Senate, Dr Bukola Saraki, yesterday, challenged the National Assembly to be quick in its next line of action following President Buhari’s refusal to sign the amendment bill. In a statement he personally signed, he proposed two critical decisions the lawmakers should make to ensure the bill become a law by January.

Also, the Northern Youth Council of Nigeria (NYCN) has called on the National Assembly to override President Buhari and exercise its constitutional provision by vetoing the rejected electoral act. AYCN President, Isah Abubakar, said in a statement that his organisation was disappointed by the action of Mr President at the expense of millions of Nigeria who look forward to an improved electoral system.

“This would not be the first time Mr President would present himself as an agent that is averse to democratic advancement. During the lifespan of the eighth Assembly led by Saraki, the electoral act was amended and forwarded to him for assent, which he shied away from citing flimsy reasons despite being the principal beneficiary of Yar’adua/Goodluck Jonathan-led electoral reforms.

“If previous leaders had not assumed the position of elder statesmen and lived above their selfish and parochial interests, Mr Buhari would have been rearing his cows in Daura without the hope of winning an election. No credible election can be conducted under a weak law.”

Director-General, Progressive Governors’ Forum (PGF), Salihu Moh. Lukman has urged the National Assembly to rework contentious clauses in the bill and forward the same to the president for his assent. Lukman gave the charge yesterday in Abuja at the unveiling of his new book, ‘APC and Campaign for New Nigeria.’

At the book launch, Lukman said: “I am not opposed to direct primary, but there are some conditions, which must be met for direct primary to be able to provide the democratic platform that will confirm the voice of individual members of the party.

THE PDP, yesterday, alleged that the APC scuttled the signing of the bill because some key provisions did not allow for its grand design to rig the 2023 general elections.

The main opposition party said: “The APC has been in trepidation of the amendment to the Electoral Act due mainly to the provision of electronic transmission of election results, which will completely eliminate APC’s manipulations and alteration of results at collation centres.”

In a statement by its national publicity secretary, Debo Ologunagba, the PDP said it was apparent that the APC and the Buhari Presidency were never committed to the amendment of the Electoral Act to ensure credible elections and as such triggered the controversy of the mode of primaries by political parties as camouflage to scuttle the entire bill, including provisions for electronic transmission of results, among others.

AS Nigerians continue to react to the executive veto of the amended electoral bill, Civil Society Partners on Electoral Reform have asked the Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, to step down, accusing him of betraying Nigerians and using the House of Representatives to serve “personal and narrow political interest.”

They said the action of the Speaker in hurrying to pass the 2022 appropriation act and adjourning the House amounted to a betrayal of trust and arm-twisting of the Senate to stop further action on the bill even when the red chamber was ready to do more.

According to the statement, the CSO said they had expected some legislative activism in the House over the President’s letter, but that the Speaker made it impossible.

Similarly, a non-governmental organisation, Centre for Anti-Corruption & Open Leadership (CACOL), has urged lawmakers to revisit the bill with the inclusion of the disabled, and other issues the bill failed to address before the President gives assent to it.

The anti-corruption group at a press briefing, yesterday, addressed by its chairman, Debo Adeniran, stated that there were some important issues the bill failed to cover, describing it as an opportunity to make necessary amends to it, like addressing corruption among political parties, the inclusion of women and youths.

According to him, “disabled persons experience a total blackout in parties at all levels. Nobody is willing to lend them any support, apart from assisting them to vote during elections. This segment of the society remains the most politically marginalised and democratically suffocated.”

In like manner, the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) has urged the National Assembly to save the country’s democracy, urging the lawmakers not to allow a single provision to truncate the goodness in the proposed electoral bill.

In a statement on Wednesday, CDD Director, Idayat Hassan, said Nigerians had expected that the President would write his name in gold as the President who bequeathed an improved electoral framework to the country.

Hassan, who observed that the 2023 general election is just 14 months away, asked the lawmakers to immediately attempt two options, “which is either veto the President and pass the bill into an act of the National Assembly or immediately remove the provisions on direct primary as raised by the President and immediately re-present the bill to the President for his assent.

“Nigeria is in dire need of a new and robust framework for the conduct of elections. The reform in the Electoral Bill 2021 will improve the quality of elections thereby imbuing citizens trust in our democracy.”

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