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National Assembly to review Buhari’s refusal to sign electoral bill

By Victor Gbonegun (Lagos) and Matthew Ogune (Abuja)
31 December 2021   |   4:13 am
Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, has assured Nigerians that the National Assembly will determine if reasons given by President Muhammadu Buhari for withholding assent to the Electoral Act Amendment Bill are good enough when legislators reconvene next year.

Speaker, House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila. Photo/FACEBOOK/SPEAKERGBAJA

• CSOs urge lawmakers to appraise bill, expunge errors, gaps
• Gbajabiamila commissions roads, stadiums in Surulere

Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, has assured Nigerians that the National Assembly will determine if reasons given by President Muhammadu Buhari for withholding assent to the Electoral Act Amendment Bill are good enough when legislators reconvene next year.

He disclosed this, yesterday, during the official commissioning of some road projects and stadiums he facilitated in Surulere Federal Consistency 1.

The projects are: Razaq Balogun Road (in Adeniran Ogunsanya Street); Obele mini stadium; rehabilitation of Dodo Williams Street (Rasaq Balogun); Rasaq Balogun mini stadium; Ishola Road (by Randle); and Dosunmu/Adedoyin/Ojikutu Link Roads.

Buhari recently refused to sign the bill into law; his major reason being the inclusion of mandatory direct primaries for political parties. Nigerians and civil society groups, however, have called on lawmakers to either veto the President or remove the contentious clause and re-present the bill to the President.

Gbajabiamila, who pointed out that to override the President’s decision, the lawmakers need the support of two third of the members, said: “The President, in his wisdom, did it with good intention, based on advice he got and weighed everything carefully.

“When we come back to the House, we will determine if those reasons sit well with the National Assembly and maybe consider removing that clause and passing the bill, so that we do not throw away the baby with the bath water.”

The Speaker observed that what Nigerians deserve is a credible electoral law and process, which they must get. He said: “The amendment regarding direct or indirect primary was moved by me and I initiated it for good reason simply for the people to participate during elections. People come around every four years and campaign for parties. For me, it doesn’t make sense that the same people are not able to have a voice in who represents them.

“So, I thought one way to reform the system and make it more accountable is for them to have a voice in determining who represents them as opposed to two or three people taking that decision.”

Earlier, Gbajabiamila said the commissioned projects would serve as dividends of democracy to the people he represents at the National Assembly. He also charged them to make best use of the facilities to improve their living conditions, even as he pledged to do more.

MEANWHILE, following the President’s decision to decline assent to the bill, some Abuja-based civil society organisations (CSOs) have urged the National Assembly to carry out a comprehensive review of the bill to ensure all editorial, drafting and cross-referencing gaps are addressed.

The CSOs, who made the call in Abuja, yesterday, include: Yiaga Africa, International Press Centre (IPC), Centre for Citizens with Disability (CCD), The Albino Foundation, CLEEN Foundation, Institute for Media and Society (IMS), and Nigerian Women Trust Fund (NWTF).

Others are: Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ), Partners for Electoral Reform (PER), Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre (WARDC), and Nigerian Network of Non-Governmental Organisations (NNNGO).

Speaking on their behalf, Executive Director of Yiaga, Samson Itodo, disclosed that civil society groups had already undertaken a comprehensive review of the bill and identified drafting errors, repetitions and cross-referencing gaps in 11 sections.

He said: “Without doubt, these errors will occasion controversies and legal complications in implementation of the bill when enacted.”

Also, Convener, Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room, Ene Obi, called on the National Assembly to address drafting errors in the bill before re-transmitting it for Buhari’s assent.

She urged the President to assent to the bill within a week upon receipt from the National Assembly, maintaining that civil society groups, media, and development partners must sustain effort to safeguard the bill from policy capture, manipulation and subversion of the people’s will.