Ahead of the 2019 general elections, political activities have picked up with political parties and aspirants for the various elective positions at the state, and federal levels putting finishing touches to their strategies to emerge victorious in the elections.
But we are worried that the ground norm which will regulate the conduct of next year’s poll, which is the Electoral Act has yet to become a legal instrument following the withholding of assent by President Muhammadu Buhari to the amendments proposed to the extant Act by the National Assembly.
Twice now, the President has refused to sign the amendment to the Electoral Act into law, first by opposing the sequence of elections as ordered by the National Assembly, and secondly, objecting to sign the amendment into law based on what he termed drafting issues in the document forwarded to him for assent.
What this means is that in the event the amendments to the extant Act fails to become law, then the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) will have to rely on the provisions of the extant law with its perceived imperfections in conducting the 2019 elections.
We therefore, caution that the Presidency and the National Assembly should put their houses in order and do everything humanly possible to resolve the current impasse over the Electoral Act (amendment bill) to save the electoral process and democracy in Nigeria.
The declaration by the Presidency on Monday, that the Card Reader was not included in the latest Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill is baffling.
If card readers would not be used for the polls, then what becomes of the permanent voters’ cards (PVCs) that INEC is issuing to potential voters.
According to the Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Senator Ita Enang, it was the omission of the card reader from the amendment bill that informed Buhari’s not assenting to the bill.
He said, “For the avoidance of doubt, I hereby state expressly that the card reader provision addressed by Section 49 of the principal Act was completely, expressly and unequivocally excluded.
“It is not in anywise, part of the provisions of the bill forwarded to the President on August 3, 2018, and could therefore not form part of the consideration of the President.”
That it takes the Presidency almost a month to detect that the amendment bill didn’t provide for the use of the card reader in the general elections and that it had drafting issues leaves room for speculation in certain quarters that there is an alleged grand design to consign the Electoral Act (amendment bill) to the dustbin and ultimately, jeopardize the conduct of free, fair and credible elections in 2019. But we are of the opinion that there is no evidence to back such a bogus claim.
We therefore urge concerned stakeholders to prevail on the Presidency and the National Assembly to end the avoidable logjam and uncertainty surrounding the Electoral Act (amendment) Bill by doing all within their powers to end the current impasse and restore the grey areas in our electoral process and save the nation’s democracy in the national interest. A word is enough for the wise.