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Again, Buhari declines assent to electoral bill

…PDP urges NASS to override President …Political parties should approach INEC on rules of engagement- Saraki President Muhammadu Buhari has for the fourth time, declined assent to the Electoral Act amendment bill 2018. Special Adviser to the President on National Assembly (Senate), Senator Ita Enang, disclosed this to State House Correspondents on Friday at the Presidential Villa Abuja. Enang said President Buhari has taken decision on Electoral Act Amendment bill 2018, however, did not disclose the nature of the decision. But the presidential aide simply said that the decision of the President was communicated to the Senate and House of Representatives in accordance with his power under the 1999 Constitution and accordance with the law. The President however, assented to National Open University Amendment Act, which allows the National Open University to operate as all other universities, having the same power and functions and the same administrative structures eliminating possible discrimination on its products and programmes. It has also allowed the establishment of some centres to be called study centres and given conditions for the establishment of such study centres. Asked whether the bill was assented or rejected, Sen Enang: “The president has taken a decision in accordance with the powers vested in him according to the constitution. And by convention that decision contained in the communication can only be revealed by the person to whom that decision is addressed. But the Electoral bill has left Mr. President because he has taken a decision and has remitted it back.” Pushed further, Enang said: “Thank you very much but this is all the law allows me to say. By convention, Mr. President has sent that communication to the National Assembly.” When asked why he returned the bill back to National Assembly, he said “the president has communicated his decision to the National Assembly and that is what it is now.” When asked if it is safe to say he rejected the bill, he said: “It is safe to say that the president has taken decision as allowed by law and has communicated that decision to the Senate and the House of Representatives”. When asked the implication of the decision on the 2019 elections, Enang said: “The implication of the decision is that the president has taken action on the bill within the time allowed by law.“ Meanwhile, as the timeframe for President Buhari to either assent or decline the Electoral Act amendment Bill lapsed on Friday, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has urged the National Assembly to override the President in the interest of the nation. The party on Friday charged the National Assembly to save the nation’s democracy by immediately overriding President Buhari’s refusal to sign the amendment of the Electoral Act. The party said this legislative action has become imperative as the President’s decision is “a calculated attempt to hold the nation to ransom, inject crisis into the electoral process and ultimately scuttle the conduct of the 2019 general elections, seeing that there is no way he can win in a free and fair contest”. The party’s position was contained in a statement by Kola Ologbondiyan, Director of Media and Publicity of PDP Presidential Campaign Organisation (PPCO). The party insisted that “President Buhari’s repeated refusal to sign amendments passed to check rigging in the election, raises issues of his sincerity of purpose and has the capacity to trigger political unrest and violence, which can, in turn, truncate our hard-earned democracy”. The PDP noted that this is the fourth time President Buhari is withholding assent on the amendment, without any cogent reason following his rejection by Nigerians. “Nigerians can recall how the Buhari Presidency plotted to plunge the 2019 elections into a needless controversy by delaying the submission of the election budget to the National Assembly, presenting it at the time the legislators were commencing their annual vacation and asking for virement of funds already approved for development projects, instead of sending a fresh supplementary budget for the election. “It is unfortunate that Mr. President, in his desperation to hold on to power, has resorted to taking steps that are capable of destabilising our nation, just because the people are resolute in voting him out of office democratically. “It is also instructive to note that President Buhari is mortally afraid of the amendments because they essentially checked the All Progressives Congress (APC) rigging plans, including the use of underage and alien voters, vote-buying, alteration of results and manipulation of voter register; for which the APC and the Buhari Presidency have been boasting of winning the 2019 elections. “While urging the National Assembly to save our democracy and forestall an imminent electoral crisis, the PPCO also charges all political parties, other critical stakeholders and Nigerians in general, to rise in the interest of our nation and demand the entrenching of rules and processes that will guarantee the conduct of free, fair and credible elections, as nothing short of that would be accepted. However, Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki said political parties can come together and tell the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) how to conduct the election even if the president declines assent. Saraki, who is the Director General of PPCO, made the statement at a parley meeting between leaders of the Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) with the PDP Presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar in Abuja. Saraki said: “I made a statement two days ago appealing to Mr President to sign the Electoral Act Amendment Bill before him. We have made amendments and amendments. Everything he (Buhari) has asked for, we have changed it four times so that he can sign. “We know there are those who are telling him not to sign. Even, I heard some have gone to court so that he can use the excuse not to sign. That is a dangerous precedent. “He has the prerogative to sign or not to sign. In the event he does not sign, I believe as political parties, we have the right, authority to also demand from INEC in terms of engagement. “Political parties can take a position. This is the type of election they want. In most countries, political parties meet with the chairmen of their electoral commissions and they agree. “So, some of the things that are not, even if he doesn’t sign, there are things that as political parties, we can sit down with INEC and say these are what must happen. “There are two major items there, particularly on this issue of Incident Form and the issue of electronic transmission of results.” Mathew Dadiya and Tunde Opalana, Abuja

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