…Cites drafting issues, unaddressed errors by lawmakers for refusal
* We’ll soon respond- NASS
* Ozekhome, Bwala react
President Muhammadu Buhari has for a third time declined assent to the Electoral (Amendment) Bill, 2018. Giving reasons for withholding assent, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Senator Ita Enang, adduced drafting issues to the rejection of the bill.
Enang said “Mr. President is declining assent to the Electoral Amendment Bill due to some drafting issues that remain unaddressed following the prior revisions to the Bill.’’
The presidential aide specifically mentioned few outstanding issues surrounding Buhari’s declining.
He said, ‘’There is a cross referencing error in the proposed amendment to Section 18 of the Bill. The appropriate amendment is to substitute the existing sub-section (2) with the proposed subsection (1A), while the proposed sub-section (1B) is the new sub-section (2A).
‘’The proposed amendment to include a new Section 87 (14) which stipulates a specific period within which political party primaries are required to be held has the unintended consequence of leaving INEC with only 9 days to collate and compile lists of candidates and political parties as well manage the primaries of 91 political parties for the various elections.
“This is because the Electoral Amendment Bill does not amend sections 31, 34 and 85 which stipulates times for the submission of lists of candidates, publication of lists of candidates and notice of convention, congresses for nominating candidates for elections.’’
For clarity sake, Enang gave details of the provisions referenced such as Clause 87 (14) which states that “The dates for the primaries shall not be earlier than 120 days and not later than 90 days before the date of elections to the offices.
“The Electoral Act 2010 referred to herein states in Section 31 ‘’That every Political Party shall not later than 60 days before the date appointed for a general election submit to the Commission the list of candidates the party proposes to sponsor at the elections”.
In addition, Enang said Section 34 states: ‘’That the Commission shall at least 30 days before the day of the election publish a statement of the full names and addresses of all candidates standing nominated and Section 85 (1) states “That a Political Party shall give the Commission at least Twenty-one days’ notice of any convention, congress etc., for electing members of its executive committees or nominating candidates for any of the elective offices.’’
He added that neither the Constitution nor any written law allows a President or a Governor to whom a Bill is forwarded by the Legislature to edit, correct, amend or in any manner alter the provisions of any such Bill to reflect appropriate intent before Assenting to same.
The Daily Times recalls that the amended Electoral Bill was sent to Buhari on August 2 while the President declined assent to the bill in a letter dated August 30.
The development indicates that the President acted before the expiration of 30 days grace which may prompt the lawmakers to override his assent to the bill.
But efforts by The Daily Times to get members of the National Assembly to react to the development proved abortive.
The Senate spokesperson, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi and the chairman, Senate Committee on INEC, Senator Suleiman Nazif, could not be reached at press time as their mobile phone lines were not accessible.
But an aide to a principal officer in the Senate, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the National Assembly will soon react appropriately.
Ozekhome, Bwala react
Meanwhile, two prominent lawyers have expressed divergent views over President’s refusal to give his assent to the Electoral (Amendement) Bill, 2018.
In his own comment, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN) said that the 1999 Constitution (as amended) empowers the National Assembly to correct the errors and send the bill back to the President for assent.
He, however, added that there is a sinister political motive over the President’s persistent refusal to assent to the bill.
Ozekhome said, “ The Electoral Act amendment was made to sanitise our electoral process such that fictitious names will not be smuggled into the list of voters. For instance, in places like Zamfara, Kano, Jigawa and Sokoto states where you see fictitious names being captured, the proposed amendment will be able to address such issues.
“Therefore, for me, there is a sinister political motive in not signing the Electoral Act Amendment Bill which I believe would have reordered the process.”
But an Abuja-based lawyer, Mr Daniel Bwala, has said that the President has not violated any law by withholding assent to the bill.
Bwala said, “ It is a straightforward matter because everything is within time. There is no law that says that the bill must be signed at all cost within seven days .
If the President states that there are errors and drafting issues, the lawmakers can simply correct them within couple of days and return the bill to the President for his assent.
If the lawmakers insists that there is no error with the bill, it would be returned to the President.”
PDP wants NASS to override President
Meanwhile, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has urged the National Assembly to immediately override the vetoing of the Electoral Act 2010 (Amendment) Bill by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The PDP said Buhari’s refusal did not come as a surprise, since his commitment to a free and fair 2019 election was mere lip service.
Speaking through its spokesman, Mr Kola Ologbondiyan, the PDP added that it became evidently clear to Nigerians that all the reasons adduced by President Buhari for withholding his assent in the past were lame excuses.
Ologbondiyan said, “The clerical and drafting arguments put forward by President Buhari could not in anyway outweigh the importance of amendments meant to engender a free, fair, credible and transparent elections in 2019.
The PDP urged the National Assembly to stand with Nigerians in the overall quest for credible elections by immediately overriding President Buhari on the bill.