Buhari vetoes Electoral Act, cites errors

President Muhammadu Buhari has, for the third time this year, declined assent to the 2010 Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill, 2018, citing some unaddressed drafting issues as his reasons for declining assent to the last version of the bill. Disclosing this yesterday while addressing journalists in Abuja, the Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Senator Ita Enang, hinted that President Buhari declined his assent through a communication to the two chambers of the National Assembly on August 30.

Enang pointed out that the President observed a cross referencing error in the proposed amendment to Section 18 of the bill, noting that “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).” He also noted that 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 the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) with only nine days to collate and compile lists of candidates and political parties as well as manage the primaries of 91 political parties for the various elections.

According to him, this error occurred because the Electoral Amendment Bill does not amend sections 31, 34 and 85 which stipulate times for the submission of lists of candidates, publication of lists of candidates and notice of convention, congresses for nominating candidates for elections.

The presidential aide stated 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. Enang explained that a governor or president is required by law to either assent to a bill in the manner it is or to withhold assent and explain reasons for doing so for possible adjustments by the lawmakers. His words: “President Muhammadu Buhari has, by communication dated August 30, 2018, to the Senate and the House of Representatives, declined assent to the Electoral (Amendment) Bill, 2018 “I pray for leave, that in view of public interest, the fact of the National Assembly vacation, the imperative to avoid speculation and misinformation, that I give just a few of the rationale by Mr. President. “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.

“Mr. President invites the Senate and House of Representatives to address these issues as quickly as possible so that he may grant President Assent to the Electoral Amendment Bill.” A few of the outstanding issues are: “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 nine 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 stipulate 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, may I provide some details of the provisions referenced: Clause 87 (14) states: “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.

“Section 34: 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. “Section 85 (1): That a political party shall give the Commission at least 21 days’ notice of any convention, congress etc., for electing members of its executive committees or nominating candidates for any of the elective offices.

“For the avoidance of doubt, 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. He is to assent in the manner it is or to withhold assent.” Other bills earlier transmitted to President Buhari which he withheld assents to include: National Agricultural Seeds Council Bill, 2018; The Advance Fee Fraud and Other Related Offences (Amendment) Bill, 2017; The Chartered Institute of Entrepreneurship (Establishment) Bill, 2018; The Subsidiary Legislation (Legislative Scrutiny) Bill, 2018; National Institute of Hospitality and Tourism (Establishment) Bill, 2018; National Research and Innovation Council (Establishment) Bill, 2017, and Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (Amendment) Bill, 2017.

The President has actually communicated his declining of assent to these bills to the National Assembly. Meanwhile, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has called on the National Assembly to override President Buhari on the vetoed Electoral Act 2010 (Amendment) Bill.

The party, in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, said that Buhari’s veto did not come as a surprise, since his commitment to a free and fair 2019 election was mere lip service. “It is now manifestly clear to Nigerians that all the reasons adduced by President Buhari for withholding his assent in the past were lame excuses. “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 statement added. PDP, therefore, charged the National Assembly to stand with Nigerians in the overall quest for credible elections by immediately overriding President Buhari on the bill.

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