Nigeria is set to witness a major electoral reform with Friday’s signing of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill 2022 into law by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Daily Trust reports that the last time the country’s electoral law was amended was in 2010.
After several delays during his first tenure, President Buhari assented to the draft law, with an appeal on the National Assembly to expunge a clause in the law that barred political appointees from contesting elections while in office.
Daily Trust reports that if not deleted, four ministers and some heads of agencies are going to be affected as they are nursing the ambition to contest elections.
This paper had exclusively reported how Buhari and his close aides were in a dilemma over the fate of his political appointees who may resign in droves when the bill becomes law as Section 84 (12) of the bill makes it mandatory for political appointees who want to run for office in 2023 to resign.
Daily Trust reports that the signing ceremony was witnessed by Senate President Ahmed Lawan, Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila of the House of Representatives, chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Mahmood Yakubu, Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, Buhari’s Chief of Staff, Professor Ibrahim Gambari, among others.
While signing the bill into law, Buhari said section 84(12) of the act contravened the rights of political officeholders to vote or be voted for in political party conventions and congresses.
He said, “Distinguished senators and members of the National Assembly, from the review, it is my perspective that the substance of the bill is both reformative and progressive.
“I am making this bold declaration because I foresee the great potential of the bill. Worthy of note include the democratic efficacy of the bill with particular reference to sections 3, 9(2), 34, 41, 47, 84(9), (10) and (11), among others.
“This, however, cannot be said about one provision as contained in the proposed bill, which provision constitutes a fundamental defect as it conflicts with extant constitutional provisions.
“Section 84 (12) constitutes a disenfranchisement of serving political office holders from voting or being voted for at conventions or congresses of any political party, for the nomination of candidates for any election in cases where it holds earlier than 30 days to the national election.
“The practical application of section 84(12) of the Electoral Bill, 2022 will, if assented to, by operation of law, subject serving political officeholders to inhibitions and restrictions referred to under section 40 and 42 of the 1999 Constitution as amended.
“It is imperative to note that the only constitutional expectation placed on serving political officeholders that qualify, by extension as public officers within the context of the constitution, is resignation, withdrawal or retirement, at least 30 days before the date of the election.
“Hence, it will be stretching things beyond the constitutional limit to import extraneous restriction into the constitution on account of the practical application of section 84(12) of the bill, where political parties’ conventions and congresses were to hold earlier than 30 days to the election.
“Arising from the foregoing, with particular regards to the benefits of the bill, industry, time, resources and energy committed in its passage, I hereby assent to the bill and request the National Assembly to consider immediate amendments that will bring it in tune with constitutionality by way of deleting section 84(12) accordingly.”
President Buhari commended the National Assembly for their commitment and dedication to improving the previous Electoral Bill 2021.
We’ll address contentious issue – Lawan, Gbajabiamila
Fielding questions from State House reporters after the brief epoch-making ceremony, Senate President Ahmed Lawan said the legislature would consider the president’s request for the amendment of the clause in the electoral act, which bars political appointees from participating in their parties’ primaries as soon as a bill to that effect is brought before them.
Lawan said the signing was a fulfilment of one of the cardinal objectives in the legislative agenda of the Ninth National Assembly.
He said this administration would work with Nigerians to implement what he called an important piece of legislation to boost integrity and transparency of the electoral process so that every vote could count as they were committed to improving what was met on the ground and leaving behind a better electoral climate.
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, said it would mark a watershed in the country’s election history if the provisions of the act were properly managed by the INEC.
He said the country would begin to witness free, fair and credible elections.
It’s a huge relief – Governors
The chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) and governor of Ekiti State, Kayode Fayemi, said it was a “huge relief” that the president signed the revised electoral act amendment bill into law.
He said the new law complied with international standards, as well as the aspirations of ordinary Nigerians.
“I think it is a huge relief that this piece of legislation has been finally signed, 12 years after the last one,” he said.
The chairman of the Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC), Yabagi Yusuf Sani, an engineer, said the country “has gotten the fundamental ground norms that will ensure that elections are credible, peaceful, and also by bringing in the electronic transfer of results from the polling units.”
Sani, while reacting to a question on whether the new law would provide a level-playing field for everybody, including the smaller parties, said the action was a great leap for the country.
INEC to commence implementation immediately
The INEC has said it will commence the implementation of the signed electoral act immediately.
A national commissioner and chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, on Friday in Abuja said that given the tight timelines contained in the new law, the commission fully appreciated the importance of proceeding with their implementation in earnest.
“This is historic, being the fourth time since the restoration of democracy in Nigeria in 1999 that the Electoral Act is repealed and re-enacted. It contains many progressive provisions that will facilitate the conduct of free, fair and credible elections in Nigeria,” he said.
New Act binding – Lawyers
Lawyers have explained that the newly signed electoral act has automatically become operative irrespective of its shortfalls.
They were reacting to the status of President Buhari’s recommendation for an amendment of section 84(10) of the act to remove the provision preventing public officeholders from voting or being voted for in a political party primary.
Dayo Akinlaja, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), said the bill automatically became law immediately the president signed it, except a date for its commencement was expressly stated.
“The president’s suggestion to the National Assembly does not affect the efficacy of the law just signed.
“This amendment is for the previous electoral act, so if there is need for any other amendment it has to go through the same process of law-making,” he said.
Similarly, Hameed Ajibola Jimoh said the law had become operative following the president’s assent.
He said whatever may cause delay in the implementation could be technical and financial issues, for instance, importation of electronic voting materials.”
25 CSOs react
A coalition of 25 notable civil society organizations (CSOs) has asked the National Assembly to ensure that the gazetted copies of the Electoral Act 2022 are made available to citizens and election stakeholders promptly
They made the call on Friday in a joint statement following the signing of the bill into law by President Buhari.
They also said the president’s action marked a huge milestone in Nigerian’s quest to consolidate electoral democracy.
“We also commend the National Assembly for their responsiveness in ensuring that the bill substantially reflects the will of the Nigerian people and for transmitting same to the president upon citizens demands as laid back in January 2022.
“Among other important provisions, this electoral act reviews timelines for election activities.
“For instance, the new act requires the INEC to issue a Notice of Election not later than 360 days to the next general elections,” they said.
It’s a step towards free, fair polls – Atiku, Saraki
A former vice president, Atiku Abubakar and ex-Senate President Bukola Saraki have commended the National Assembly and civil society organisations for their consistency and effort that culminated in the signing of the bill.
Atiku, in a tweet on his verified Twitter account, asked the INEC to immediately roll out the election guidelines in earnest so that political parties and Nigerians could fully commence the journey to choosing their leaders in 2023.
Saraki, in a statement from his media office and signed by Yusuph Olaniyonu, commended President Buhari for signing the bill and also hailed “the National Assembly, civil society organisations and other Nigerians who remained persistent in insisting that Nigeria deserves a new law that would guarantee free, fair and peaceful poll in 2023 and beyond.”
PDP, APC bicker
The opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) Friday traded words over rigging.
Debo Ologunagba, the national publicity secretary of the PDP in a statement in Abuja on Friday urged Nigerians to be on the alert and take charge of their polling units during elections, alleging that the new electoral act has signalled the death knell of the ruling party.
In a statement, the Debo Ologunagba, the national publicity secretary of the PDP in a statement in Abuja on Friday urged Nigerians to be on the alert and take charge of their polling units during elections, alleging that the new electoral act has signalled the death knell of the ruling party.
In a statement, the APC, after commending the president for signing the bill, accused the PDP of electoral fraud.
The secretary of the APC Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Convention, Senator John James Akpanudoedehe, noted in a statement on Friday in Abuja that the signing of the bill into law was a big win for the country’s electioneering processes and democracy.
“We hereby call on well-meaning Nigerians to join us to completely stamp out past practices of electoral fraud weaponised by past administrations of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP),” the party stated.
Major highlights of Electoral Act, 2022
– INEC should provide electronic voting machine or any other voting device
– To determine the procedure for the transfer of results during the general elections
– Nomination of candidates shall be by direct, indirect primaries or consensus
– A political party that adopts a consensus candidate shall secure the written consent of all cleared aspirants
– No political appointee at any level shall be a voting delegate or be voted for at the convention or congress
– Election expenses by a presidential candidate should not be more than N5bn, gov N1bn
Ismail Mudashir, Muideen Olaniyi, Abdullateef Salau, Itodo Daniel Sule, Abbas Jimoh, John Chuks Azu, Baba Martins & Saawua Terzungwe