Fresh dust over electoral bill as N/Assembly resumes today | Dailytrust

Fresh dust over electoral bill as N/Assembly resumes today

Fresh dust is gathering around the Electoral Act Amendment Bill rejected by President Muhammadu Buhari over direct primaries as the National Assembly resumes from...

Fresh dust is gathering around the Electoral Act Amendment Bill rejected by President Muhammadu Buhari over direct primaries as the National Assembly resumes from Christmas and New Year break, Daily Trust reports.

Buhari had in a letter to the National Assembly, dated December 13, 2021, titled “Withholding of assent to Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill 2021”, withheld his assent to the Electoral Act Amendment Bill, citing economic, security and legal issues.

Daily Trust reports that the lawmakers had proceeded on their recess after the president communicated to them the rejection of the amendments made to the 2010 Electoral Act.  

While there were moves to override the president’s veto at the Senate before the recess, the members of the House of Representatives said action would be taken on the draft law after their break.

The president had in an exclusive interview with Channels TV said he would assent the electoral act bill if the lawmakers provide options for the conduct of political parties’ primaries. He listed the options to include; indirect, direct and consensus. 

Ahead of the resumption of the parliamentarians, stakeholders in the country’s political scene including governors, civil society groups have suggested ways out of the quagmire. 

 

Override Buhari – PDP govs tell lawmakers 

Rising from their meeting in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, the PDP governors yesterday urged the lawmakers to immediately act on the electoral bill.

The governors, in a communiqué read by their Chairman and the Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, at the end of the meeting, said the option of sustaining Mr President’s veto would lead to a quicker resolution and would deny Mr President the opportunity to once again truncate a reformed electoral jurisprudence for Nigeria. 

Tambuwal said an early conclusion of the Electoral Act amendment was vital for credible elections.

“The option of sustaining Mr President’s veto would lead to a quicker resolution and would deny Mr President the opportunity to once again truncate a reformed electoral jurisprudence for Nigeria. An early concluded electoral act is vital for credible elections,” the communiqué said.

The PDP governors urged eligible Nigerians from all walks of life, particularly the youths, to register en masse with INEC to exercise their franchise in the 2023 general elections, adding that the next election was a very consequential election that should be used to end the dominance of APC government.

 The meeting was attended by Tambuwal, Udom Emmanuel Udom (Akwa Ibom), Sen. Douye Diri (Bayelsa), Samuel Ortom (Benue), Ifeanyi Okowa (Delta), Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu).

 Others in attendance were; Nyesom Wike (Rivers), Abiodun Makinde (Oyo), Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri (Adamawa) and Bala Mohammed (Bauchi).

 

CSOs seek removal of contentious clauses 

Meanwhile, Nigerians and critical stakeholders in the electoral process have been anxiously waiting for the lawmakers to resume to take timely actions on the Electoral Amendment Bill, which they believe would greatly improve the country’s electoral process if the legislation scales through to become a law.

 There are concerns that any further delay on the Electoral Amendment Bill 2021 being signed into law could constitute a big drawback for the 2023 general elections as the electoral law is expected to be in place at least a year before the election to direct the activities of INEC.

Stakeholders comprising members of the civil society, the organised labour and media, among others, at a citizens’ town hall on “Electoral Bill 2021” held in Abuja on Sunday by Yiaga Africa and partners, were unanimous in urging members of the National Assembly to expeditiously conclude actions on the bill to ensure it becomes law.

In their various submissions, they urged the lawmakers to expunge the contentious provision on compulsory direct primaries by all political parties and resend the bill to the president for his assent.

A former Chairman of INEC, Prof Attahiru Jega, advised the lawmakers not to dissipate energies on trying to override the president, but should instead, remove the clause on direct primaries to allow the bill receive presidential assent without further delay.

He said, “The Electoral Act bill contains quite a lot of good things that can enhance electoral integrity. Since 2010, the country has not had any substantive improvement on electoral laws and in the 2021 Electoral bill; there are a lot of substantive things.”

 Speaking at the event, the President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Olumide Apata, expressed disappointment over the situation, saying ‘’ Everything about the electoral bill spelt progress but we can’t get it right if steps are not taken.

 “The bill should have been passed long ago. The president and the National Assembly, being of the same party, should have ironed this out to avoid this logjam.”

Also speaking, the Executive Director of the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Auwal Ibrahim Musa Rafsanjani, asked the National Assembly to hit the ground running by removing the area of concerns pointed out by major stakeholders in the bill, and send it for the presidential assent.

 Speaking in the same vein, the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, said the organised labour expects the lawmakers to speedily work on the bill and re-present it to the president for assent.

On her part, Samuela Isopi, EU Ambassador to Nigeria and ECOWAS, said getting the electoral laws right is in the interest of democratic development.

“What is good for Nigeria is good for the world,” she said.

The Executive Director of the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), Idayat Hassan, said that the lawmakers should review the amendment and transmit it to President Buhari for assent.

 And yesterday, a coalition of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) working for the perfection of the electoral system in Nigeria urged the legislature and President Buhari to conclude the process of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill by January 31.

The CSOs, which said this in Abuja at a news conference, also warned that further delay on the conclusion of the electoral act amendment process was inimical to the preparations for the Ekiti and Osun states’ off-cycle governorship elections, the 2023 general elections and future elections in the country.

The CSOs comprised Yiaga Africa, International Press Centre (IPC), Centre for Citizens with Disability (CCD), The Albino Foundation, CLEEN Foundation, Institute for Media and Society (IMS) and Nigerian Women Trust Fund (NWTF).

Others were Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ), Partners for Electoral Reform (PER), Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre (WARD-C), Nigeria Network of Non-Governmental Organisations and Inclusive Friends Association (IFA).

The Executive Director of Yiaga Africa, Samson Itodo; Executive Director NWTF, Hajiya Mufuliat Fijabi; IMS Director, Dr. Akin Akingbulu and PER Executive Director, Ezenwa Nwagru and others read a portion of their statement.

The CSOs also asked the Senate and House of Representatives to, upon resumption on Tuesday, January 18, take legislative action at their first sitting to conclude the process and re-transmit the bill to President Buhari by Friday, January 21.

 

We’ll consider all options – Lawmakers 

The Senate Leader, Yahaya Abdullahi has said that one of the major agendas before the Senate was to aggregate opinions of senators on consultations with their constituents over the controversial issue of direct primaries.

The Senate Leader who was fielding questions from journalists at the National Assembly complex in Abuja, Monday, also said that the resumption for the legislative duties will enable the Senate to interact with the House of Representatives on the way forward over the electoral bill.  

He said that whatever position that would be taken on the controversial electoral bill would be in line with the provision of the 1999 Constitution as amended. 

“Senators have consulted with their constituents and the outcome of their discussions will be reflected during debate on the floor of the senate,” he said. Also speaking on the matter, Spokesman for the Senate, Senator Ajibola Basiru, said the 9th National Assembly was committed to ensuring that the bill was passed and signed into law by the president.

“We will not abandon the electoral act but we will look at two options; one is to see whether if the contentious provisions could be amended and re-presented to the president for assent and of course, this will be after broad consultations with the National Assembly. 

 “The second is to see whether the provision of Section 58(5) of the constitution can be invoked to override the president and of course, that will necessitate passage of the bill by 2/3 majority. This option has nothing to do with ego or taking an attack on any institution. We are concerned about ensuring the timely passage of the electoral bill. 

“When we resume, we will subject the letter that the president has sent to us to debate and look at the appropriate response to it. And you could see that Mr President sent a 19-paragraph letter seeking to convince us to reconsider our decision. 

“What I can assure you is that the new electoral act together with the very fundamental reform aimed at ensuring credible election will see the light of the day by the 9th Assembly”, he said.

On his part, spokesman for the House of Representatives, Benjamin Okezie Kalu, also expressed optimism the National Assembly would do the needful in ensuring that the bill sees the light of the day.

 

By Ismail Mudashir, Itodo D. Sule, Abbas Jimoh, Abdullateef Salau (Abuja) & Victor Edozie (Port Harcourt)

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