PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari has “taken a decision” with regards to the Electoral (Amendment) Bill and has returned the document to the National Assembly.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly (Senate), Ita Enang, made this known to State House Reporters on Friday.
“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,” Enang said.
He refused to say whether the President assented to the bill or not.
There have been agitations from several quarters for Buhari to sign the amended electoral bill into law so that its provision could be binding on the forthcoming 2019 general election. But there have also been parties asking the President not to give assent to the document.
Among the latter group are three political parties — Advanced Peoples Democratic Alliance (APDA), Allied Peoples Movement (APM), and Movement for Restoration and Defence of Democracy (MRDD) — that recently filed a lawsuit before the Federal High Court seeking a declaration that the signing of the Electoral (Amendment) Act into law would truncate the coming general election.
The Electoral Act has been amended four times but Buhari has declined to give assent to all of them.
Among many other things, the amended bill touches on such issues as which election comes first during general elections, the presidential or the legislative elections. The new bill also recognises smart card readers and any other technological methods as the only voter accreditation methods, thereby outlawing the manual system of voter verification where voters whose cards could not be interpreted by the smart card readers were asked to fill ‘incident forms’ and allowed to vote.
Also, the amended bill raised the amount of money lawfully permitted for a candidate to spend in the course of running for office. Similarly, the amount of money that individuals were permitted to legally donate to a candidate was also increased.
In declining assent to the Electoral Act the first time, Buhari asked the lawmakers to address some “drafting errors” in the draft before he could consider signing it into law.
“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,” Enang stated at the time.
It is not clear yet why Buhari is rejecting this fourth amendment to the Electoral Act.
Meanwhile, Enang said on Friday that the President has assented to the amendment made to the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) Act. This means that NOUN can now operate like other conventional universities.