© 2018 - International Centre for Investigative Reporting
Buhari: Signing new Electoral Act now will create uncertainty, confusion in 2019
PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari says he declined to sign the Electoral (Amendment) Bill because doing so few months to the 2019 general election could cause “uncertainty and confusion”.
Ita Enang, Buhari’s aide on National Assembly matters (Senate), had told journalists on Friday that the President has “taken a decision” on the bill and has communicated his decision to the National Assembly.
Enang refused to say whether the President assented to the bill or not. But it is now clear that Buhari, for the fourth time, refused to sign the bill into law.
In a letter to the lawmakers as to why he would not assent to the bill, Buhari said the 2019 general election is so close at hand and a new act could create confusion. He suggested that the lawmakers should state clearly in the amendment bill that it would come into effect after the 2019 election.
“I am declining assent to the Bill principally because I am concerned that passing a new electoral bill this far into the electoral process for the 2019 general election which commenced under the 2015 Electoral Act, could create some uncertainty about the applicable legislation to govern the process,” Buhari wrote.
“Any real or apparent change to the rules this close to the election may provide an opportunity for disruption and confusion in respect of which law governs the electoral process.
“This leads me to believe that it is in the best interest of the country and our democracy for the national assembly to specifically state in the Bill, that the Electoral Act will come into effect and be applicable to elections commencing after the 2019 General Election.”
The President also pointed out other sections, as well as some terms used in the amendment bill which he felt needed to be revisited.
They include “section 5 of the Bill, amending section 18 of the Principal Act should indicate the subsection to which the substitution of the figure “30” for the figure “60” is to be affected”.
Others are: “Section 11 of the Bill, amending Section 36 should indicate the subsection in which the proviso is to be introduced.
“Section 24 of the Bill which amends Section 85 (1) should be redrafted in full as the introduction of the “electing” to the sentence may be interpreted to mean that political parties may give 21 days notice of the intention to merge, as opposed to the 90 days provided in Section 84 (2) of the Electoral Act which provides the provision for merge of political parties.
“The definition of the term “Ward Collection officer” should be revised to reflect a more descriptive definition than the capitalized and undefined term “Registration Area Collation Officer.”
There have been calls from several quarters for the President to sign the electoral amendment bill into law as it is believed to greatly improve Nigeria’s electoral process.
The ‘Situation Room’, a platform consisting of several Civil Society Groups working on elections and good governance in Nigeria also joined in asking Buhari to sign the bill.
Convener of the group, Clement Nwankwo, tweeted the following on Thursday: “With 10 Weeks to 2019 General Elections, Nigeria awaits President Buhari’s assent to the Electoral Act Amendment Bill. Its contents are not controversial and it seeks to improve Nigeria’s electoral process.”
And following the announcement on Friday that Buhari has again withheld assent to the bill, Nwankwo tweeted: “Its a sad day for Nigeria’s electoral progress that President Buhari will veto the Electoral Act Amendment on the claim it’s too late into 2019 Elections preparations and after refusing assent to 3 earlier versions, as well as failing to present his own version to the National Assembly.”
As it stands now, the 2019 general election will be conducted based on the provisions of the Electoral Act 2010, unless two-thirds of the members of the National Assembly vote to overrule the president’s veto.