President Muhammadu Buhari has declined to sign the Electoral Act as recently amended by the National Assembly into law.
This was contained in a letter addressed to both Bukola Saraki, Senate President, and Yakubu Dogara, Speaker of the House of Representatives, on Tuesday.
The new amendments had significantly altered the sequence of elections already rolled out by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for the 2019 general election, and this, Buhari said, infringes on INEC’s independence as enshrined in the constitution.
Also, he said that the deletion of some provisions in the amended electoral act limits the rights of the candidates to a free and fair electoral process.
“Pursuant to Section 58(4) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), I hereby convey to the Senate, my decision, on 3rd March 2018, to decline Presidential Assent to the Electoral Amendment Bill 2018 recently passed by the National Assembly,” Buhari wrote in the letter to Saraki.
“Some of my reasons include the following: The amendment to the sequence of elections in Section 25 of the principal act may infringe upon the constitutionally guaranteed discretion of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to organize, undertake and supervise elections provided in Section 15(A) of the third statue to the Constitution.
“The amend to Section 138 of the principal act to delete two crucial grounds upon which an election may be challenged by candidates, unduly limits the rights of candidates in elections to a free and fair electoral review process;
“The amendment to Section 152 Subsection 325 of the Principal Act may raise Constitutional issues over the competence of the National Assembly to legislate over local government elections.
“Please accept Distinguished Senators, the assurances of my highest consideration.”
One of the major changes in the electoral act as amended was for the National Assembly elections to come first, followed by that of state lawmakers and governors, and lastly the presidential election.
Following the amendments, the lawmakers were heavily criticised for proposing the changes solely for their inordinate political ambitions.
Mahmood Yakubu, National Chairman of INEC, had insisted that the electoral schedule already released by the commission would not change until the amended act becomes law.
This is the second time in a little over two weeks that Buhari would be rejecting a bill sent to him by the National Assembly for assent.
On February 27, he informed the legislators of his refusal to assent to the bill for the establishment of the Peace Corps of Nigeria.