Electoral bill: Buhari is still consulting, hasn’t declined assent – Presidency

Posted by News Express | 4 December 2021 | 492 times

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•President Muhammadu Buhari
Following the dust being raised over the new Electoral Act now awaiting the assent of President Muhammadu Buhari, the Presidency said yesterday that the No.1 citizen was still consulting widely on whether or not to give his nod to the amended law.
Aso Rock Villa said there was nothing to worry about concerning the President’s assent.
Some civil societies joined in making a case for Buhari to waste no further time in signing the bill into law while a former Secretary General of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Mr. Anthony Sani, said the President should ignore the opposition of state governors to the bill and do the needful immediately.
The president has up till December 19th to append or decline his signature to the bill.
His Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu,exclusively responding to an enquiry from The Nation clarified that the president has not declined assent to the electoral law.
“There is no truth in the story that President Muhammadu Buhari has declined signature on the bill,” Shehu said.
Continuing, he said:” He has not taken a decision yet. The President is widely consulting.
“I believe there is nothing to worry about. There is still time. I believe he still has up to December 19th or thereabouts.”
Former ACF scribe: Governors should not be allowed to desecrate constitution
Former Secretary General of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Anthony Sani,added his voice to the controversy sparked by the bill.
He asked President Muhammadu Buhari to stop the state governors from alleged desecration of the constitution.
Sani in a statement in Abuja said President Buhari should not bow to pressure from the governors not to sign the electoral bill.
The governors are especially against the recommendation of direct primary as the mode of picking candidates by the parties for elective offices.
The ex-ACF secretary described pressure from the governors on the President not to sign the bill as self- serving and not in the interest of democracy and the Nigerian people.
“When people emphasize the notion that the state governors can upturn what the National Assembly has duly passed, they ignore the impression being conveyed that such a course of action cuts across the grain of our constitution which places responsibility for law making on the legislators,” Sani said.
He added:”Our governors should not be allowed to desecrate our constitution by acting as the de facto National Assembly.
“So far, the argument by the governors against direct primary is rather very weak and self- serving while that in favour of direct primary that makes it possible for all political party members to participate in the choice of their party candidates for elections, thereby eviscerating the roles of money bags (plutocracy), corrupt practices of buying delegates (kleptocracy) and imposition of candidates leading to improvement of internal democracy, is much stronger and more democratic.
“Indirect primary confers undue advantage on incumbent governors who can manipulate delegates that include super delegates. Hence, the prevalent incidence of parallel congresses in many states. Direct primary would stop all that through involvement of all party members.
“As regards the costs of direct primary bandied about to scare Mr President from assenting the Electoral Amendment Bill, one wonders the wisdom. This is because direct primary is often at the level of polling units or at ward level where INEC staff are expected to witness.
“Any other level-be it State Assembly, House of Representatives, Senate or Governor constituencies are matters of collation. So, where is the humongous cost of direct primary coming from?
“We therefore appeal to Mr. President not to pander to the demand of the governors that is spurred not by desire to improve our practices of democracy but by a crass sense of narcissism. The President should assent the Bill for the larger interest of multiparty democracy and, thus, for national interest.”
Civil societies to Buhari: Sign Electoral Bill into law
Several Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have asked President Muhammadu Buhari to sign the contentious Electoral Act Amendment Bill before him into law.
The bill, according to the CSOs, contains specific provisions aimed at enhancing the quality and credibility of elections and address certain lacunas in the existing electoral legal framework.
The civil societies include: Yiaga Africa, International Press Centre (IPC), Centre for Citizens with Disability (CCD), Albino Foundation, CLEEN Foundation, Institute for Media and Society (IMS), Nigerian Women Trust Fund (NWTF) and Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ).
They were of the opinion that the bill would not only encourage increased citizens’ participation in the electoral process, but will also enhance the capacity of the democratic institutions to improve the transparency and legitimacy of electoral outcomes.
Besides, they said the timely assent to the bill would facilitate early preparations and efficient election administration of the 2023 general election, which is just 443 days away.
But they said that in the event of the President declining to sign the bill, the National Assembly should invoke its power by passing it into law as stipulated by the Constitution.
The CSOs said: “President Muhammadu Buhari must continue to pursue and honour his commitment to bequeath to Nigerians an electoral system that guarantees the conduct of credible, inclusive and peaceful elections.
“Further amendments to the Electoral Bill 2021 by the National Assembly should be undertaken in the next electoral cycle based on real and perceived lacuna identified in the implementation of the current Bill.”
Executive Director of Centre for Citizens and Disability, David Anyaele, said it was wrong for President Buhari to delay in assenting to a bill designed to encourage increased citizens’ participation in the electoral process just to please a small group of people that do not mean well for the country.
He said: “The lawmakers were democratically elected to represent their people and they have prepared the bill in line with the yearnings and aspirations of their people. They must stand and defend the wish of the people who elected them into offices by vetoing the President should he return the bill to the house without assent.”
Executive Director of Yiaga Africa, Samson Itodo, said the civil societies were in support of the President’s decision to invite comments from relevant Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government on the Bill, saying input from Chairman of INEC, Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Minister of the Interior, Minister of Finance and the Inspector General of the Police are probably the most crucial.
The National Assembly had transmitted the bill to the president on November 19, following its passage.
The president has until December 19 to either sign or decline assent.
The Nation had earlier reported how senators and House of Representatives members had come under pressure from governors to review the Electoral Act and retain the indirect primary.
It was also learnt that the Presidency might seek a review of the Act, if the pressure persisted.
NASS may not increase INEC’s 2022 budget
The Nation also gathered that the National Assembly may not increase the 2022 budget of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to monitor direct primary.
It was learnt that some senators and members of the House of Representatives agreed yesterday that there was no basis for additional funds for INEC for indirect and direct primaries.
A Senator, who attended a caucus meeting, said: “At our session, we looked at the provisions of the new Electoral Act again. There is no provision mandating INEC to conduct either Direct Primary.
“It is the business of each party to conduct its primary. INEC’s responsibility is to monitor compliance with the Electoral Act.
“We don’t understand where this issue of additional N500billion came from. This is why the House of Representatives has invited the Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu.
“The reality is that we believe INEC can monitor either direct or indirect primary with its 2022 budget. We resolved that there is no basis for increasing INEC’s budget.” (The Nation)

Source: News Express

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