For the fourth consecutive time, President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday has declined assent to the electoral act amendment bill (2018).
Speaking to State House correspondents, senior special assistant national assembly (Senate) to the President, Senator Ita Enang said the president has communicated his decision to the legislature.
He, however, failed to disclose whether the president has assented to or declined assent to the bill.
LEADERSHIP gathered that the President has refused assent to the bill and the reasons for the rejection will be given by the leadership of the National Assembly on Tuesday.
Enang said, “President Muhammadu Buhari has taken decision on Electoral Act Amendment bill 2018. In accordance with his power under the 1999 Constitution and has communicated that decision to the Senate and House of Representatives in accordance with the law.
Asked whether the bill was assented or rejected, he said “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.”
Pushed further Enang said, “Thank you very much but this is all the law allows me to say by convention. Mr. President has sent that communication to the National Assembly.”
When asked why he returned the bill back to NASS he said, “The president has communicated his decision to the National Assembly and that is what it is now.”
When asked if it is safe to say he rejected the bill, “it is safe to say that the president has taken decision as allowed by low and has communicated that decision to the senate and the House of Representatives.
When asked the implication of the decision on the 2019 elections, Enang said, “The implication of the decision is that the president has taken action on the bill within the time allowed by law.”
Recall that on Monday, 3rd September, 2018, Enang announced Presidential decision to decline assent to Electoral ( Amendment ) Bill 2018.
This is coming barely six months after the President rejected the First Amendment.
Although Enang informed that the President has already communicated his decision in letters sent to the two chambers of the National Assembly.
According to him, the President was declining assent to the bill due to some “drafting issues that remain unaddressed following the prior revisions to the bill.”
“There is a cross- referencing error in the proposed amendment to Section 18 of the Bill . The appropriate amendment is to substitute the existing sub – section ( 2 ) with the proposed subsection ( 1 A) , while the proposed sub -section ( 1 B) is the new sub – section ( 2 A),” Enang stated in a statement.
It noted that there was also an issue with the conduct of primaries by political parties and the dates they should submit names of their candidates to INEC.
Enang further insisted that if the bill is signed into law as it is, INEC would have only nine days to collate and compile lists of candidates in the 91 political parties.
“The proposed amendment to include a new Section 87 ( 14 ) which stipulates a specific period within which political party primaries are required to be held has the unintended consequence of leaving INEC with only nine days to collate and compile lists of candidates and political parties as well as manage the primaries of 91 political parties for the various elections.
“ This is because the Electoral Amendment bill does not amend sections 31 , 34 and 85 , which stipulates times for the submission of lists of candidates , publication of lists of candidates and notice of convention , congresses for nominating candidates for elections .’’
He noted that Clause 87 ( 14 ) “states that the dates for the primaries shall not be earlier than 120 days and not later than 90 days before the date of elections to the offices ” which is at variance with Section 31 of the Electoral Act 2010 .
Section 31 of the Electoral Act 2010 states , “Every political party shall not later than 60 days before the date appointed for a general election submit to the commission the list of candidates the party proposes to sponsor at the elections .
Section 34 of the Act adds, “That the commission shall at least 30 days before the day of the election publish a statement of the full names and addresses of all candidates standing nominated.”
On Section 85 ( 1) of the Electoral Act which states that a party shall give the commission at least 21 days ’ notice of any convention, congress etc., for electing members of its executive committees or nominating candidates for any of the elective offices , Enang said this was at variance with the bill proposed by the National Assembly.
According to him, since the constitution did not empower a President or governor to whom a bill was forwarded by the legislature to edit, correct, amend or in any manner alter the provisions of any such bill to reflect appropriate intent before assenting to same, Buhari had no choice but to return it to the National Assembly.
Retrospectively, the President, had in March this year, refused to sign the electoral amendment bill. This was contained in separate letters to the President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki , and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara.
Buhari had claimed that the bill usurped the constitutional powers of INEC to decide on election matters, including fixing the dates and the order they would be held.
His action, he insisted was in compliance with the requirements of Section 58 of the 1999 Constitution, particularly sub -section 4, by refusing to sign the bill.
Part of Buhari ’s letter read , “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 Act Amendment Bill 2018 recently passed by the National Assembly.
“Some of my reasons for withholding assent to the bill include the following: the amendment to the sequence of the elections in Section 25 of the principal Act may infringe upon the constitutionally guaranteed discretion of the INEC to organise , undertake and supervise all elections provided in Section 15 ( a ) of the Third Schedule of the Constitution.
“The amendment 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,” it stated.
Meanwhile, Enang disclosed that President Buhari has also assented to National Open University Amendment Act, which allows the National Open University to operate as all other universities, having the same power and functions and the same administrative structures eliminating possible discrimination as some use to want to have on its products and programmes.
“It has also allowed the establishment of some centers to be called study centers and given conditions for the establishment of such study centers,” he said.