The Senate has gone into an executive session following communication by President Muhammadu Buhari concerning the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill 2021.
President Buhari has responded to the Bill transmitted to him by the National Assembly for his assent, rejecting the clause that provided for compulsory direct primary election mode imposed on political parties.
The 30 days stipulated by law for Buhari to assent to the Bill or otherwise elapsed Sunday, December 19, 2021, a development that may likely pitch within the National Assembly against the Presidency.
Lawmakers were already mobilising themselves awaiting the official communication on Monday, to enable them take a decision this Tuesday.
The lawmakers were supposed to proceed for a recess last week but deferred it till this week.
The lawmakers claimed their inability to pass the 2022 Appropriation Bill was as a result of the non-inclusion of the 2023 Independent National Electoral Commission’s (INEC) election budget and the N400 billion fund for national census to be conducted by the National Population Commission (NPC) in 2022.
But sources said the delay tactics employed by the presidency on the Electoral Bill forced the lawmakers not to proceed on recess.
The closed-door meeting started at about 10:44am this Tuesday morning. LEADERSHIP gathered that it is not unconnected with the Electoral Act (Amendment Bill), the 2022 budget and the screening of a ministerial nominee from Taraba State.
Meanwhile, the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Transparency International (TI) Nigeria have expressed disappointment over the failure of the president to sign the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill, 2021.
A statement issued by the Executive Director of CISLAC, Head, TI Nigeria/chairman, Transition Monitoring Group (TMG), Auwal Ibrahim Musa Rafsanjani, said the National Assembly can simply not afford to disappoint Nigerians.
“In furtherance to this, we strongly urge the National Assembly to veto (override) the president on this matter.
Elections remain a critical aspect of democracy as it is the gateway for all citizens to achieve their aspirations for democracy, and a transparent election can only be achieved by creating a legal framework a robust legal framework that can respond to the current challenges we face.
“The Bill seeks to improve the electoral system by providing the legal backing for the use of technology in the accreditation of voters and transmission of election results. It seeks to enhance timelines for electoral activities, including voting, collation, and announcement of results, and adequately defines over-voting, confers authority on INEC to review questionable election results and monitor direct primaries for all political parties.
“We believe that this bill will increase transparency in our electoral process, encourage citizens to participate in the process as aspirants and voters as well as help improve the ideology of our elections by reducing the reliance on dirty money.
“We, therefore, call on the 9th Assembly to etch its name in gold in the right pages of our history by exercising its powers under S. 58 (5) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (As Amended) which states that “Where the President withholds his assent and the bill is again passed by each House by two-thirds majority, the bill shall become law and the assent of the President shall not be required.”
If the National Assembly vetoes the president, it will show their independence and above all, respect the view of the constituents who gave them the mandate to legislate on their behalf,” the statement stated.