President Muhammadu Buhari is yet to decide on whether to assent or veto the Electoral Act amendment bill 2021.
Senior special assistant to the president on National Assembly Matters (House of Representatives), Hon Umar El-Yakub, while speaking to our correspondent via telephone, noted that the communications between the president and the National Assembly is not a secret affair, adding that such communication would have been read on the floor of the parliament.
“The long and short of it is that there has never been any communication of such; there is nothing like that. If there is any communication, it will be disclosed publicly at the National Assembly.
“We all need to be more responsible; we don’t need to unnecessarily overheat the polity. What I can tell you is that if you are doing your calculations right, you know that the president constitutionally has 30 days to sign the bill. The bill was transmitted on the 19th November so the president has 10 more days,” El-Yakub said.
Meanwhile, the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahood Yakubu, yesterday said it was purely the responsibility of political parties to conduct primary elections, whether direct or indirect.
Yakub made this known while fielding questions from journalists shortly after he met with the House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations.
When pointedly asked if the commission had submitted the cost of monitoring direct primaries of political parties, the chairman said, “INEC did not come up with any cost for the conduct of primaries for political parties by the direct method. We have had very good discussions with the committee on Appropriation of the National Assembly pursuant to the resolution of the House and what we discussed you will not hear from me. Maybe, the chairman of the committee will tell you.”
But the chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations, Hon Mukhtar Batera, said the role of INEC in the primary elections of political parties is minimal, as he said individual political parties have the responsibility of conducting primaries.
“In our discussions with the INEC chairman, we wanted to know his requirements for the 2023 elections as well as the cost of direct or indirect primaries. On the primaries, when we discussed with him, he specifically told us the role of INEC in direct or indirect primaries, which he said is just minimal. He said the responsibility lies with all the political parties. He said conducting party primaries is the role of political parties and not INEC.
“For direct primaries, what the INEC chairman told us is that only the political parties have the responsibility on primaries and the funding of the primaries,” he said.
Speaking to LEADERSHIP yesterday concerning the controversy surrounding the Electoral Act Amendment Bill, the Senate spokesman, Basiru Ajibo, said the Red Chamber was yet to receive any communication from President Muhammadu Buhari.
“We have not received any communication from the president concerning the Electoral Act Amendment Bill. I am in Lagos now and I am not aware of such communication,” Basiru said.
Meanwhile, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) yesterday urged the members of the National Assembly to override the president if he refuses to assent to the electoral bill.
Speaking to LEADERSHIP Friday, the executive director, Centre for Democracy Development (CDD), Idayat Hassan, said the lawmakers should ensure they override the president if he does not sign the bill.
“The lawmakers have the powers to override the president. So, what Nigerians expect from them, if he does not sign this bill again, they should override his assent,” Idayat said.
Also, the executive director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, while calling on the lawmakers to adhere to the yearnings of Nigerians, said they should override the president if he refuses to assent to the bill.
“Yes, if they believe in what they legislated and also want to work to improve the electoral process by making it transparent, inclusive and democratic in favour of public support and popular demand for Nigerians,” Rafsanjani said, while backing the calls for the members of the National Assembly to override Buhari on the electoral act amendment bill if he does not sign it.
Other CSOs, including Yiaga Africa, the 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), have also asked the president to sign the bill on time.
Speaking on the imperative of timely assent to the Electoral Bill 2021, the executive director, Yiaga Africa, Samson Itodo, said for a successful conduct of any election, the legal framework, amongst other factors, must be considered. He urged President Buhari to sign the bill without delay.
The executive director, Centre for Citizens with Disability (CCD), David Anyele, told LEADERSHIP Friday that the National Assembly has to override the president if he refuses to do the wishes of Nigerians.
“The environment has changed. Even the sociopolitical situation in this country has changed. There is demand for the citizens to take hold of their country and be patriotic. The National Assembly should override the president if he does not sign the bill,” he said.