As days stipulated by law for President Muhammadu Buhari to assent or decline assent to the Electoral Act Amendment Bill 2021 expires today, there is uneasy calm between the National Assembly and the Presidency, LEADERSHIP Sunday can report.
It was gathered that lawmakers are already mobilising themselves, awaiting any official communication on Monday to enable them take a decision on Tuesday.
The lawmakers were supposed to proceed for a recess last week but deferred it till this week.
They claimed their inability to pass the 2022 appropriation bill as a result of the non-inclusion of the 2023 Independent National Electoral Commission’s election budget and the N400 billion National Census to be conducted by the National Population Commission (NPC) in 2022 was the reason behind their decision.
But sources said the delay tactics employed by the presidency on the electoral act forced them not to proceed on recess, barring any last-minute arrangement.
According to the source, some Senators and members of the House of Representatives interested in the electoral act had advised that the lawmakers should not go on recess pending the expiration of the 30 days which President Buhari has to act on the bill.
“We await his communication. Some of us want this issue of the electoral bill to be put to rest before we proceed on Christmas holiday. So, it is not just about the budget,” a source said.
“Left to me, if there is a communication from the presidency between now and Monday, we should be able to take a decision on Tuesday,” another source said.
Another lawmaker told LEADERSHIP Sunday that they had met and resolved that if the president does not sign the bill, they will override him.
“We have already met on this issue. If the president does not sign the bill, we will override him. The 2021 electoral act amendment bill is something Nigerians believe will improve the electoral system.
“So, for the interest of Nigerians and the electoral process, if the President does not sign the bill, we will override his veto,” he said.
Also, the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, Ndudi Elumelu, has assured Nigerians that they will override President Muhammadu Buhari if he does not sign the electoral act amendment bill.
Elumelu, who stated this during an interaction with journalists at the National Assembly, said the new electoral bill is a product of Nigerians and largely contains things that will improve the electoral system.
The National Assembly bureaucracy submitted the clean copy of the bill to the President on Friday, November, 19, 2021.
Special assistant to the president on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Babajide Omoworare, confirmed that the President received the bill.
Today, December 19, 2021, is exactly one month since the bill was submitted to President Buhari and there is no official communication on it.
Presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina, had said President Buhari will sign the bill despite objections by some powerful Nigerians, especially state governors.
Senate spokesman, Basiru Ajibola, said they are yet to receive any communication from President Buhari on the matter.
But Civil Society Oganisations (CSOs) have urged the members of the National Assembly to override the president if he refuses to assent to
the electoral bill, insisting they have the powers.
The national president, Vanguard for Transparent Leadership and Democracy (VATLAD), Comrade (Engr) Igbini Odafe Emmanuel, said both INEC and the National Assembly should not mislead Nigerians on the electoral act.
“The fact and truth remain that by the relevant provisions of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution, as amended, President Buhari has no strict obligation to assent to any Bill passed by at least 2/3 majority of 469 members of the National Assembly.
“Furthermore, President Buhari also has no constitutional power whatsoever to stop any proposed amendment to the Electoral Act passed by at least 2/3 majority of the 469 members of the National Assembly.
“Instead, the constitutional power to initiate, pass and sign into law these proposed amendments to the Electoral Act is rightly vested in 2/3 majority members of the National Assembly even without the assent of President Buhari,” Emmanuel said, urging the members of the National Assembly to do the needful before proceeding on leave.
“This is as aptly provided in section 58 of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution, as amended, particularly sections 58(4 and 5) which state that: “Where a bill is presented to the President of Nigeria for assent, he shall within thirty days thereof signify that he assents or that he withholds assent. Where the President withholds his assent and the Bill is again passed by each House of the National Assembly by two-thirds majority, the Bill shall become Law and the assent of the President of Nigeria shall not be required.”
“Why then should the leadership and at least the 2/3 majority of members of this 9th National Assembly be misleading Nigerians into believing that President Buhari must sign this proposed amendment to the Electoral Act before it can become law or an Act of the National Assembly to be used in the conduct of the 2023 General Elections to ensure truly free, fair and credible elections when it claims that over 2/3 majority of 469 members of the National Assembly passed this proposed Amendments Bills?
“We hasten to remind Nigerians that in June 2000, the National Assembly invoked its constitutional power under section 58(5) of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution, as amended, to pass the NDDC Establishment Bill into Law when then President Obasanjo, in opposing the Bill, withheld his assent to it. So there is no basis for this 9th National Assembly to continue to claim that it is dependent on President Buhari for this Bill to become Law.
“As regard the attempt by INEC to continue to claim that it has obligation to monitor the primaries of political parties before the outcomes of such primaries can be valid and accepted for purposes of presenting candidates for General Elections conducted by INEC, we totally disagree with INEC and strongly accuse its leadership of continuing to deliberately waste scarce public funds in this regard and making itself a provocative interloper in the constitutional rights of political parties to freely choose their candidates for elections in line with their constitutions
“Is it not curious that the leadership of INEC continues to fail or refuse to carry out its constitutional duties in monitoring and ensuring that political parties comply strictly with Sections 225 – 227 of the 1999 Nigerian, as amended, to compel political parties to fully disclose sources of their funding (Internal or External), submit detailed annual statements and analyses of their sources of funds and other assets and statements of their expenditures and to ensure that no political party engages in retaining, organising, training or equipping any person or group of persons as thugs, for the purpose of enabling them to be employed to undermine the peace, security and credibility of General Elections, but only more interested in monitoring primaries and conventions of political parties which are the least relevant of issues INEC should monitor?” he asked.
Also, the executive director, Centre for Democracy Development (CDD), Idayat Hassan, said the lawmakers should ensure they override the president.
“The good thing to do is for the lawmakers to override the president having followed the normal legislative process,” she said.
The executive director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, called on the lawmakers to adhere to the yearning of Nigerians by overriding the president if he declines.
Also, the executive director, Yiaga Africa, Samson Itodo, said for a successful conduct of any election, the legal framework, amongst other factors, must be considered, and urged the National Assembly to override the president.
Also speaking, the executive director, Centre for Citizens with Disability (CCD), David Anyele, called on the National Assembly to override the president if he does not sign the bill.
“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.
“What the National Assembly has done is to speak to the yearnings and the aspiration of Nigerians. They have sent the bill to the President. If the president listens to people close to him and refuses to sign the bill fast, the National Assembly should redeem their image and reputation and veto the president.
“This is not the first time it has been done. The Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) was created as a result of vetoing the president. Therefore, it is constitutional, it is their prerogative to veto the president so that Nigerians can take ownership of the country, so that Nigeria can have trust in the framework that leads to the selection of political leaders,” Anyele said.