Before the 2019 general elections, President Muhammadu Buhari declined assent to the electoral act amendment bill which was passed by the 8th Assembly.
Even though the president said there were errors in the bill sent to him, the major complaint by Buhari was that the bill came late. The president said he will sign the bill if the errors are effected and sent to him on time but that there was no way such a bill would be used in that election.
The 9th Senate passed the current electoral bill on 15 July, 2021, set up a harmonisation committee before proceeding on their long recess.
Their counterparts at the green chamber, passed a different version of the bill. Their version was viewed by many Nigerians as the one that should be adopted since they did not undermine the independence of the electoral umpire in their document.
While there was a need for the two Houses to harmonise their positions, as a result of pressure and public outcry, the Senate overturned the version of the electoral bill it passed.
The Red Chamber opted to allow the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to decide the mode of election conduct and transmission of election results in the country.
As passed by the House of Representatives, Senators recommitted the bill for more legislative work and after much debate, they amended clause 52 (3) which now allows INEC to determine the mode of election conduct and transmission of election results. The Senate also agreed with the House of Representatives and adopted direct primary elections for political parties.
Many Nigerians, leading civil society organisations (CSOs) including Yiaga Africa, Centre for Democracy Development (CDD), Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) and the Inter-party Advisory Council (IPAC) – the umbrella body of all political parties in Nigeria are now complaining that the time is running out on the work that is currently ongoing concerning the electoral act amendment bill.
Stakeholders are expressing concern that the delay in transmitting the bill to the president for assent may affect the entire process as it happened in 2019.
Both chambers of the National Assembly have setup harmonisation committee but little have been heard about their progress.
The members of the Conference Committee on the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill 2021 both in the Senate and the House of Representatives are expected to harmonise the two versions passed by both chambers.
The time for the harmonisation and the clean up by the National Assembly bureaucracy is likely to take months before onward transmission to the president.
This, if not taken seriously, will affect the assent of the electoral act amendment bill 2021 by President Muhammadu Buhari as it happened in 2019.
Since Nigeria’s general election is coming up in February 2023, concerted effort must be made by the members of the conference committee to harmonise their positions for onward transmission to the President for his assent.