Electoral Amendment Bill: House leadership blame legal department for flaws

Electoral Amendment Bill: Legal Dept responsible for flaws, say APC Reps

Speaker Yakubu Dogara

By Dele Anofi, Abuja

HOLD the National Assembly’s Legal Department responsible for the flaws identified in the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill 2018, the All Progressives Congress (APC) caucus in the House of Representatives said yesterday.

The flaws made President Muhammadu Buhari not to sign the bill ahead of the 2019 general elections.

Buhari said it would be an error on the part of the National Assembly to attempt to override him on a bill in which errors had been discovered.

Majority Leader and leader of the Caucus Femi Gbajabiamila blamed the flaws on the legal unit in a chat with reporters at the National Assembly sequel to an emergency meeting of the Caucus.

He said lawmakers in the two chambers should not be blamed but rather the Legal Department which was in charge of drafting the bill for the law makers.

According to him, all necessary adjustments ought to have been made before passing it to both chambers for further legislative action.

He said: “A dot or punctuation can change the meaning of a provision in the law. Just a single coma can change the meaning and make it ambiguous.

“If the document is imperfect and you can read it anyhow or if a coma was removed when it should have been there, you cannot even override that imperfect document. You have to first of all amend that document and start the process all over again and send it back to Mr. President.

“As a party, we are not going to be part of those to override the President’s document.

“Mr. President has done well. If you study the constitution very well, it does not oblige the President to give any reason for veto.

“All he has to do is return it and say am not signing. He doesn’t have to give you any reason. But every time he has done that, he has brought forward cogent verifiable reasons why he is not signing.

“On this particular one, I believe why the President has refused to sign which we identify with is that every vote must count in Nigeria”, Gbajabiamila said.

The lawmaker said the effect of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill is that it could only accredit voters through the electronic system, adding that it would prevent manual registration.

The leader said: “What the president has done is to protect everybody in Nigeria. Yes, do your electronic registration but make room for manual else millions will be disenfranchised and we don’t want that.

“It is a constitutional guarantee that everybody that resides in Nigeria has the right to vote and be voted for. So, we can’t breach the constitution through an amendment.”

Read also: Electoral Bill: Override Buhari’s assent, Agbakoba tells NASS
Gbajabiamila said the caucus was behind President Buhari’s decision in declining assent to the bill.

The President said assenting to the bill could lead to chaos and disenfranchisement of millions of Nigerians from voting.

The House leader said the correct thing to do would be for both chambers to make necessary amendment in the bill in line with President Buhari’s observations and re-transmit it for his signature.

He said: “On this particular one, I believe why the President has refused to sign which we identify with is that every vote must count in Nigeria.

“What the president has done is to protect everybody in Nigeria. Yes, do your electronic registration but make room for manual else millions will be disenfranchised and we don’t want that.

“It is a constitution guarantee that everybody that resides in Nigeria has the right to vote and be voted for. So, we can’t breach the constitution through an amendment.”

Gbajabiamila said the caucus had more than enough members to stop the veto of the Bill as being touted by some schools of thought.

For this reason, the National Assembly could not muster the figure to veto the Bill.

Credit: The Nation

Why I refused to sign Electoral Bill —Buhari writes Senate

BREAKING: Why I refused to sign Electoral Bill —Buhari writes Senate

President Muhammadu Buhari has written the Senate, explaining why he had refused to assent to the Electoral (Amendment) Bill, 2018 recently passed by the National Assembly.

President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, read the President’s letter at the Tuesday Plenary.

President Buhari’s letter to the senators reads: “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 6th December 2018 to decline Presidential Assent to the Electoral (Amendment) Bill, 2018 recently passed by the National Assembly.

“I am declining assent to the Bill principally because I am concerned that passing a new electoral bill this far into the electoral process for the 2019 general elections, which commenced under the 2015 Electoral Act, could create some uncertainty about the applicable legislation to govern the process.

“Any real or apparent change to the rules this close to the election may provide an opportunity for disruption and confusion in respect of which law governs the electoral process.

“This leads me to believe that it is in the best interest of the country and our democracy for the National Assembly to specifically state in the Bill that the Electoral Act will come into effect and be applicable to elections commencing after the 2019 General Elections.”

Continuing, Buhari explains, “It is also important for the following drafting amendments to be made to the Bill:

”A. Section 5 of the Bill, amending section 18 of the Principal Act should indicate the subsection to which the substitution of the figure ’30” for the figure “60” is to be effected.”

“B. Section 11 of the Bill, amending Section 36 should indicate the subsection in which the provision is to be introduced.

“C. Section 24 of the Bill which amends Section 85(1) should be redrafted in full as the introduction of the “electing” to the sentence may be interpreted to mean that the political parties may give 21 days’ notice of the .. intention to merge, as opposed to the 90 days provided in Section 84(2) of the Electoral Act which provides the provision for merger of political parties.”

“D. The definition of the term “Ward Collection Officer” should be revised to reflect a more descriptive definition than the capitalized and undefined term “Registration Area Collation Officer.”

The President concluded his letter with greeting to the lawmakers: “Please accept, Distinguished Senate President, the assurances of my highest consideration.”

After Saraki finished reading the President’s letter, Senate Leader moved that all items on the Order Paper be stood down to another legislative day.

Minority Leader seconded the motion and the Plenary adjourned to Wednesday, 12th December, 2018.

Credit: The Punch