IT is barely one month to the end of President Muhammadu Buhari’s first term. In another six weeks or so, the Eighth National Assembly will also wind up.
That the Executive and Legislative branches endured a stormy relationship since they came into government in May/June 2015 is beyond argument.
No other legislative instrument underlined the war of nerves that raged between the two estates of the realm more than the Electoral Amendment Bill 2018.
This Bill, which started receiving attention in 2016 due to the urgent need to correct the flaws of the 2015 general elections, was controversially rejected three times by the President.
On December 6, 2018, Buhari gave his reasons for refusing assent to it: “Any real or apparent change to the rules this close to the election may provide an opportunity for disruption and confusion in respect to 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.”
Thus was torpedoed the high hopes many Nigerians had placed on the use of a more highly refined law to conduct the 2019 general elections.
Some of the provisions that would have ensured the end of ballot snatching and falsification of results at collation stations included the pasting of results at polling stations and the electronic transmission of same directly to the Independent National Electoral Commission headquarters.
It also recognised the Smart Card Reader as a necessary means of accreditation of voters, thus invalidating manual accreditation and the use of incident forms. These and other laudable measures enshrined in that amendment were aimed at minimising electoral fraud and ensuring the sanctity of the people’s mandate.
President Buhari’s unfortunate rejection of this Bill helped in recycling the malfeasances that bedevilled our elections in the past during the 2019 elections. It frustrated the patriotic efforts made by the National Assembly members to clean up our elections and wasted the huge public funds sunk into the convoluted process of enacting the amendment.
We call on President Buhari to sign the Electoral Amendment Bill into law before the end of his first term. If he does not do so, it means that efforts to make our elections better will have to start from square one when the Ninth National Assembly is inaugurated in June. That would be a great disservice to our democracy.
Buhari can still discharge the burden of delaying the Electoral Amendment Bill by assenting to it to enable us use it for the impending Kogi and Bayelsa states elections.