December 21, 2021

Ambushing the amended Electoral Bill?

Ambushing the amended Electoral Bill?

A legislative proposal that has suffered a high level of frustration is the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill 2010.

During President Muhammadu Buhari’s first tenure, strenuous efforts were made by the Eighth National Assembly led by former Senate President Bukola Saraki to upgrade our electoral laws.

But because these amendments were perceived as being capable of truncating pre-set objectives, the nation’s helmsman vetoed the Bill four times, citing various reasons, one of which was that the 2019 general elections were too close.

The reintroduced Bill has not fared much better. Clause 52(3) of the 158-clause Amendment Bill which dealt with the electronic transmission of votes became rancorous when some members unabashedly demonstrated their determination to frustrate it.

They preferred the continuation of the status quo. That clause is a central pillar of the election reform process. If entrenched in our electoral law, it will help to cut off ballot snatching, electoral violence, ballot thumb-printing in the homes of politicians and reduce the use of military, police and security personnel as well as hired thugs to violently steal the votes at the collation centres. It can also minimise expensive, time-wasting post-election legal tussles.

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This clause was systematically ambushed in the Senate and House of Representatives. The Senate passed a version that violated the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC’s, constitutional power to conduct elections by giving the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, the power to decide where INEC could electronically transmit election result subject to the approval of the National Assembly.

The bedlam that this generated in the polity forced the House of Representatives to grudgingly allow INEC to decide where it could transmit poll results. Eventually, the joint Committee of the National Assembly allowed sanity to prevail, thus passing an Amendment Bill that fully restored the INEC’s constitutional powers to go ahead with its firm resolve to electronically transmit poll results nationwide.

However, there are fears that the apparently self-serving measure spearheaded by the federal lawmakers to mandate direct primaries for all political parties could end up emasculating the Amendment Bill altogether. The APC governors, who wielded overwhelming influence through the use of the indirect or delegates system of election primaries, are reportedly prevailing on the president to veto the Bill once again.

If this happens, it will amount to throwing the baby away with the bath water just as the rejection of the 2006 Constitution Amendment Bill at the Senate truncated numerous far-reaching constitutional reform proposals.

We call on President Buhari to ignore these self-serving arguments and focus on leaving a cherished legacy as we enter the final 18 months of his stewardship. Should Buhari reject this Bill once again or unduly delay it, the National Assembly must override the veto.

Vanguard News Nigeria