Electoral Bill

By Henry Umoru – Abuja

THE Senate will tomorrow take a decision on the growing uncertainty in the political atmosphere as the 30 days’ deadline for President Muhammadu Buhari to sign the Electoral Act Bill will elapse soon.

In a text message to  Vanguard yesterday when asked what will be the next line of action following the expiration of the timeline,  the Senate Minority leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Abia South said,”The senate will meet next week during plenary and decide what to do. That the deadline is today does not mean that we would not receive communication from the President. The President has not said that he has vetoed it.”

Also in a text message to Vanguard when asked what will be the next line of action following the expiration of the timeline, Senator Adamu Aliero, All Progressives Congress, APC, Kebbi Central said,  “We opted for direct primary to save the APC from the strong hold of undemocratic forces that have succeeded in hijacking the party during the recently concluded congresses. Unless direct primaries are done there will be mass exodus of our party supporters to other parties.”

The National Assembly had on Tuesday, 9th November, 2021  passed the much anticipated Electoral Act Amendment Bill 2021 after both the Senate and the House of Representatives  deliberated extensively on the report of the Conference Committee on the bill.

The Senate had on that day, passed the harmonized version of the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill, 2021.

The passage followed the consideration of the report of the Conference Committee of the Senate and House of Representatives on the bill. 

In line with customary legislative procedures, the two chambers had in September set up  Conference Committees to reconcile disparity in the versions of the bill as passed by the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Consequently, the National Assembly had on November 19, 2021 transmitted the bill to President Buhari for assent in line with Section 58(4) of the 1999 Constitution that ” Where a bill is presented to the President for assent, he shall within 30 days thereof signify that he assents or that he withholds assent.”

With the expiration of the date for assent, the next line of action as the bill has not been returned to the National Assembly is for the Senators and members of the House of Representatives to as a matter of urgency  override Buhari’s Veto, just as if the President writes to both chambers of the National Assembly to express his reservations about the Electoral Act 2010 Amendment Bill, it means he  has withheld his assent and cast doubt on the rationality of the lawmakers to review or amend the contentious provisions of the Act. 

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What this connotes in Legislative processes is that the president has vetoed the bill and at this stage, the National Assembly is now in a position to override the veto by two-thirds of its members at separate sittings.

This will not be the first time that the National Assembly will carry out such an action if the President fails to sign the bill against the backdrop that the fourth Republic was the first time when on June 7, 2000, the National Assembly, under the chairmanship of Anyim Pius Anyim, overrode President Olusegun Obasanjo’s veto of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) Establishment Bill.

The action was taken in 2000 when  the National Assembly proposed that 15 percent of Federal Government’s monthly statutory allocations be contributed to the funding of the Commission, but the then President,  Obasanjo wanted it reduced to 10 percent, even as he also wanted the 3 percent annual budget of all oil and gas companies operating in the Niger Delta region proposed by the National Assembly as the companies’ funding contribution to the Commission be reduced to 1.5 percent.

Whereas, Obasanjo wanted member states of the NDDC to contribute 10 percent of their derivation funds to funding the Commission, the National Assembly dropped that proposal.

Incidentally, the timeline for the President to assent to Electoral Act Bill came to an end, the Sunday, President Buhari left Nigeria for Turkey for official matters and where he also marked his 79th birthday celebration.

It also coincided with the weekend, the President of the Senate and Chairman of the National Assembly, Ahmad Lawan and his  Deputy, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, APC, Delta Central  led a delegation of Senators to attend the turbaning of Yusuf  Buhari as the Talban of Daura by the Emir of Daura, Alhaji Umar Farouk.

Also recall that  the clause seeking to make direct primary mandatory for political parties scaled through by most of the lawmakers who  lost out during the last local government and state congresses of the APC and they  came up with the clause to get back at their governors by making them lose relevance on who should vote or be voted for during party primary elections.

But as the lawmakers succeeded in doing that, the governors on their part, have not rested on their oars as they have made their representations to Buhari who seems to have been swayed by their argument.

Ahead of tomorrow, it also not clear if President Buhari  would not take the advice of the country’s  Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN who has warned against assent to the Bill.

Also tomorrow, the  National Assembly will pass the N16.39trillion 2022 Appropriation bill that  suffered a major setback on Wednesday as it was deferred to tomorrow 

The Senate’s hope  to pass the Budget last week  was shattered following the non capturing in the budget, the financial requirements for the Independent National Electoral Commission ( INEC) for 2023 general elections and  that of the National Population Commission ( NPC ) for the conduct of  2022 census.

There were strong indications  that the Senator Barau Jibrin, All Progressives Congress, APC, Kano North Committee on Appropriations was going to lay the report for subsequent suspending of the Senate Standing Order for the consideration of the report and passage.

The Senate Committee was however disappointed when the Committee’s moves  to get the requirement details for the agencies at a special session did not suceed as the INEC Chairman,  Professor Mahmud Yakubu failed to attend the session.

Vanguard gathered that outside the issue of INEC and the NPC, Senators decided to delay the passage of the budget to enable them remain in session till tomorrow when the President would have either signed or rejected the Electoral Bill.

According to the source, the plan of the Senators  to delay the passage of the budget was to enable them recall the Bill if rejected or the period for assent elapses and pass it into law in line with the Constitution tomorrow.

Vanguard News Nigeria

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