Electoral Act: Reps, Presidency on a collision course?

Attempts at further amending the 2010 Electoral Act appears to have been the most challenging in the life of the 8th National Assembly.

This is not because the necessary processes of altering an existing legislation may be new to the parliament, but the perceived disposition of the executive arm, under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari to the move.

JOSHUA EGBODO writes on the implication of another veto.
Buhari’s thrice veto President Buhari had for three consecutive times, declined assent to the amendment Bill to the extant Electoral Act, with the first being issues with the clauses related to local government elections and sequence of election.

The president in communicating his veto on the Bill then cited the constitutional breach of the National Assembly’s powers to legislate on matters related to local governments, as well as over the exclusive powers of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to determine timing and sequence of elections it powers to conduct.

The House of Representatives, and by extension, the National Assembly, agreed with the President then on his observations on the amendments as they relate to matters involving the local governments, but stood its grounds that it has the constitutional power to alter the sequence of election, as the Act establishing INEC itself was a product of the parliament, and so INEC’s rules and any guidelines on election cannot supersede legislation passed by the National Asssembly.

The later disagreement was to be subject of litigation, over which a court later favored the argument of the parliament.

NASS’ efforts at correcting observed ‘errors’ But with the election sequence reordering separated, President Buahri still had issues with the Bill for a second and third time over some reported drafting errors, as well as denial against National Assembly’s insistence that substantial provisions have been made to make the card reader the only means of voter accreditation.

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Buhari equally rejected the position that electronic transmission of poll results should be the only valid means of results collation, a decision that prompted members of the joint committee of the Senate and House of Representatives to cut down their recess to sit for a fourth attempt at the Electoral Act amendment.

The report of the joint committee is expected on floor of the House this week.

Veto retrogressive When the House resumed regular plenary last Tuesday, its Speaker, Hon.

Yakubu Dogara, in his address of welcome to his colleagues on Wednesday, described the executive’s move as attempts at taking Nigeria back from the successes so far registered through the legislative reforms before the 2015 general elections, as he further vowed that the parliament will resist all such moves.

Dogara said the passage of the Bill is also important in order to quell fears that some forces intend to manipulate the forthcoming elections by exploiting identified loopholes in the Electoral Act currently in force.

According to him, the new Electoral Act amendment Bill has provisions that are designed to guarantee free, fair and transparent elections in Nigeria, entrenches the Smart Card Reader and electronic transmission of results, among others.

He also added that the INEC Supplementary budget Bill must also be accorded expeditious consideration.

Refused assent attempt oasis for electoral fraud “As we settle down to business, let me reiterate that the INEC Supplementary budget Bill must be accorded expeditious consideration.

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Furthermore, the pending issue of the Electoral Act amendment Bill, which was unfortunately vetoed by Mr President, must also be expeditiously considered and passed.

The new Electoral Act amendment Bill has provisions that are designed to guarantee free, fair and transparent elections in Nigeria.

The amendment Bill entrenches the Smart Card Reader and electronic transmission of results among others.

“Any further attempt to frustrate the passing into law of the Bill, will be indicative of our desire not to improve on the successes of the 2015 general elections further fueling the fears that some including our international partners have about some forces who intend to manipulate the forthcoming elections by exploiting identified loopholes in the Electoral Act currently in force,” the Speaker stated.

While the Speaker’s assertions appeared a subtle suggestion that the issue of the use of card reader was conspicuous in the amendment Bill, spokesman of the House, Hon.

Abdulrazak Namdas, while addressing media correspondents confirmed it.

He said “while we were on recess, we read reports credited to the executive that there is provision for card reader in the Bill the President declined assent, but let me tell you, there is provision for smart card reader in the Bill.

Independent assessment has also confirmed that the smart card reader provision was clear and unambiguous in the last amendment Bill transmitted to the President, with the House describing the provision as a move to further the credibility of the Nigeria’s electoral system.

Another crisis in the offing? The President’s decline to give assent to the Bill at three separate occasions have raised a lot of questions on his expressed desire, to ensure a credible, free and fair election in 2019, especially as an interested party.

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Analysts have argued that if the President who have openly praised the introduction of card reader by the immediate regime which he succeeded, and what he repeatedly affirmed as the instrument that aided his victory in 2015, it is curious on his reluctance at the moment.

With Dogara’s vow that attempts at frustrating the success of the amendment would be resisted at all fronts, followers of the issues have expressed concerns that this may set the stage for the House to clash again with the Presidency.

Wherever the pendulum would swing may be confirmed in the coming days, when both houses of the National Assembly may have received report of its joint committee in the two chambers, and subject same to scrutiny of the members.

Would the provisions, as may be recommended by the joint committee, especially on the use of card readers as exclusive means of voters’ accreditation, sail through? To many, it is most unlikely to fail in both houses, as members by perception appeared resolved to ensure the passage.

If the latest amendment gets the parliamentary nod, constitutionally, the President has within 30 days from the date he confirmed receipt of the Bill, to either sign it into law, or yet communicate his decision to veto the Bill.

If he declined assent, analysts say going by the current disposition of members, it may be the first legislative instrument in recent times, on which the National Assembly would override the President’s veto.

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