Three political parties have asked the federal high court to determine whether President Muhammadu Buhari can be compelled to sign the Electoral Act Amendment Bill into law.
Led by the presidential candidate of the Advanced People’s Democratic Alliance (APDA), Alhaji Shitu Mohammed Kabir, along with the Allied Peoples Mandate (APM) and the Movement for Restoration and Defence of Democracy, (MRDD), they are seeking the order of the court stopping President Buhari from signing the bill into law.
The trio approached the court yesterday ahead of the expiration of the deadline today for the president’s assent on the bill which had hitherto been rejected thrice by President Buhari.
The suit asked the court to determine if the president could proceed to sign the bill to conduct the 2019 election when there is obvious insufficient time for the manifestation of the proposed Act.
They also want the court to determine if the new Act, if assented will not hinder the proper conduct of the 2019 elections by the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof. Mahmoud Yakubu, in view of the fact that the notice of election was initiated in line with the Electoral Act 2010 as amended.
Kabir, who is the chairman, Forum of Presidential Candidates, had earlier raised an alarm on what he called the “deliberate hurdles” capable of derailing the 2019 General Elections. His grouse is informed by what he termed “the stumbling blocks against a free and fair election” next year.
Specifically, he said the new Act, which stipulates electronic verification of voters and transmission of results, will deliberately disenfranchise many voters especially in the rural and remote areas of the country owing to obvious constraints of power supply and internet connectivity.
“We don’t see INEC responding fast enough in cases where their devices malfunction. The constraints and impediments of time and resources in difficult terrains will deliberately deny many local communities the opportunity to vote,” he spoke shortly after the 40 presidential candidates under the Forum rose from a meeting at the weekend.
The Forum therefore threatened to drag President Muhammadu Buhari and INEC to court to abort assent to the amended bill.
Alhaji Kabir argued that the time is rather too close to the election to enable INEC train its staff, especially its ad hoc staff, on how to handle the electronic devices. “We shouldn’t give INEC any excuse to postpone the elections,” he cautioned.
The APDA presidential candidate is worried that those pushing for assent to the new bill may unwittingly derail the electoral calendar if the electoral umpire is forced to adjust its programme to accommodate the personnel, budget and other logistics in the guise of abiding with the provisions of the new law.
He also picked holes in the provision of Sections 84-87 which is capable of weakening the powers of political party executives on party primaries and choice of candidates. “My concern is how to avoid unnecessary litigations and protect the sanctity of the electoral process,” he said.
Last week, chairmen of about 70 registered political parties had threatened to pull out of the 2019 General Elections if President Buhari failed to sign the amended electoral bill already transmitted to him by the National Assembly.
The party chairmen claimed to be members of the Inter Party Advisory Council. It’s National Publicity Secretary, Ikenga Ugochinyere, who disclosed this in a statement in Abuja after the council’s meeting, did not identify the members of the Council.
The statement read, “IPAC resolved that in view of the fact that Nigerian’s want free, fair and credible elections in 2019 which the new Electoral Bill before President Muhammadu Buhari promises, we as major stakeholders in the electoral process call on the President to sign the bill into law.
“Should he refuse, then we will not be part of the electoral process in 2019 that doesn’t promise credibility and fairness.
“The delay/refusal to sign the bill will throw the country into the worst bloody electoral conquest and put INEC in a tight situation that will make free and credible election impossible in 2019,” the parties said.
Also joined as defendants are Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara, Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission and the Attorney-General of the Federation.