Electoral Bill: President in dialogue with Malami, others – Presidency

Eleven days after receiving the re-amended version of the 2010 Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill 2022 from the National Assembly for assent, President Muhamnadu Buhari seems to be in a fix on what decision to take.

Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate) Senator Babajide Omoworare said the president was still consulting, a development that has become a cause for concern among Nigerians.  

He spoke Thursday at a Policy Dialogue programme organised by the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS) in Abuja.

Specifically, he said the president was  consulting with Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation  Abubakar Malami (SAN) on the way forward.

Omoworare said: “A very crucial consultation is going on between Mr President, the Attorney General and other critical stakeholders on content of the Bill for the required assent.

“If not for this programme, I was supposed to be at the very important meeting believed to be the major determinant for the fate of the Bill.”

 He, however, assured Nigerians that the Bill would most likely be assented to by the president since issues earlier raised by him in the 2021 edition  were elaborately addressed by both chambers of the National Assembly last month.

“Personally, I think in few days time, Mr. President will do the needful since the most contentious aspect of the Bill had been addressed in the reworked one transmitted to him on Monday, January 31, 2022.

“Time as it is, is of essence. But I believe that Mr. President will do the needful,” the presidential aide further said.

Notwithstanding the assurance, tension continues to mount over the much expected presidential assent.

In this group are the conveners of the dialogue who received the message from AGF Malami that his planned consultation with President Buhari prevented him from coming.

Speaking at the event, Director – General NILDS Professor Abubakar Sulaiman said the dialogue was convened in gaining insights from stakeholders into the issues likely to shape the conduct of political parties,  political gladiators and  other related issues.

Virtually, all the discussants, including the immediate past Chairman Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Professor Attahiru Jega, Country Representative of Westminster Foundation for Democracy Adebowale Olorunmola and Chairman House of Representatives Committee on Media, Hon Benjamin Kalu appealed to President Buhari to assent the bill without further delay.

In particular, Jega said “no law or legislation is perfect but what is available now is good and manageable for the coming elections.”

But INEC representative at the discourse, Professor Bolade Eyinla, said, to avoid the problem of working on electoral laws at the tail end of conducting elections , INEC should be allowed to drive the process as being done in Ghana.

“The situation at hand now is that roughly a year to general election, the anticipated laws are not yet approved , meaning that the extant one will be used aside the fact that the process has not enabled INEC to come up with clear cut guidelines for conduct of the elections,” he lamented.

Reps fires Malami

Meanwhile,  the House of Representatives has responded to a statement credited to AGF Malami that if at any point the presidency discovered that the Electoral Act amendment Bill was passed for selfish interest, assent to same would  be withheld.

Addressing journalists Thursday in Abuja, spokesman of the House, Benjamin Kalu, however, clarified that the National Assembly doesn’t   pass laws for selfish interests, but rather for public interest.

He said, though the House is self-regulatory, yet the scope of the procedure of its operations were well spelt out in the Constitution, and the House’s rules, arguing that “nowhere in the Constitution, nowhere in our rules that selfish interest is found to be basis of our procedures,  rather, what you see is public interest.”

According to him, from all the public engagements like public hearing, town hall meetings and more, “the collective opinion has been that the 2010 Electoral Act is obsolete, in view of the dynamics of our society”, adding that it may not be a perfect piece of legislation, but that it was delivered to strengthen the nation’s democracy.

“Whatever law we make, we make it in the public interest. The element of selfishness should be removed”, the lawmaker insisted, noting that “being privilege to be members of the parliament today does not offer a lifetime stay, as the same law members make today may still apply to them tomorrow.”

On the possibility of lobbying the presidency after the Bill was reworked and transmitted, Kalu said as a different arm of the government, doing so may be interference.

 “It is not in our position to go lobbying the executive. It will be interfering within the parameter of their mandate. Our work on the Bill was a reflection of the opinion of the people”, he stated, adding that such push could come from the CSOs, religious-based organisations and other interest groups.

On the ongoing constitution review process, the spokesman assured that the National Assembly was still working within its set timetable, saying all things being equal; report from the committees would be laid before or at the end of February.

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