By Cecilia Ijuo
President Muhammadu Buhari has declined assent to the Electoral Act(Amendment) Bill, 2018, transmitted to him by the National Assembly.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Sen. Ita Enang, disclosed this in a statement on Monday.
He said the president declined assent to the bill due to some drafting issues.
According him, one of the concerns of the president is the period fixed for primaries.
He said the schedule for primaries provided that it should not be earlier than 120 days and not later than 90 days to elections.
He further said the schedule would allow Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) only 9 days to collate list of candidates among others.
“His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, has by communication dated Aug. 30, 2018, to the Senate and the House of Representatives. declined assent to the Electoral (Amendment) Bill, 2018.
“I pray for leave, that in view of public interest, the fact of the National Assembly vacation, the imperative to avoid speculation and misinformation, that I give just a few of the rationale by Mr. President.
‘’Mr. President is declining assent to the Electoral Amendment Bill due to some drafting issues that remain unaddressed following the prior revisions to the Bill.
“Mr. President invites the Senate and House of Representatives to address these issues as quickly as possible so that he may grant Assent to the Electoral Amendment Bill.
Enang added that Section 87(14) of the bill among other sections, needed to be reviewed by the national assembly.
He said, “the proposed amendment to include a new Section 87 (14) which stipulates a specific period within which political party primaries are required to be held has the unintended consequence.
” It leaves INEC with only nine days to collate and compile lists of candidates and political parties as well manage the primaries of 91 political parties for the various elections.
“This is because the Electoral Amendment Bill does not amend sections 31, 34 and 85 which stipulates times for the submission of lists of candidates, publication of lists of candidates and notice of convention, congresses for nominating candidates for elections.”
He further said, “for clarity, may I provide some details of the provisions referenced.
“Clause 87 (14) states that, ‘the dates for the primaries shall not be earlier than 120 days and not later than 90 days before the date of elections to the offices.
“The Electoral Act 2010 referred to herein states in Section 31, ‘’that every political party shall, not later than 60 days before the date appointed for a general elections, submit to the Commission the list of candidates the party proposes to sponsor at the elections.
“Section 34 stipulates that ‘the Commission shall at least 30 days before the day of the election publish a statement of the full names and addresses of all candidates standing nominated.
“Section 85 (1) provides that a ‘political party shall give the Commission at least 21 days notice of any convention, congress etc., for electing members of its executive committees or nominating candidates for any of the elective offices.’’
Enang explained that for the avoidance of doubt, neither the Constitution nor any written law allowed a president or a governor to whom a Bill was forwarded by the legislature to edit, correct, amend or in any manner alter the provisions of any such Bill to reflect appropriate intent before assenting to same.
He said such a person was to assent in the manner it was sent or withhold assent.
The presidential aide also listed other reasons for the withholding of assent by the president.
“A few of the outstanding issues are, there is a cross referencing error in the proposed amendment to Section 18 of the Bill. The appropriate amendment is to substitute the existing sub-section (2) with the proposed subsection (1A), while the proposed sub-section (1B) is the new sub-section (2A).”
He further noted the president had communicated his action on other bills earlier transmitted to the national assembly.
The bills, according to Enang, include the National Agricultural Seeds Council Bill, 2018, The Advance Fee Fraud and Other Related Offences (Amendment) Bill, 2017
and The Chartered Institute of Entrepreneurship (Establishment) Bill, 2018.
Others according to him, are the Subsidiary Legislation (Legislative Scrutiny) Bill, 2018; National Institute of Hospitality and Tourism (Establishment) Bill, 2018; National Research and Innovation Council (Establishment) Bill 2017; Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (Amendment) Bill, 2017.
Enang had in August, clarified that the Electoral Bill passed by the National Assembly on July 24 and forwarded to President Muhammadu Buhari on Aug. 3, was alive and awaiting assent.
He gave the clarification against the backdrop of report published by a national daily that Buhari had again vetoed the 2018 electoral bill forwarded to him for assent.
Enang had said the vetoed bill was the one sent to the President on June 27 and not the one passed by both chambers of the National Assembly on July 24, the day it embarked on annual recess.
Enang added that the vetoed bill was the one with contentious provisions and infractions on provisions of the 1999 Constitution.
NAN reports that aside the vetoed version of the 2018 electoral bill forwarded to the President on June 27 and vetoed on July 26 in line with the 30 days constitutional life line for such bill, the President had earlier in the year, rejected the first of the 2010 Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill 2018 forwarded to him in February for assent.
Meanwhile, the Court of Appeal on Aug. 1, nullified the April 25 judgment of the Federal High Court, which struck out the National Assembly’s election re-ordering provision of the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill 2018.
A five-member panel of the court, headed by its President, Zainab Bulkachuwa, ruled that a bill could not be challenged in court until it became an Act.
Meanwhile, the national assembly had removed the controversial section prior to the Court of Appeal ruling and resent the revised edition of the bill to President Buhari for assent.(NAN)