Electoral Bill: I Declined Assent to Save 2019 Polls – Buhari
President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday declined to sign the Electoral (Amendment) Bill 2018 into law, saying that it was capable of derailing preparations for 2019 polls. It was the fourth time he would reject the bill as previous rejections were based on observed errors.
The President said he did not want to impose on the country the electoral uncertainty his assent might cause. He said that changing the rules a few months to the next general elections could lead to disruption and confusion. He asked the National Assembly to save the nation’s democracy by ensuring that the Electoral (Amendment) Bill 2018 comes into effect after the February 2019 polls.
He also raised issues on four amendments to the bill and asked the National Assembly to revisit the observations. Buhari, who made his opinion known in a December 6, 2018 letter to the President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara, said he had decided to place the interest of the country above any other matter. The letter was titled,‘Presidential decision to decline assent to the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill 2018’.
It reads: “Pursuant to Section 58(4) of Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), I hereby convey to the Senate my decision on 6th December to decline Presidential Assent to the Electoral (Amendment) Bill, 2018 recently passed by the National Assembly.
“I am declining assent to the Bill principally because I am concerned that passing a new electoral bill this far into the electoral process for the 2019 general elections, which commenced under the 2015 Electoral Act, could create some uncertainty about the applicable legislation to govern the process. “Any real or apparent change to the rules this close to the election may provide an opportunity for disruption and confusion in respect of which law governs the electoral process.
“This leads me to believe that it is in the best interest of the country and our democracy for the National Assembly to specifically state in the Bill that the Electoral Act will come into effect and be applicable to elections commencing after the 2019 General Elections.
“It is also important for the following drafting amendments to be made to the Bill: •Section 5 of the Bill, amending Section 18 of the Principal Act should indicate the subsection to which the substitution of the figure “30” for the figure “60” is to be affected. •Section 11 of the Bill, amending Section 36 should indicate the subsection in which the proviso is to be introduced. •Section 24 of the Bill which amends Section 85(1) should be redrafted in full as the introduction of the “electing” to the sentence may be interpreted to mean that political parties may give 21 days’ notice of the intention to merge, as opposed to the 90 days provided in Section 84(2) of the Electoral Act which provides the provision for merger of political parties •The definition of the term “Ward Collection Officer” should be revised to reflect a more descriptive definition than the capitalized and undefined term “Registration Area Collation Officer.” “Please accept, Distinguished Senate President, the assurances of my highest consideration.”
President Buhari had refused to sign the Bill the first time as a result of the reordering of the election sequence by the National Assembly, and the second time because of what the Presidency called “drafting errors.” He also declined to sign the bill the third time because of what the Presidency called “drafting issues that remained unaddressed.”
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