Electoral bill, NASS packages 4th version for Buhari’s assent — Nigerian Pilot News
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Electoral bill, NASS packages 4th version for Buhari’s assent

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Buhari tasked to increase funding for ICT sector

*NASS packages 4th version for Buhari’s assent

*Regrets three failed attempts to get President’s approval

*Threatens to veto him if he declines a fourth time

*Says move is to ensure hitch free polls in 2019

In an apparent move to save the 2019 general elections from danger, the National Assembly has set machinery in motion for the repackaging of the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill, 2018 after three failed attempts to get it signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari.

The general elections is just about 150 days away and the federal lawmakers’ fresh move for a revised Electoral Act may not be unconnected to impending danger of postponing it or failure of guaranteeing free and fair polls by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.

Following the refusal of Buhari to sign the bill, the National Assembly removed the controversial section and resent it to him on August 3, but after the expiration of the 30-day constitutional duration allowed for the President to sign the bill into law, one of his legislative aides, Senator Ita Enang, revealed that he had again withheld his assent.

Many individuals and groups, including some political parties have described the President’s refusal to assent to the bill as an indication that the All Progressives Congress, APC-led federal government was not ready for the 2019 general polls.

They even alleged that the administration was not prepared for free and fair elections, hence reason for the President to continue giving excuses for not assenting to the Electoral Bill.

However, at a joint sitting of the National Assembly Committees on INEC, yesterday in Abuja, Senator Suleiman Nazif (PDP Bauchi North) said their quest for a repackaged Electoral Bill has become imperative following the resolution of the President to decline his assent to it for the third time, recently.

Nazif, who spoke shortly before the joint committees’ meeting of the Senate and House of Representatives at the National Assembly complex, disclosed that the federal lawmakers would conclude their part on the bill by today (Tuesday) and thereafter make their position known to Nigerians through the media.

He said: “I know that this committee is in the eye of the storm and Nigerians are desirous and expecting to hear from us. Here we are, again, trying to address the Electoral Act for the fourth time.

“Nigerians will recall that there was a first Electoral Act (Amendment Bill), the second and the third one. And if we pass this one, it will be the fourth one. I believe that what we are doing is in the best interest of this country. It will address all the fears and we will ensure that we equip INEC with what is necessary and what will ensure free and fair elections in 2019”.

Though Nazif, who is the chairman, Senate Committee on INEC declined to offer explanations on contentious areas to be addressed in the last rejected version of the amendment bill, he said the joint committees would explain to Nigerians today via media briefing.

“I will not be in a position right now to address the press and I don’t think any member of this committee is in a position to address the press.

“We will have to look at what transpired (concerning the bill) in an executive session and tomorrow (today) by 11am, we will call all press men and we will tell you in details what transpired and the position this committee has taken”, Nazif, who was flanked by his counterpart in the House of Representatives, Hon. Aisha Dukku, among many members of the committee from both chambers stressed.

It would be recalled that President Buhari had last week, for the third time declined his assent to the Electoral Bill forwarded to him by the National Assembly in February this year, alleging irregularities and “some drafting issues that remain un-addressed following the prior revisions to the bill”.

The first version of the bill was rejected as a result of introduction of new sequence of election provided for in Section 25(1) of the bill while the second rejection was on account of drafting errors and was out-rightly vetoed by the President by not considering it in anyway before it got constitutionally expired on his table on July 26.

The third rejection of the bill, according to the Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Senator Ita Enang was communicated to the National Assembly on August 30.

Enang, however, said that the development may not in any way affect the 2019 general elections, since the observed draft matters could also be addressed by the National Assembly in few weeks’ time as President Buhari has promised to sign the bill once the identified errors are corrected and forwarded back to him.

The President had on March 3, refused to sign the initial Electoral Bill sent to him by the National Assembly.

In his separate letters to the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, he faulted the bill, accusing the National Assembly of usurping constitutional powers of the INEC to decide on election matters, including fixing dates for elections and the order they would be held.

Besides, President Buhari predicated his refusal to sign the Bill on the need for him to comply with the requirements of Section 58 (4) of the Constitution.

Apart from election sequence, another major amendment carried out by the National Assembly on the Electoral Act was the use of card reader for elections, which INEC has declared will be mandatory in the conduct of the 2019 elections.

However, if the bill is not passed into law, INEC will have to rely on provisions and guidelines prescribed by the 2010 Electoral Act for conduct of the 2019 general elections, which were largely manual.

But it would be recalled that President Buhari, according Enang had invited the Senate and House of Representatives to address the issues identified as quickly as possible so that he may grant assent to the bill.

Meanwhile, there are strong indications that the federal lawmakers may override Buhari’s veto if he declines assent to the bill for the fourth time, relying on Section 58 (5) of the 1999 Constitution, which empowers the National Assembly to veto the President’s withholding of his assent by two-third majority votes.

Once this is achieved, the Electoral (Amendment) Bill, 2018 will automatically become law without the President’s signature.

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