For the fourth time, President Muhammadu Buhari has declined assent to the electoral act amendment bill (2018), saying signing the bill into law could create uncertainty and confusion during the 2019 general elections.
This is coming barely six months after the president rejected the bill for the third time.
The National Assembly had on November 7, 2018 passed and transmitted the fourth version of the Electoral Act 2010 (Amendment) Bill 2018 for the president’s assent.
Since President Buhari must sign the Bill into law within 30 days otherwise it would amount to declining assent or vetoing the bill, the bill became functus officio or expired last night as it marked the 30th day the bill was transmitted to the president.
Buhari’s decision to withhold his assent to the bill is contained in a letter addressed to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara.
In the letter obtained by LEADERSHIP Weekend, the president explained that altering the electoral rules at a time the 2019 general polls are around the corner might offer the chance for disruption and confusion.
According to him, it would have been in the best interest of the country and its democracy if the National Assembly had specifically stated in the Bill that the amended Electoral Act will be applicable to elections commencing after the 2019 polls.
He said, “Pursuant to section 58 (4) of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), I hereby convey to the House of Representatives my decision on 6th December, 2018, 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 election, 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 election”.
Identifying certain grey areas that should be reviewed before he appends his signature, Buhari noted: “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 merging of political parties.
“The definition of the term “Ward Collection Officer” should be revised to reflect a more descriptive definition than the capitalised and undefined term “Registration Area Collation Officer.”
Earlier yesterday, the senior special assistant to the president on National Assembly matters (Senate), Senator Ita Enang, said the president had communicated his decision to the legislature.
Speaking with State House correspondents, Enang said, “President Muhammadu Buhari has taken a decision on the Electoral Act Amendment Bill 2018 in accordance with his power under the 1999 Constitution and has communicated that decision to the Senate and House of Representatives in accordance with the law”.
Enang also disclosed that President Buhari has assented to National Open University Amendment Act, which allows the National Open University to operate as all other universities, having the same power and functions and the same administrative structures, and eliminating possible discrimination against its products and programmes.
“It has also allowed the establishment of some centres to be called study centres and given conditions for the establishment of such study centres”, he said.