Electoral Act: NASS Bows To Buhari

Electoral Act: NASS Bows To Buhari
  • Amends controversial sections
  • Parties to determine process for primaries
  • Consensus candidates now part of new scheme
  • AljazirahNigeria predicted NASS won’t veto bill

Abdul Lateef Bamgbose With Agency Report

Senate yesterday re-amended the Electoral Act, Amendment Bill, 2021, passed by the National Assembly on November 18, 2021.

Accordingly, the chamber in Clause 84 (2) of the report approved direct, indirect primaries or consensus as procedure for the nomination of candidates by political parties for the various elective positions.

It also approved the recommended Clause 84 (3) that “a political party that adopts the direct primaries procedure shall ensure that all aspirants are given equal opportunity of being voted for by members of the part”.

Clause 84 (4) further provides that, “A political party that adopts the system of indirect primaries for the choice of its candidate shall adopt the procedure outlined below: (a) In the case of nominations to the position of Presidential candidate, a political party shall, (i) hold special conventions in each of the 36 states of the federation and FCT, where delegates shall vote for each of the aspirants at designated centers in each State Capital on specified dates”.

The clause provides that a National Convention shall be held for the ratification of the candidate with the highest number of votes. The amendment followed a motion for its re-committal to the Committee of the Whole.

The motion was sponsored by the Leader of the Senate, Yahaya Abdullahi, Kebbi North.

The Leader of the Senate, in his presentation, recalled that President Muhammadu Buhari had signified withholding his assent on the Electoral Act No. 6 2010, Repeal and Re-enactment, Bill, 2021 which was passed by the National Assembly and forwarded to the President on Thursday, November 18, 2021.

Senator Abdullahi noted that the rationale for withholding assent bordered on his observation in Clause 84.

The president, in the letter dated December 13, 2021, and addressed to the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, had explained that his decision to withhold assent to the electoral bill was informed by advice from relevant Ministries, Departments and Agencies of Government after a thorough review.

According to the president, signing the bill into law would have serious adverse legal, financial, economic and security consequences on the country, particularly in view of Nigeria’s peculiarities. He added that it would also impact negatively on the rights of citizens to participate in government as constitutionally ensured.

Senator Abdullahi, however, explained that the motion for re-committal of the bill to the Committee on the Whole was against the backdrop of the “need to address the observation by Mr. President C-in-C and make necessary amendment in accordance with Order 87(c) of the Senate Standing Orders, 2022 (as amended); and relying on order 1(b) and 52(6) of the Senate Standing Orders, 2022 ( as amended)”.

Accordingly, the chamber rescinded its decision on the affected Clause of the Bill as passed and recommitted the same to the Committee of the Whole for consideration and passage.

Meanwhile, President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, has said that the Senate would accord the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, all the necessary support to deliver credible elections in 2023.

He stated this yesterday, after the Senate re-amended the Electoral Act, approving direct, indirect primaries or consensus for political parties in choosing their candidates.

Lawan said that “We will still be around to ensure that INEC receives every possible support from the National Assembly, for it to conduct the 2023 elections successfully, transparently and with integrity.

“And Nigerians will all be proud of when it comes to either off-season elections or the general elections in 2023.

“But laws alone will not be enough. We could have the best laws. If we don’t operate them properly, they may not mean much.

“I urge practitioners, politicians and INEC, to ensure that we obey and operate the laws as provided in the Electoral Act”.

The Senate President also congratulated the Senate and the National Assembly “for once again standing up to the occasion by passing the amendment to the Electoral Bill 2010.

“This is one of the major pillars in our legislative agenda when we start in 2019. This is one of the Bills that Nigerians particularly are so interested in, because it is a one sure way of enhancing our electoral processes and producing leaders at various levels of governance.

“What we have done today is to respond to the observation of Mr President and we have done that very patriotically. Today, as the Bill stands, there is provision for all possible options for selection of candidates from the president to the councillorship.

“The available options we have are: the direct primaries, indirect primaries and consensus candidature. What this means is that political parties are now challenged to ensure that they choose what is appropriate, what is suitable for them when it comes to the processes of producing their candidates, once this becomes law,” he said.

Reps rescind decision on direct primaries

Also the  House of Representatives has rescinded its decision on direct primaries for political parties in the Electoral Act Amendment Bill, by adopting both direct and direct primaries in the bill.

This followed the recommitment of the Bill at the House yesterday during plenary.

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila who presided over the Committee of the Whole, put the question into a voice vote, which was unanimously adopted.

The House, however, adopted only direct and indirect primaries as the only modes of primaries for political parties to choose their candidates.

Hon. Abubakar Fulata ,APC-Jigawa, who moved for the adoption of the report on the floor of the house recalled that the Electoral Act ,Amendment, Bill was passed by the National Assembly and transmitted to the President for assent which was withheld.

He noted that in withholding his assent, the President particularly referred to the amendment of Section 87 of the Electoral Act, 2010 dealing with the mode of nomination of candidates by political parties.

He further noted that Section 87(2) of the Electoral Act, 2010 provided that the procedure for the nomination of candidates by political parties for various elective positions shall be by direct or indirect primaries.

  The National Assembly amended Section 87(2) of the Electoral Act, 2010 as clause 84(2) of the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill, 2021.

According to Fulata, the report reads that “the procedure for nomination of candidates by political parties for various elective positions shall be by direct primaries.

This, he said, was in cognisant of the need to allow political parties to choose the procedure for nomination of candidates for elective positions.

The House, however, committed Section 84(2) of the Bill to the Committee of the Whole for reconsideration in accordance with Order 12, Rule 20 (1-3) of the Standing Orders of the House.

In his ruling, Gbajabiamila said that the Committee of the Whole had considered the request of the president to allow political parties to choose between direct and indirect primaries.

He said in accordance with the rules of the House, it could not change the entire body of the Bill but could only address issues raised by the president.

AljazirahNigeria recalls that the Electoral Act Bill has been sent to President Muhammadu Buhari four times and four times he refused to assent to it. The 8th assembly led by Senator Bukola Saraki whose Bill was rejected thrice by Buhari owing to what some analysts see as flimsy with the reasons that there are no perfect electoral law anywhere in the world that was why there is always amendments. Nigerians were disappointed when thrice President Buhari in 2018 rejected the Electoral Act amendment bill. Recall that there was back and forth from the Senate and the executives coupled with altercations, mudslinging, and propaganda of who wants to rig the 2019 election. Some said that the main reason rejecting the Sen Saraki led 8th NASS Electoral Act amendment Bill was solely to ridicule him so as not to give him credence that during his reign the NASS amended the bill.

Also analysts supported Buhari and many gave him credit for having the eagle’s eyes to fish out those gray areas that were not too good for the nation’s election system.  In the same vein, Buhari who anointed the President of the Senate, Lawan during his contest as the senate president, even rejected the Bill under his watch. He still faulted a particular section of the bill which narrowed the options of the parties to elect their candidates hence the bill came back to the NASS.

Initially, there was this call by CSO’s , politicians and even NASS members to override the president but all that was calmed when the 9th NASS led by Lawn announced that members will proceed on Christmas break to enable them to consult with their constituents on the issue. Recall that AljazirahNigeria analysed and reported that the call for overriding Mr President has died naturally because Sen. Lawan has shown the position of NASS before embarking on recess. That the 9th NASS is so much attached to the executive and would not want any skirmishes. The fifth time the electoral Act has been amended and Nigerians await the assent to the bill so as to enable the umpire INEC organise, supervise a free, fair, and credible election going further.

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