President Muhammadu Buhari has for the third time declined to assent to the Electoral (Amendment) Bill 2018.
The President had earlier twice rejected assent to the bill, a development which has continued to generate speculations.
The first time was as a result of the re-ordering of election sequence. The second rejection assent by the President was on account of drafting errors.
Speaking with State House correspondents on Monday, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly matters (Senate), Ita Enang, said that the President in a letter to the Senate and the House of Representatives dated 30th August 2018 conveyed the decision.
According to him, the President again declined assent because of what he described as “some drafting issues” that have remained unaddressed.
Senator Enang said, “Mr President is “declining assent to the Electoral Amendment Bill due to some drafting issues that remain un-addressed following the prior revisions to the Bill.”
In declining assent, the Presidential aide said President Buhari has consequently tasked the parliament to address the issues as quickly as possible so as to speed up assent to the Electoral Amendment Bill.
“Mr President invites the Senate and House of Representatives to address these issues as quickly as possible so that he may grant President Assent to the Electoral Amendment Bill.”
Specifically, Senator Enang, who identified a few of the outstanding issues raised by President Buhari, noted among others, 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).
‘’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 of leaving INEC with only 9 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.’’
Making further clarification, Senator Enang gave some details of the provisions referenced.
According to him, 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:
Section 31: ‘’That every Political Party shall not later than 60 days before the date appointed for a general election submit to the Commission the list of candidates the party proposes to sponsor at the elections.
“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)
“That a Political Party shall give the Commission at least Twenty-one days’ notice of any convention, congress etc., for electing members of its executive committees or nominating candidates for any of the elective offices.”
The Constitution does not allow a president or a governor to whom a bill is 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 is to assent in the manner it is or to withhold assent.
Meanwhile, Senator Enang who declined answers on the implications of President Buhari’s rejection in view of the already scheduled 2019 elections, said the President has also communicated his action on seven other proposed legislation earlier transmitted to him to the National Assembly.
They are 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 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 and Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (Amendment) Bill, 2017.