Electoral Bill: Buhari ‘ll be Held Responsible if Political Crisis Erupts in Nigeria – PLAC

Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC) says observers are positing that if President Muhammadu Buhari fails to sign the Electoral Bill 2021, Nigeria could face a serious crisis with its 2023 elections and that the President will be held responsible for the likely fiasco.

According to the civic group, ‘’it will be difficult for him to again, come up with another excuse for not signing the Electoral Bill that will help prepare for the next elections.’’

The National Assembly last November 19 transmitted the Electoral Bill passed by it, to the President, for assent.

PLAC’s Executive Director, Clement Nwankwo, in a statement, is calling on President Buhari to sign and give assent to the Electoral Bill, 2021, pointing out that the electoral legislation is the product of nearly three years of work by the National Assembly Committees on INEC and Electoral Matters.

‘’The Bill went through the entire gamut of legislative process including: call for submission of memoranda, technical review, retreats and deliberations. It also had input from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), civil society organisations and participation by legal draft staff of the Federal Ministry of Justice’’, the group said.

PLAC notes that a few interests including individual governors or in groups, have raised a specific concern regarding the mode of selection of candidates for elections, as passed by the Committees – which is direct primaries, only.

While PLAC concedes that these interests may have their views about the Electoral Bill, we would like to point out that they had the opportunity to make their input during the legislative process, especially at the call for memoranda and the public hearing.

Continuing, PLAC calls on President Buhari not to detract from the legacy that his assent to the Electoral Bill will confer on his administration and proceed to assent to it, noting that the President has on different occasions committed to improving Nigeria’s electoral system, especially in the light of the fact that he benefitted from improvements made to the electoral system arising from the recommendations of the Chief Justice Muhammadu Lawal Uwais Electoral Reform Committee.

The new Electoral Bill contains provisions that seek to improve the electoral system, including the process of voting, collation and announcement of results, and generally bringing about significant changes that give confidence to citizens at all levels, including the grassroots, that their votes will count and their participation in governance improved.

It will still be within the President’s prerogative to bring a fresh amendment after assenting to the Bill, to address any areas of concern, as he did with the Petroleum Industry Act that he assented to, only a few months ago.

The Nigerian Constitution requires him to sign any bill transmitted to him within 30 days. It means, therefore, that the President has until December 19, 2021, to sign the bill or issue a veto.

Nigerians are beginning to be worried that nearly halfway into the 30-day period, the President is yet to sign the bill. The Electoral Bill has several provisions that commend it for signing, including the provisions that smoothen and clarify election operations and also introduce the use of technology for conduct of elections, including for transmission of results.

The Electoral Bill 2021, when assented to, will repeal and replace the existing Electoral Act 2010 with its several amendments. In 2018, President Buhari had refused to sign amendments made to the 2010 Electoral Act, giving the excuse that it was passed too close to the elections.

This time, elections are set for February 2023, more than a year away. INEC has indicated that it is anxious to receive the passed Electoral Act so that it can firm up preparations for the elections.

The President has received calls from across the country – from civil society organisations (CSOs), the National Assembly, religious leaders and other stakeholders to sign the Electoral Bill, 2021.

A few governors have expressed some opposition to a particular clause in the Electoral Bill – clause 85, which stipulates direct primaries as the mode of selection of candidates for elections.

National Assembly members insist that the said clause was passed to allow for grassroots participation in the selection of candidates. They accuse governors of arbitrary imposition of candidates using state resources to pay delegates under the indirect primary system to select candidates of the governors’ choice.

Legislators argue that members of political parties voting within their constituencies will enable grassroots participation and avoid undue interference and dictation by the governors. What is clear however is that it is the President’s choice on whether to sign the Electoral Bill or not.

Comments are closed.