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Saturday, 8 December 2018

Buhari Under Fire; SANs, National Assembly Slam President Over Electoral Act

The National Assembly, Peoples Democratic Party, the Coalition of United Political Parties, and some prominent Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs) on Friday kicked as President Muhammadu Buhari finally withheld his assent to the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill 2018 passed by the National Assembly.

The President had earlier on Friday announced his decision to withhold his assent to the crucial electoral bill which the National Assembly transmitted to him on November 7.

The controversial bill has been returned to the National Assembly after the President refused to sign it the fourth time.

The President had earlier rejected it for the third time and returned it to the legislature on August 30.

Confirming Buhari’s latest decision in Abuja, his Senior Special Assistant, National Assembly Matters (Senate), Senator Ita Enang, said the President gave his reasons in a letter to the National Assembly.

Enang, a member of the All Progressives Congress from Akwa Ibom State, merely said, “President Muhammadu Buhari has taken 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 the House of Representatives in accordance with the law.”

We will veto bill, Senate vows 
However, uncertainty may be looming over the conduct of the forthcoming 2019 general elections as the Senate has vowed to veto the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill 2018, following President’s decision to assent to the vital bill.

The Senate on Friday vowed to veto the bill saying the new electoral draft was very significant to the conduct and outcome of the 2019 elections.

The Vice-Chairman of the Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Ben Murray-Bruce, told The Punch that the upper chamber of the National Assembly would lobby members of the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress, in the chamber to veto the bill.

Murray-Bruce, who had initially withheld the Senate’s reaction on the subject matter in order to get brief from the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, later spoke to The Punch after getting in touch with Saraki.

Murray-Bruce, who said the amendments to the bill would guarantee free and fair general elections in 2019, said the Senate would do everything possible to veto the bill.

The Senate’s spokesman said, “First of all, we think it is a mistake not to sign the bill. We think Buhari should have signed it. We want the APC senators and all Nigerians to understand that, that bill was the right thing to do at this period of our national life.

“We will do everything possible to work with the progressive APC senators to get the right number of votes to override it. We will override it.”

He added, “We want credible elections and that was why we hoped the President would sign the (amended) Electoral Act. Now that he has refused to sign it, we will talk to the APC members in the Senate to look at Nigeria and not their party. They should look at Nigeria and not their party.

“There are aspects that INEC can implement on their own without the law.”

When asked later if he was reacting in his personal capacity as a senator or as the Senate’s spokesman, Murray-Bruce said, “It was the Senate reacting, I told you.”

Reacting, the House of Reps said it would take action on the assent withdrawal after Dogara had read the letter to lawmakers in plenary.

The Chairman of the House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Mr Abdulrazak Namdas, who spoke to The Punch on phone, said, “The House can only take a decision after the letter had been read on the floor of the chamber.”
PDP, CUPP, SANS urge NASS to override Buhari
But the PDP Presidential Campaign Council on Friday urged the National Assembly to immediately override the President’s refusal to assent the bill.

The Director, Media and Publicity of the council, Kola Ologbondiyan, in a statement said overriding Buhari would save the nation’s democracy

He added that the legislative action had become imperative as Buhari’s decision was a calculated attempt to inject crisis into the electoral process.

According to him, Buhari’s refusal to sign the Act could ultimately scuttle the conduct of the 2019 general elections.

Ologbondiyan said, “President Buhari’s repeated refusal to sign amendments passed to check rigging in the election, raises issues of his sincerity of purpose and has the capacity to trigger political unrest and violence, which can, in turn, truncate our hard-earned democracy.”

According to him, Buhari is afraid of the amendments because they essentially checked the APC’s alleged rigging plans.

He also charged all political parties, other critical stakeholders and Nigerians in general, to rise in the interest of the nation and demand the entrenching of rules and processes that would guarantee the conduct of free, fair and credible elections.
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