A stormy session is expected in the National Assembly tomorrow over the Electoral Act Amendment Bill that President Muhammadu Buhari is yet to sign.
The 30 days window for assent to the bill lapsed, yesterday, December 19 as the lawmakers sent the bill to the President on November 19.
Section 58 (4) of the 1999 (as amended) stipulates that: “Where a bill is presented to the President for assent, he shall within thirty days thereof signify that he assents or that he withholds assent.”
Similarly, section 58 (5) provides: “Where the President withholds his assent and the bill is again passed by each House by two-thirds majority, the bill shall become law and the assent of the President shall not be required.”
Thus, as the lawmakers meet for what could be their last sitting of 2021 before going on break to resume middle of next month, a face-off is looming between legislators who are in support of an override and those who do not want the lawmakers to ‘’embarrass the president” in anyway.
Some lawmakers told Vanguard, yesterday, that they are in support of overriding the president.
They spoke as some Civil Society Organisations, CSOs; and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr. Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, urged the legislators to override President Buhari.
Lawmakers use 2022 budget as bait
Apart from the Electoral Act Amendment Bill, the National Assembly will pass the N16.39trillion 2022 Appropriation bill that suffered a major setback on Wednesday as it was deferred to tomorrow
The Senate’s hope of passing the Budget last week was shattered following the non-capturing of the financial requirements for the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, for the 2023 general elections and that of the National Population Commission, NPC, for the conduct of the 2022 census.
Vanguard gathered that aside the issue of INEC and NPC, Senators decided to delay the passage of the budget to enable them remain in session till tomorrow when the President would have either signed or rejected the Electoral Bill.
According to a source, the plan of the Senators to delay the passage of the budget was to enable them recall the Bill if rejected or the period for assent elapses and pass it into law in line with the provisions of the Constitution tomorrow.
Senate’ll decide tomorrow — Abaribe, Aliero
Asked what will be the next line of action following the expiration of the timeline, Senate Minority leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Abia South said: “The Senate will meet next week during plenary and decide what to do. That the deadline is today (yesterday) does not mean that we would not receive communication from the President; the President has not said that he has vetoed it.”
Also, Senator Adamu Aliero, All Progressives Congress, APC, Kebbi Central said: “We opted for direct primary to save the APC from the strong hold of undemocratic forces that have succeeded in hijacking the party during the recently concluded congresses. Unless direct primaries are done there will be mass exodus of our party supporters to other parties.”
Momah, Nwawuba, Chinda, Pwajok speak
Speaking on the issue, Rep Ifeanyi Momah, representing Ihiala federal constituency of Anambra State, said he is favour of the House vetoing the President.
“It is simple. The House should veto. That is the most conscionable and honourable thing to do, considering the level of “political awareness” and “Get-involved” spirit from everyone. Just open up the system for all and sundry with no exception,” he said. .
Rep. Henry Nwawuba, member representing Mbaitolu/Ikeduru federal Constituency of Imo State, said he would lobby his colleagues to override President.
His words: “The Electoral Act amendment is perceived from different perspectives by different stakeholders. For those who want Direct Primaries they are unable to weigh in on the weightier matters of the amendment particularly in relation to enthroning electronic voting options as a way to deepen our democratic experiences.
“What worries me is that we do not throw the baby out with the bath water. I will lobby, support, and campaign vigorously for us to invoke Section 58 sub 5 of the 1999 Constitution and go ahead and override Mr. President so that the Bill becomes Law.”
Rep Kingsley Chinda, member representing Obio/Akpor federal constituency of Rivers State, said “The Bill contains many innovations that promote transparency to our democratic experiment, concerning the electronic transmission of election results and the mode of selecting candidates by political parties during primaries. The President’s problem is electronic transmission of election results. The President is only toying with the psychic of Nigerians. His problem with the electoral act is not the direct primaries but the direct transmission of results from the units. They do not want direct transmission and are only using the direct party primaries as an excuse.
“I have long lost hope in the ability of the 9th NASS to confront the Executive on behalf of Nigerians when the Senate President unapologetically said that whatever the President wants, he will do. I hope to be disappointed or proved wrong by NASS successfully overriding the President.”
However, a former member of the House who represented Jos North/Jos South Federal Constituency of Plateau State, Edward Pwajok, SAN, said that the President can still respond even after the time has elapsed.
“The President can still respond after the one month the Constitution has provided for him to sign or decline assent to bills sent to him. The National Assembly has to decide whether they want to override the President’s veto.
“Presidential veto arises where the President formally communicates his decision declining assent or is implied where he does not do anything on the bill sent to him after 30 days. The National Assembly can only override the veto by two thirds majority of all the members of each chamber of the National Assembly, so the National Assembly leadership must be satisfied that they have the numbers to override the veto before embarking on that course and if they do, the bill must undergo the same procedure of three readings, though it can be fast tracked.”
You’re biggest threat to Nigeria’s democracy not, CSOs tell Buhari
WITH suspense in the political space, Civil Society Organisations, CSOs, Sunday, accused President Buhari of being the biggest threat to Nigeria’s democracy over alleged failure to sign the Electoral Act Amendment Bill within 30 days.
The CSOs made the allegation in a statement signed by Executive Director, Adopt A Goal Initiative, Ariyo-Dare Atoye, and endorsed by Convener, Raising New Voices Initiative, Jude Feranmi; Programme Officer, Centre For Liberty, Maryam Ahmed; Convener, Speak Out Africa Initiative Kenneth Eze; Executive Director, The Nigerian Alliance, Simi Olusola; and Executive Director,Youth and Students Advocates for Development Initiative (YSAD), Obinna Eze Nwagbara.
According to the statement the President’s delay in signing the bill has created unpalatable suspense and generated avoidable apprehension, but his inaction may not be the final call after December 19.
“President Buhari benefitted significantly from some of the electoral reforms initiated by Yar’Adua and signed by Jonathan; if he fails to sign the amended Electoral Act, History will record him as a major impediment to electoral credibility and governance. This is a low hanging lifetime opportunity for the President to salvage his terrible electoral credential,” they said
The CSOs vowed to storm the National Assembly in protest, today, to press for it to override the President in the interest of Nigerians to pass the Bill into law.
“There is a constitutional window opened to the National Assembly to recall the bill and give it the effect of law with a two-thirds number. From Monday morning, we will turn to the National Assembly to act in the national interest and pass the bill expeditiously before they embark on the Christmas recess.”
Veto electoral bill if Buhari refuses to sign, Adegboruwa tells NASS
Also, Mr Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, SAN, asked the National Assembly to veto the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill if the President Muhammadu Buhari refuses to sign.
In a statement, the Lagos-based lawyer said the absence of Buhari should not affect the passage of the bill into law.
This is as the 30-day period within which the President is expected to assent or withhold his approval to the bill ends today (yesterday). The bill was transmitted to the President on November 19, 2021 after both chambers passed it.
“Nigerians expect the National Assembly to shake off the toga of being a rubber stamp entity and use this golden opportunity to assert their autonomy.
NASS’ll continue to support Buhari to deliver on campaign promises – Lawan
Meanwhile, the President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan has reiterated that the National Assembly will continue to support President Buhari to deliver on the promises he made to Nigerians.
Lawan spoke yesterday in Gombe at the launch of empowerment programme of Senator Sa’idu Ahmed Alkali for his constituents.
Alkali, an All Progressive Congress senator, is representing Gombe North Senatorial District in the Senate.
In a statement by his Special Adviser, Media, Ola Awoniyi, the President of the Senate who noted that Buhari had never rested for a second in his determination to turn around the fortune of the country, said: “By the Grace of God, the National Assembly will continue to support Mr President to ensure that he delivers on our campaign promises to Nigerians.”
The Senate President commended the Governor of Gombe State, Muhammad Inuwa Yahaya who is also of APC for the significant transformation brought to the state.
He showered encomium on Senator Alkali for providing quality representation for his people at the National Assembly.