President Muhammadu Buhari has apparently refused to sign the Electoral Act Amendment Bill the fourth time and has transmitted his decision to both arms of the National Assembly.
Ita Enang, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters, said Friday the president had taken a decision on the bill but refused to confirm whether he had signed or declined assent.
“His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR has communicated to the Senate and House of Representatives his decision on the Electoral (Amendment Bill, 2018 in accordance with the powers vested in him by the 1999 Constitution,” Mr Enang told journalists.
Asked whether the bill was assented or rejected, Mr Enang simply said “the president has taken a decision in accordance with the powers vested in him according to the Constitution. And by convention, that decision contained in the communication can only be revealed by the person to whom that decision is addressed. But the electoral bill has left Mr. President because he has taken a decision and has remitted it back.”
Pressed further, Mr Enang said, “Thank You very much, but this is all the law allows me to say by convention. Mr. President has sent that communication to the National Assembly.”
The President had declined assent to the bill four times citing “drafting issues”.
Senate Leader, Ahmed Lawan last week said Mr Buhari should take time to study the bill and take a decision he is comfortable with.
Mr Buhari had first in March withheld assent to the bill with reasons that the proposed law would usurp the constitutional powers of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to decide on election matters, including fixing dates and election order.
However, after a second communication from the National Assembly, the President again in September declined to assent to the bill.
In a statement by Mr Enang conveying his decision, Mr Buhari gave reasons for his decline
“Mr. President is declining assent to the Electoral Amendment Bill due to some drafting issues that remain unaddressed following the prior revisions to the 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.
“There is 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.”
Mr Buhari’s new decision is expected to be read at the Senate and House of Representatives coming week.