Buhari should take his time before signing electoral bill — Senate Leader, Lawan

Ahmed Lawan
Ahmed Lawan

The Senate leader, Ahmed Lawan, has advised President Muhammadu Buhari to take his time to study the electoral bill sent to him for assent by the National Assembly.

Mr Buhari has declined assent to the electoral bill thrice, citing “drafting issue”.

There have calls for the president to sign the key bill ahead of general elections next year.

Mr Buhari’s main challenger in the polls, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, on Thursday urged the president to sign the bill if he truly wants the election to be free and fair.

The bill makes the use of card readers mandatory for the polls, providing the potential for curbing fraud.

The National Assembly sent another version to the president early November after working on the observations he made.

Former president of the Nigerian Bar Association, Olisa Agbakoba, had also asked Mr Buhari to assent to the latest version of the bill sent to him.

Speaking with State House correspondents on Friday, the Senate leader, Mr Lawan, said the fact that the bill has been sent back three times shows that “ the president is willing to sign the bill provided it meets certain conditions that will make our electoral processes better and more sane”.

Mr Lawan said the president was studying the bill and he should not be expected to just sign without studying it.

“This is a sign that he is really interested in what we sent back to him. It is for him and his advisers to read through line by line and see how best the electoral process can be enhanced.

“So, I don’t think we have run out of time, in fact I think we should encourage the president and those helping him to complete going through the bill before he signs. What is the problem?

“And I will advise, even though I am not one of his advisers, that he goes through what has been sent to him line by line, understand whatever his advisers will tell him and of what we have sent will make the elections in 2019 better, then he signs.

“But if he discovers some provisions that will bring contradictions and controversies, he can withhold assent. I’m not advocating that he withholds assent but if he does, that is his right.

“I want to tell you that the APC caucus in the National Assembly stands with Mr. President on this,” he said.

Mr Lawan also said President Muhammadu Buhari has signed more bills than previous presidents in the country.

“Previous government of President Jonathan didn’t sign much, they kept most of the bills sent by the National Assembly.

“So I want to give kudos to the president for ensuring that he looks into the bills before signing. Some he said he won’t sign because of this or that provisions which are either contradictory constitutionally or maybe it will cause more harm than good, so therefore the National Assembly should look into it again,” he said.

The Senate leader also said if Mr Buhari fails to sign the new electoral bill, the country can still use 2006 Electoral Act as amended which was used in 2015 “for an election that was adjudged to be free, fair and an improved process”.

“We don’t necessarily put so much pressure and unneeded criticism of the president when he is yet to complete his analysis of what has been sent to him. He needs to take his time,” he said.

On whether the National Assembly has taken care of the issues raised by Mr Buhari in the latest bill sent to him, Mr Lawan simply said “I think we have taken into consideration the observations made by Mr. President and the comment”.

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