The Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Ita Enang, has said issues about use of card reader was completely excluded from the Electoral Amendment Bill transmitted to President Muhammadu Buhari for assent on August 3.
He made this known in a statement in Abuja on Monday.
Mr Enang said the clarification was necessary due to false allegations by opposition politicians that the card reader provision in the bill was one of the reasons the president withheld assent.
Last week, the president declined assent to the bill, for the third time, due to “some drafting issues” that remain unaddressed following the prior revisions to the bill.
The presidency said Mr Buhari had communicated his position to the Senate and the House of Representatives on August 30 and invited them to address these issues as quickly as possible so that he may grant assent.
The presidency also listed the outstanding issues resolved to include, a cross-referencing error in the proposed amendment to section 18 of the bill.
Mr Buhari’s refusal to sign the bill has drawn criticisms from the opposition and Nigerians amid speculations that the president is against the use of card readers in the 2019 general elections.
Mr Enang, however, stressed that there was no “mention of card reader as subject of infraction nor reservation in any manner whatsoever”.
“For the avoidance of doubt, I hereby state expressly that the card reader provision addressed by section 49 of the Principal Act was completely excluded and not in any part of the provisions of the bill forwarded to Mr President on August 3, 2018 and could therefore not form part of the consideration of Mr President.
“In the communication of Mr President to the National Assembly on the Bill transmitted on February 20, 2018 and the 2nd one transmitted on June 27, 2018 to him for consideration, there was no mention of card reader as subject of infraction nor reservation in any manner whatsoever, although there was provision for card reader in these two previous Bills which were now expunged by the National Assembly in the August 3, Bill transmitted,” the aide said.
He further explained that the bill of February 20 had 43 Clauses, and the revised bill of June 27 had 41 clauses but, “the current further revised Bill of 3rd August which now excludes the card reader has just 15 clauses in the absolute wisdom of the National Assembly and Mr President has no constitutional or Legal authority to add or remove any provision to or from What the National Assembly has transmitted to him.”
He said the president’s rejection of the bill is an opportunity for the National Assembly to admit the card reader provision, when reconsidering the Bill, ”in her absolute legislative discretion”.
Mr Enang’s statement comes barely 24 hours after the senior special assistant on media to the president, Garba Shehu, rejected allegations that the president is against the use of card readers.
Mr Shehu had stressed that the issue of e-voting and use of card readers was never an issue in the president’s decision to decline assent.
In the same vein, the convener of the Not Too Young To Run Movement, Samson Itodo, in a statement, accused the National Assembly of omitting some controversial sections highlighted by the president in the subsequent versions of the bill it transmitted to the President.
“These sections include Section 25 on the sequence of elections and Section 152 on local government elections. The National Assembly also redrafted some clauses of the bill to address concerns expressed by the president.
“The Electoral (Amendment) Act, 2018 bill forwarded by the National Assembly to President Muhammadu Buhari for assent in August 2018 contained only 15 clauses as opposed to 41 clauses in the original version of the bill. What happened to the remaining 26 clauses?
“In the version of electoral amendment bill transmitted to the President for assent in August 2018, the amendment to Section 49 legalising the use of smart card reader or any other technological device for accreditation of voters was omitted,” the statement read.
The movement expressed disappointment at the secrecy of the electoral amendment process, the failure of the National Assembly to inform the public on the amendments transmitted to the president for assent, as well as the silence on the part of president ”when a modified version of the electoral amendment bill omitting key amendments was transmitted to him”.