Electoral bill: Why the National Assembly could not override Buhari’s veto – Saraki

Senate President, Bukola Saraki
Senate President, Bukola Saraki

The National Assembly stood down the option of overriding President Muhammadu Buhari’s veto on the electoral bill because it couldn’t get enough numbers, the Senate president, Bukola Saraki, has said.

While answering questions on a live programme Wednesday morning, Mr Saraki also refuted rumours that the PDP presidential hopeful, Atiku Abubakar, journeyed as his aide to the United States of America recently.

The programme, Kaakaki, was televised by African Independent Television (AIT).

“Today, it is clear that people are taking positions along parties like APC, legislators are supporting their president. We have elections and I don’t think they will go against their president. So, there’s no way we could have gotten the veto,” Mr Saraki said.

Mr Buhari, for the fourth time, refused to assent the electoral bill in December.

With his decline, the National Assembly then had the option of overriding the veto but needs at least two-thirds of members to actualise this.

While some lawmakers called for the override, some others publicly spoke against such move.

Mr Saraki belongs to the group that wants the lawmakers to exercise their power of override but was constrained by the glaring reality that a good number will not vote in favour.

At no time was the consideration of such override mentioned at the chamber of the Senate.

Despite, these developments, however, Mr Saraki is optimistic the bill will be signed by the president after the election, obviously unconscious of his preferred candidate for the presidency.

“But it’s not about the veto, I think the president should have reasoned above the politics and the election and signed it in the interest of the country.

“He acknowledged that it is a good bill and he said that (the) bill will be signed after his election. I think he should have risen above that and signed the bill.”

Mr Saraki also reacted to rumours that Mr Atiku travelled to the US as his aide.

Before the journey, Mr Atiku was challenged by opposition members who said the presidential candidate cannot travel to the country over corruption allegations.

However, after making the journey months after, some opposition critics again said he travelled under the pretence of being an aide to the Senate president.

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“That’s not true,” Mr Saraki said. “He applied for his visa, he was invited to a function. How do you do that, to say he travelled as somebody’s aide? That’s ridiculous. It’s like there is a whole sort of lies and propaganda to Nigerians.

“They’ve been saying how can we have a president that can’t go to America? It was important for us to settle that. They’ve always said he can’t go, now when he has gone to America, instead of them to move on, they now come up with he went as my aide. How do you do that? He got his visa on his own merit.”

The Senate president, who doubles as Director-General of Atiku Campaign Council challenged Mr Buhari to a debate just as his presidential candidate did.

Mr Atiku had to abort his participation in a presidential debate on Saturday due to Mr Buhari’s absence.

The former vice president had said he made the decision based on his determination to debate the incumbent whom he thought is in the best position to be engaged on national issues. Mr Saraki shares the same sentiment.

“We are ready any time. We came back all the way from America because we got information that the president will be there. We cut our trip short to come quickly back to attend that and that is the focus. Anytime, we are ready for it. We are telling the president, choose a day and time and we will be there.”

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