Election Law Bill (Amendment): Senate overturns action to override Buhari

The PRESIDENT of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan, said on Wednesday that the Senate would consult with the House of Representatives on how to respond to President Muhammadu Buhari’s letter on the draft (amendment) of the electoral law.

Lawan made this known after the upper house rose from a closed-door session held to deliberate on the president’s decision to withhold assent to the bill as passed by the assembly. national.

He said the provisions of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) do not allow the upper house to take action exclusively on such matters without the involvement of the House of Representatives.

Lawan, however, assured that a common position would be reached with the House when the two chambers reconvene after the Christmas recess, after proper consultation with Nigerians.

Speaking about what happened in the closed session, Lawan said: “The Senate, in a closed session, deliberated on matters relating to its operation in particular and to the National Assembly in general.

“The Senate also discussed how to respond to President Buhari’s letter on the Election Law Amendment Bill.

“The Senate has therefore decided to consult the House of Representatives in January when the Senate and the House are in session.

“The Senate has also decided to consult our constituents during our vacation. ”

Reacting, former Senate Speaker Dr Bukola Saraki urged the National Assembly to act quickly, adding that a contentious clause should not be a reason to reject all positive aspects of the (amendment) bill on the electoral law.

He said the two options open to the National Assembly are either to overturn the president’s denial of assent or to remove the contentious provision on direct primaries and send the bill back to the president for his assent.

“Whatever option our legislators choose, it can be achieved as quickly as possible. We could have a new electoral law in January 2022.

“Anyone who has followed the mood of the nation knows that Nigerians want a new electoral law that will lead to a credible, free, fair and peaceful process for electing our leaders.

“This proposed electoral law should reassure young people, many of whom stand aside from the political process because they have no confidence in the system. They believe that the system is generally rigged and compromised.

“One way to bring this active demographics into the political system is to enact a new law that will give them hope in our nation. This electoral law [Amendment] Bill serves that purpose, ”he said.

He called on members of the National Assembly to make a decision in the interest of the nation and its long-term democracy.

Civil society partners on electoral reform on Wednesday called on the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Honorable Femi Gbajabiamila, to step down, accusing him of betraying Nigerians and using the House to serve “political interests. personal and close ”.

CSOs said the president’s action in passing the 2022 finance law and adjourning the session until next year amounted to a betrayal of trust and a twist of the arms of the Senate to stop all further action on The law project.

They recalled that the Senate had adopted a version of the electoral bill that accommodated the two choices of party primaries, but wondered why Gbajabiamila, which single-handedly led the National Assembly and Nigerians to adopt and appreciate the importance of direct primaries, will be the first to deflate.

According to the statement signed by Ariyo-Dare Atoye, Executive Director of the Adopt A Goal for Development initiative, Ken Eze of Speak Out Africa Initiative, Jude Feranmi of Raising New Voices and Obinna Eze Nwagbara, Executive Director, Youth and Students Advocates for Development Initiative, CSOs said they expected some legislative activism in the House over the president’s letter, but the president made it impossible.

“Remember, keeping the direct primaries exclusively in the electoral law was first his idea, so why did Gbajabiamila deliberately refuse to consult the Senate to adopt a common position before adjourning on a bill? also sensitive who has benefited from the cooperation and support of both chambers?

“Nigerians have lost complete confidence in Gbajabiamila as speaker of the House of Representatives. Now is the time for him to step aside and stop using national legislative affairs to serve narrow partisan interests, ”the CSOs said.

The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) accused the All Progressives Congress (APC) of defeating the signing of the Election Law Amendment Bill, alleging that some of its key provisions “will not allow grand design to rig the elections. general election of 2023 “.

In a statement issued by Debo Ologunagba, its national publicity secretary, the party alleged that the APC feared the amendment to the electoral law, due to the provision of electronic transmission of election results. According to the PDP, it was evident that the APC and the Presidency never committed to changing the electoral law to ensure credible elections and, as such, sparked the controversy over the mode of primaries by political parties like a cover-up to scuttle the Complete procedure.

“The main reason for the manipulation of the legislative process by the PCA is to prevent the electronic transmission of results so that it can continue in its culture of rigging and electoral impunity, including the alteration of results during the election. snacking, tearing up the ballot boxes, destroying data. , among other things, just to cling to power against the will of Nigerians.

“After being rejected for its failures and having also self-decimated its structure across the country, the APC has completely lost the capacity and goodwill for electoral competition and, as such, is seeking all means to reverse any process. that can guarantee credible elections in 2023.

“The subversion of the adoption of the bill amending the electoral law by the APC further validates the fact that the APC is opposed to the aspirations of Nigerians and does not believe in the democratic principles of credible elections,” said the PDP .

The Southwest Zone leadership of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) instructed the National Assembly to override President Buhari’s veto and pass the bill amending the electoral law of 2021. Coordinator, NANS South West, Mr. Adegboye Emmanuel, alongside other members of his executive board, made the appeal at a press conference in Ibadan, Oyo state, on Wednesday.

The student body described direct primaries as the best process for selecting political party flag bearers and urged the Senate and House of Representatives to get the two-thirds majority needed to pass the bill.

Adegboye further argued that the rejection of direct primaries in the bill was tantamount to denying the mass of Nigerians the opportunity to decide who would become the standard bearer for their parties of choice.

The former commissioner of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Mr. Oluwole Osaze-Uzi, however, justified the reasons given by President Buhari for refusing assent to the bill.

Osaze said the direct primaries clause does not require parties to provide an updated membership register, which is an essential part of the exercise for political parties. He also said that the financial implication of the direct primaries for INEC and the country’s security agencies would be too heavy to bear.

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