The assent of the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill 2021 passed by the National Assembly is part of the present administration’s effort to bequeath a lasting legacy to the country, President Muhammadu Buhari said on Friday.
The President who spoke at the Council Chamber of the Presidential Villa, Abuja, after signing the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill into law said the document holds a lot of promises for improving the election processes in the country.
He expressed delight that the introduction of the use of technology in conducting elections in the country as contained in the Electoral Amendment Act would engender clarity and transparency in the nation’s election processes.
Buhari, however, stressed the need to amend Section 84(12) of the Act, which, he noted, contravened the rights of the political office holders to vote, or be voted for in political party conventions and congresses.
From the review of the provision, the President said it was his perspective that the substance of the Bill was both reformative and progressive, with great potentials.
He made particular reference to the democratic efficacy of the Bill as reflected in Sections 3, 9(2), 34, 41, 47, 84(9), (10) and (11), among others, which he said could not be compared the provision in the proposed Bill, which constituted a fundamental defect, as it conflicted with the extant constitutional provisions.
“Section 84 (12) constitutes a disenfranchisement of serving political office holders from voting or being voted for at Conventions or Congresses of any political party, for the purpose of the nomination of candidates for any election in cases where it holds earlier than 30 days to the National Election,’’ the President said.
This Section, he noted, States: “No political appointee at any level shall be voted delegate or be voted for at the Convention or Congress of any political party for the purpose of the nomination of candidates for any election.”
“It had introduced qualification and disqualification criteria that ultra vires the Constitution by way of importing blanket restriction and disqualification to serving political office holders of which they are constitutionally accorded protection.’’
The President said the practical application of Section 84(12) of the Electoral Bill, 2022 will, if assented to, by operation of law, subject serving political office holders to inhibitions and restrictions referred to under Section 40 and 42 of the 1999 Constitution as amended.
He said, “It is imperative to note that the only constitutional expectation placed on serving political office holders that qualify, by extension as public officers within the context of the constitution is resignation, withdrawal or retirement at least 30 days before the date of the election.
“Hence, it will be stretching things beyond the constitutional limit to import extraneous restriction into the constitution on account of practical application of section 84(12) of the bill where political parties’ conventions and congresses were to hold earlier than 30 days to the election.
“Arising from the foregoing, with particular regards to the benefits of the Bill, industry, time, resources and energy committed in its passage, I hereby assent to the Bill and request the Nationally Assembly to consider immediate amendments that will bring the Bill in tune with constitutionality by way of deleting section 84(12) accordingly.’’
Buhari who commended the National Assembly for its commitment and dedication to improving on the previous Electoral Bill 2021, said the current Bill was coming with a great deal of improvement from the previous one.
“There are salient and praiseworthy provisions that could positively revolutionize elections in Nigeria through the introduction of new technological innovations. These innovations would guarantee the constitutional rights of citizens to vote and to do so effectively.
“The Bill would also improve and engender clarity, effectiveness and transparency of the election process, as well as reduce to the barest minimum incidences of acrimony arising from dissatisfied candidates and political parties.
“These commendable efforts are in line with our policy to bequeath to posterity and landmark legal framework that paves the way for credible and sound electoral process that we would all be proud of,’’ he said.
Before signing the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill 2022 into law, the president said he received inputs from relevant Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government, after careful and thorough reviews of the Bill and its implications to democratic processes.
Meanwhile, the former Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, hailed the signing into law of the 2022 Electoral Act Repeal and Re-enactment Bill, describing the exercise as a quantum leap for the nation’s democracy.
Ekweremadu, in a statement on Friday in Abuja by his Media Adviser, Uche Anichukwu, described the journey to the new electoral law as “quite frustrating”.
He however commended the civil society, media, and entire Nigerians for standing up to the defence of the nation’s democracy.
“I have been part of the nation’s electoral reform for over the last 10 years. But I must confess that the journey to the new Electoral Act was by far the most frustrating.
“After the major electoral reform of 2010 that also involved amendments to the 1999 Constitution to, among others, open the doors to technology in our electoral system.
“Check some executive excesses, manipulations by political parties, and straighten the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) through financial and administrative autonomy.
“Our expectation after amendments to the Electoral Act in 2015 was that the new administration would support the National Assembly to further straighten our electoral laws and system.
“Unfortunately, four times, the amendments were turned down in the 8th National Assembly, apparently thwarted by narrow, partisan interests and personal ambitions.
“The efforts in the current National Assembly also faced similar challenges, but it is heart-warming that it has finally materialized, with the presidential assent.
“Certainly, we didn’t get all we pushed for in the new law, but it is nevertheless a quantum leap for our electoral system and I congratulate all, who played a part in it.
“With the electronic transmission of election results, early primary elections, and adequate time for INEC to prepare for elections, among other breakthroughs, our elections will never be the same again.
Ekweremadu explained further that more Nigerians would be encouraged to exercise their franchise, “knowing that their votes will now count during elections”, he said. (NAN)