Senators in the All Progressives Congress (APC) have dismissed the report of a plan by the Senate to override President Buhari’s refusal to sign the Electoral bill into law.
Buhari, in a letter to the National Assembly on Thursday, December 6, 2018, declined assent to the bill while stating several reasons.
According to The Cable, the President said "I am declining assent to the Bill principally because I am concerned that passing a new electoral bill this far into the electoral process for the 2019 general election which commenced under the 2015 Electoral Act, could create some uncertainty about the applicable legislation to govern the process.
"It is also important for the following drafting amendments to be made to the Bill: section 5 of the Bill, amending section 18 of the Principal Act should indicate the subsection to which the substitution of the figure '30' for the figure “60” is to be affected.
"Section 11 of the Bill, amending Section 36 should indicate the subsection in which the proviso is to be introduced.
"Section 24 of the Bill which amends Section 85 (1) should be redrafted in full as the introduction of the 'electing' to the sentence may be interpreted to mean that political parties may give 21 days notice of the intention to merge, as opposed to the 90 days provided in Section 84 (2) of the Electoral Act which provides the provision for merge of political parties.
"The definition of the term 'Ward Collection officer' should be revised to reflect a more descriptive definition than the capitalized and undefined term “Registration Area Collation Officer.”
Ben Bruce speaks on Senate’s next move
Speaking to Punch on the matter, the Senate’s spokesman, Ben Murray-Bruce said that the upper chamber will do all in its power to override the President’s action.
He also said that the Senate rejects the various reasons given by Buhari for declining his assent.
He said “First of all, we think it is a mistake not to sign the bill. We think Buhari should have signed it. We want the APC senators and all Nigerians to understand that that bill is the right thing to do at this period of our national life.
“We will do everything possible to work with progressive APC senators to get the right number of votes to override it. We will override it.”
Ali Ndume counters Ben Bruce
Reacting to Ben Bruce’s comment, a die-hard supporter of the President, Senator Ali Ndume said his colleague does not have the right to speak for the Senate on the issue.
Ndume said “You quoted Ben Murray-Bruce as saying that the Senate was going to veto. Who gave him the right to speak on behalf of the Senate? Even if you are the Vice-Chairman of the Media and Public Affairs Committee, you don’t just go and talk on behalf of the Senate.
“Let it be on record that he did not speak on my behalf. The letter from Mr President has not even been read and it has not been deliberated upon. His responsibility is to speak on behalf of the Senate, but if he is speaking for himself, that is a different thing.
“He went on to say that they are going to veto it. Where are they going to get the numbers (two-thirds) to veto it?”
PDP Senator condemns Buhari’s action
Speaking on the plans to override Buhari’s decision, the Senate minority leader, Senator Biodun Olujimi said that PDP members will work with disgruntled APC Senators to make the plan a success.
Olujimi said “This is because 70 per cent of the INEC budget has to do with the funding of card readers and other equipment needed for the election.
“We are going back to the chamber on Tuesday to look at the reasons for the President’s rejection and we will do our best to override his assent because the Electoral Act (amendments) bill is the best thing that can happen to our election in Nigeria.
“It is not only the opposition senators who would override the President. We would work on our colleagues in the ruling APC, most of whom are disgruntled that their party denied them tickets to return to the Senate.”
Senator Marafa says the plans will fail
Also, APC Senator, Kabiru Marafa said that the plan will fail. According to him,“How will they get us to support their action when we already agree that the reasons given by President Muhammadu Buhari were genuine and reasonable?
“INEC, at the moment, has a lot of issues to contend with. Why should we overburden them with new amendments that would make its works more cumbersome? Why can’t we wait till after the 2019 elections before we introduce new electoral laws?”
Addressing Senator Olujimi’s comment, Marafa said “I disagree with Senator Olujimi completely on that issue. INEC budget was huge because of the insecurity in the country. Most of the funds would be expended on security personnel to ensure a hitch-free exercise.
“I challenge her to come up with her figures and prove me wrong. There could be some calculated attempts in some quarters to sabotage the entire process; otherwise, I don’t understand the attack on the President for postponing the implementation of the law till after the general elections.”
“Why are they unnecessary jittery now over the use of the card reader. I am beginning to think that those who are agitating now have some ulterior motive. The 2015 election was successful because of card reader,” he added.
Buttressing Marafa’s point, APC Senator, Ovie Omo-Agege said “But from what I have read, his reasons are very genuine. Like I have always maintained, Mr President has always supported this bill.
“It is the usual ‘town crying’ of the PDP particularly. Let me say that PDP is scared because they were used to rigging when they were in government. We are in government now and they think everybody will be the same. If you are not a rigger, why are you talking about rigging when the election has not been conducted?”
Data from 2015 election
Data obtained fromDeepDive Intelligence recently, shows that about 21.4 million Nigerians voted in the 2015 election without full biometric authentication.
Full biometric authentication, as explained by the report, is when the PVC and fingerprint of a voter is successfully authenticated by the Smart Card Reader.
This is the fourth time President Buhari is declining assent to the Electoral bill.