Olisa Agbakoba asks NASS to override Buhari’s veto on Electoral Bill

Agbakoba also described the various reasons that the President gave for declining his assent as baseless.

President Muhammadu Buhari

Agbakoba made the call in a letter which he wrote to the House of Representatives and Senate, according to Vanguard.

Buhari, on Thursday, December 6, 2018, to the bill for the fourth time, saying that he is “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.”

The lawyer also described the various reasons that the President gave for declining his assent as baseless.

According to him, the 2018 amendment provides the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) the legal backing to make use of Smart Cards and Electronic Technology.

Read the letter below:

The decision of the President to withhold Assent in respect of a Bill to enact a Law to amend the Electoral Act makes no sense. The Final draft Bill considered by NASS, was agreed with the President, precisely to avoid challenges, such as now occurred.

The President states that part of the reason he has withheld Assent is to avoid confusion as to the applicable legal framework for 2019 Elections and the administrative capacity of INEC to cope with the new Electoral Act, as it is all too close to 2019 elections.

Distinguished and Honourable Members will recall that the major amendment to 2018 Electoral Act relates to electronic technology for the conduct of the 2019 elections. The 2015 elections were partly conducted by INEC, using smart cards (card readers) but the Supreme Court held that smart cards are not allowed, not been included in the Electoral Act 2010.

The 2015 elections were also partly conducted by INEC using Incident forms; in effect smart cards and Incident Forms were both used to conduct 2015 elections. Distinguished and Honourable Members of NASS, will recall that there was a lot of controversy about the use of Incident Forms as it enabled non accredited persons to vote, questioning the credibility of the elections.

In order to remove constraints that will impact the credibility of future elections, such as 2019, the Electoral Act 2010, was amended by the 2018 Bill, to formalize the legal basis of the Smart Cards which was already in use for elections by INEC anyway.

It will be recalled that the Supreme Court declared use of Smart Cards as contrary to the Electoral Act 2010, so the 2018 amendment is intended to give INEC a legal basis to use Smart Cards and Electronic Technology.

The 2018 Bill also introduced the extremely important procedure of transmitting results of votes from Polling Units by electronic means. Electronic transmission will remove rigging and enhance the credibility of the Vote Count. INEC says it is familiar with the amendments contained in the 2018 Electoral Bill. INEC has used smart cards at all elections from 2015.

INEC has submitted an election budget which provides for Smart Cards and transmission equipment. The President claims that part of the reason for withholding Assent, is that INEC will not have enough time to become familiar with the 2018 Bill and that a new Act will generate confusion.

This is simply incorrect and flies in the face of INEC’s announcement that it will not use Incident Forms or manual voting in 2019 elections. In other words, INEC is ready to deploy electronic technology for 2019 elections, and only requires that the Electoral Act provides a legal framework.

The 2018 Amendments will help to improve the credibility of our Elections and also give legal basis for INEC to deploy electronic technology in 2019 elections, following doubts cast by the Supreme Court about the legality of the use of card readers because it was not provided in the old Electoral Act of 2010.

Distinguished and Honourable Members of NASS, are please urged to override Mr. President and enact 2018 Electoral Act.

Buhari is afraid

According to Buba Galadima,the chairman of a faction of the All Progressives' Congress (APC), the Reformed APC, the President is afraid to sign the Electoral bill into law because he won't get enough votes to win re-election at the polls.

Galadima also revealed that the bill was prepared with the contribution of his legal adviser, the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami, and the full cooperation of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

Sen. Ovie Omo-Agege,while defending the President’s decision to decline assent to the bill, said that the ECOWAS Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance forbids him from signing the document.

Omo-Agege  also argued that Article 2 of the protocol forbids member countries from making “substantial modification” to their electoral laws less than six months to elections “except with the consent of a majority of political actors”.

Some notable lawmakers who are members of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) have however said that the plan to override the President’s veto will fail.

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