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Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Electoral Act Amendment: Senate Suspends Move to Override Buhari’s Veto

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Despite the resolve and threat by many senators on Tuesday to overrule President Muhammadu Buhari’s veto of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill, the senate, yesterday, backed down from its resolve.

In place of the move, which had seen the collection of signatures for the proposition, the upper chamber resolved to liaise with the House of Representatives on how best to handle the president’s rejection of the electoral reform bill.

The senate also agreed to involve their constituents in the consultation process during the Christmas break before taking a final decision by January.

Buhari had declined assent to the Electoral Act Amendment Bill, citing issues with direct primaries provisions in the bill.

But members of the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) caucus in the House of Representatives said the reasons given by the president for not assenting to the bill were a mere decoy to stop the electronic transmission of results by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), using direct primaries as a peg.

Former President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, went ahead to identify two plausible options currently before the National Assembly. Saraki said the legislature should either veto Buhari’s decline of assent or remove the contentious provisions on direct primaries and send the bill back to the president for his assent.

Some senators had at the end of Tuesday’s plenary expressed anger over the president’s rejection of the electoral bill, saying they have secured over 75 signatures ahead of a plan to veto the president at Wednesday’s plenary.

But the threat was eventually not carried out, as President of the Senate, Dr Ahmad Lawan, while summarising the outcome of their closed-door session, said the senate would now consult with the House of Representatives on how to respond to Buhari’s letter on the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill.

According to Lawan, the provisions of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) do not permit the upper chamber to exclusively take action on such matters in the absence of the House of Representatives, which had already embarked on vacation.

He assured Nigerians that a joint position would be reached with the House after due consultation with the people to determine the appropriate line of action, when both chambers reconvene from the Christmas break in January.

Speaking on what transpired at the executive session, the senate president said, “The senate in a closed session deliberated on matters relevant to the workings of the senate, in particular, and, the National Assembly, in general.

“The senate, also, in the closed session, discussed how to respond to the letter from Mr. President on the electoral bill amendment. The senate consequently resolved to consult with the House of Representatives in January, when both the senate and House will be in session.

“Presently, the House of Reps has gone on recess and, like we all know, the constitutional provision is for the senate and House of Representatives to jointly take the appropriate action.

“The senate also resolved to consult with our constituents during our recess in January. The senate believes that our constituents have a role to play as the major stakeholders in the laws that we make in the National Assembly.”

However, the leader of the PDP caucus in the House, Hon. Kingsley Chinda, in a statement yesterday, said the president was actually trying hard to avoid the electronic transmission of results and had used direct primaries as a decoy.

The caucus assured Nigerians that it would ensure that its members exercised their constitutional power to veto the president whenever the matter was tabled for discussion

Chinda said, “The untold reason of declining is to avoid the electronic transmission of results, which will improve the credibility of the electoral system. This refusal, though contemplated, has left Nigerians confounded by a president, who continues to show utter disdain for the constitution and the reform of the institutions of state.

“Under him, our institutions of state have regressed, to the point that the gains of previous institutional reforms embarked on by Our Great Party while in power, have been either lost to his inaction or to his deliberate ploy to leave our country worse than he met it. On this point alone, we are not convinced that he is interested in the reform of the electoral process.

“As an opposition caucus, we will ensure that our members exercise their power under Section 58(5) of the constitution to veto the president whenever the National Assembly deems it fit to table the issue for discussion.”

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