Reprieve came the way of most Nigerians, particularly, politicians and political parties as President Muhammadu Buhari finally on Friday signed the Electoral Act Amendment bill into law.
The President signed the Bill with a proviso that section 84)12) be deleted by the National Assembly to ensure that the bill does not conflict with constitutional provisions.
The President said, “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.”
This came after weeks of controversies following arguments over some of the contentious issues and shifting of goal posts by the Presidency and eggheads within the ruling All Progressives Congress.
This eventually resulted in the return of the bill to the National Assembly after it had been transmitted to the President for assent.
The Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill 2022, was passed by the National Assembly and forwarded for Presidential Assent, via a letter dated 31st January, 2022.
Since then, Nigerians have been
worried and doubtful about the willingness or otherwise of President Buhari to sign the bill in law.
While signing the bill, Buhari noted that the current bill came with a great deal of improvement from the previous Electoral Bill 2021.
He added that there were salient and praiseworthy provisions that could positively revolutionize elections in Nigeria through the introduction of new technological innovations.
According to the President, these innovations would guarantee the constitutional rights of citizens to vote and to do so effectively.
President Buhari said 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.
He stated that these commendable efforts were in line with his policy to bequeath to posterity a landmark legal framework that will pave the way for credible and sound electoral process that everybody would be proud of.
“Distinguished Senators and Honourable Members of the National Assembly, from the review it is my perspective that the substance of the Bill is both reformative and progressive.
“I am making this bold declaration because I foresee the great potentials of the Bill. Worthy of note include the democratic efficacy of the Bill with particular reference to sections 3, 9(2), 34, 41, 47, 84(9), (10) and (11) among others.
“This however, cannot be said about one provision as contained in the proposed Bill, which provision constitutes fundamental defect, as it is in conflict with extant constitutional provisions.
According to him, “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 section provides as follows:-
“No political appointee at any level shall be voting 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
He said, “This provision has 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 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.”
Credit: THE NETWORK.