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Electoral Bill: INEC, Stakeholders Decry Delayed Assent, Reveals Next Action –

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Electoral Bill: INEC, Stakeholders Decry Delayed Assent, Reveals Next Action

Following the Electoral Bill, INEC, Stakeholders Decry Delayed Assent

There are strong indications that President Muhammadu Buhari is in a dilemma over whether to assent to the just re – amended 2010 Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill 2022 11 days after receiving the bill from the National Assembly.

The Presidency disclosed yesterday that President Buhari is in a last minute consultation with critical stakeholders as he races against time to take a decision on the bill.

The House of Representatives also said yesterday there was no selfish interest in the passage of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill into law by the National Assembly.

Speaking in Abuja at the one-day Policy Dialogue organized by the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies, NILDS, in collaboration with West Minister Foundation for Democracy, WFD, Senior Special Adviser to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Senator Babajide Omoworare, said that he has it on good authority that Buhari is vigorously meeting with the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, SAN, and other key stakeholders on the Electoral bill.

According to Omoworare, the consultation with Malami and other stakeholders is among others to design a way forward on the Bill.

The Presidential aide, however, noted that Buhari is inclined to signing the reworked document this time around especially as all the grey areas he raised in the rejected Electoral Act Amendment Bill (2021) has been attended to by the National Assembly.

Omoworare’s assurances that Buhari would sign the document before the expiration of 30 days allowed by law was, however, not enough to douse anxieties among various discussants at the policy dialogue.

He said: “A very crucial consultation is going on between Mr President, the Attorney General and other critical stakeholders on content of the bill for the required assent.

“If not for this programme, I suppose to be at the very important meeting, believed to be the major determinant for the fate of the bill.”

Omoworare assured Nigerians that the bill will most likely be assented to by the President since issues earlier raised by him in the 2021 edition were elaborately addressed by both chambers of the National Assembly, last month.

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He said:” Personally, I think in a few days time, Mr President will do the needful since the most contentious aspect of the bill had been addressed in the reworked one transmitted to him on Monday, January 31, 2022. Time as it is, is of essence but I believe that Mr President will do the needful.”

The assurance given by Omoworare was not enough to douse apprehension entertained by conveners of the dialogue who received message from the Attorney – General that his planned consultation with President Buhari prevented him from coming.

Giving credence to Omoworare’s statement that Buhari is in high consultation, the organizers said the Attorney General had graciously asked to be excused from the public conversation as he was still consulting with the President on the matter.

Almost all the discussants at the policy dialogue from the former Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission , Professor Attahiru Jega , Country Representative of Westminster Foundation for Democracy, Adebowale Olorunmola and the Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Media, Mr. Benjamin Kalu, appealed to President Buhari to assent the bill without further delay.

Former Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Professor Attahiru Jega, was not particularly impressed at the seeming delay on the part of the President to sign the Electoral bill 11 days after receiving the document from the National Assembly.

Even more displeasing to the former INEC boss is what he described as a growing lack of sense of urgency by both the executive and the legislature to complete work on the Electoral Bill.

According to him, Nigeria cannot continue to dilly-dally much further on the Electoral bill and go into fresh elections in 2023 with the same old laws, adding that no law or legislation is perfect but what is available now is good and manageable for the coming elections.

On his part, the INEC Chairman, Professor Yakubu Mahmood said that the snail pace of work on the Electoral bill was beginning to have a toll on INEC’s preparation for the general elections next February.

The INEC chairman, who was represented by his Chief Technical Adviser, Professor, Bolade Eyinla, said with the new Electoral law still being awaited; the commission has not been able to come up with clear cut guidelines for the conduct of the elections.

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He said that INEC and not the Executive or the National Assembly should initiate proposed amendments to the Electoral laws as being practiced in neighbouring Ghana.

Professor Bolade Eyinla said that to avoid the problem of working on electoral laws at the tail end of conducting elections, INEC should be allowed to drive the process as being done in Ghana.

He lamented: “The situation at hand now is that roughly a year to general election, the anticipated laws are not yet approved, meaning that the extant one will be used aside the fact that the process has not enabled INEC to come up with clear cut guidelines for conduct of the elections.”

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives has said there was no selfish interest in the passage of the electoral act amendment bill into law by the national assembly.

Rather, it said its activities and actions had always been guided by public interest and the need to deepen the tenets of democracy.

The House spoke through its spokesman, Hon. Benjamin Kalu during a press briefing after yesterday’s plenary.

It will be recalled that the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, AGF, Abubarkar Malami, SAN, in a recent interview with a national television station, hinted of sifting the bill against selfish interests.

But the House spokesman said: “The scope of the operation of the procedures are well documented in the Constitution as well as the House rules. And there is no where in the Constitution and the House rules where selfish interest is allowed as an instrument to be used in the process of lawmaking.

”Rather, in place of selfish interest is public interest. And that’s why to advance that particular aspect, the Constitution and House rules made provision for public hearing, for stakeholders engagement, for memorandum to be sent in, for presentation to be made for town halls.”

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