Following President Muhammadu Buhari’s refusal to give his assent on the electoral amendment bill, individuals and civil society organisations have reacted to the decision, expressing their displeasure.
In a letter to Senate President Ahmed Lawan, Mr Buhari cited “high cost of conducting direct primaries, the security challenge of monitoring the election, violation of citizens’ rights and marginalisation of small political parties” as reasons for withholding his assent.
But the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre and Transparency International, in a joint statement, expressed their disappointment over Mr Buhari’s refusal to sign the bill. The civil society organisations urged the National Assembly to veto the president on this matter.
“We believe that this bill will increase transparency in our electoral process, encourage citizens to participate in the process as aspirants and voters as well as help improve the ideology of our elections by reducing the reliance on dirty money,” the organisations said, “We, therefore, call on the 9th Assembly to etch its name in gold in the right pages of our history by exercising its powers under S. 58 (5) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
Oseh Anenih, a political commentator, described Mr Buhari’s decision as “disappointing, but not unexpected”, asserting that the president and his party were mindful of their imminent disasters in the coming elections.
“I think the President and his party the APC have no intention of improving the electoral process; that much is evident with his unqualified refusal to sign the electoral amendment bill into law. And why would they, considering how abysmally they have governed in the last 6 years? They know they will lose any freely conducted election; so the president’s refusal is as understandable as it is condemnable,” Mr Anenih told Peoples Gazette.
Mr Anenih considered the effects of Mr Buhari’s decision on the off-cycle elections set to hold in the coming year.
“Buhari’s selfish, Machiavellian refusal means the Ekiti elections will be conducted with the old electoral act; as may Osun. Millions of Nigerians will be forced to use a defective law that the president could have fixed with the stroke of his own; simply because once again members of the APC have placed partisan interests ahead of national ones,” Mr Anenih said, “and I use the word Machiavellian deliberately. I believe that the direct primaries clause was inserted into the bill to scuttle good faith advocacy for biometric accreditation (BVAS), electronic voting and the e-transmission of results. These three things would have made our elections arguably some of the most transparent and credible in the world.”
Mr Anenih recalled amendment proposals for the PIA sent to the National Assembly, after Mr Buhari signed the bill. He commented that a similar course of action could’ve been taken if Mr Buhari “truly was committed to improving our electoral process; and if his only quibble was with that single direct primaries clause.”
In similar vein, the Civil Society Partners on Electoral Reforms have called for an immediate resolution of the matter.
The coalition of CSOs had in a statement noted that, “the National Assembly has the overwhelming backing of Nigerians to override the executive veto, but if the lawmakers cannot do so, there is no shame in reworking a single provision (Section 87) to get the bill signed by the President.”
The statement released on Tuesday was signed by Ariyo-Dare Atoye, the Executive Director, Adopt A Goal for Development Initiative, Ken Eze of Speak Out Africa Initiative, Ariyo-Dare Atoye, Jude Feranmi of Raising New Voices, and Obinna Eze Nwagbara, Executive Director, Youth and Students Advocates for Development Initiative.
The partners also condemned President Buhari for sitting on the bill for 30 days before rejecting it, noting that “President Buhari acted in bad fate.”
“It is unthinkable that the President can write to the National Assembly a letter that will inadvertently fault the process that secured him his party nomination for a second term because of the desperation to reject the bill,” the statement said, “sadly, this President has remained an unrepentant democrat and has nothing to be remembered for in terms of strengthening the values and institutions of democracy.”
The Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) also expressed its displeasure with Mr Buhari’s decision to decline assent to the Electoral Bill.
In a statement signed by its chairman, Idayat Hassan, the CDD said “Nigerians had all expected that President Buhari would write his name in gold as the President who bequeathed an improved electoral framework on the country. As the election is just fourteen months away, the CDD is calling on the National Assembly to immediately toe two immediate options. Which is either veto the President and pass the Electoral Act 2021 bill into an act of the National Assembly. Or Immediately remove the provisions on direct primaries as raised by the President and immediately re-present the bill to the President for his assent. We must not allow a single provision truncate the goodness in the proposed electoral bill.”
Source: Peoples Gazette