In his letter to the National Assembly explaining his rejection of the Electoral Bill (for the fourth time) on the 7th of December, President Buhari gave a number of reasons.
Chief among them is a theory that altering the electoral law at this time could lead to “an opportunity for disruption and confusion” around the country. Buhari’s (or his political advisers’) thinking is that Nigerians will not know what process are to be followed for the elections. He asks that the Bill be pushed to the post-2019 period, after the elections.
The Presidential elections are in 66 Days time. The question now is whether 2 months is really too sudden for passing an Electoral Bill whose provisions are necessary for the nation’s elections to be more credible than those of the last three years.
To be sure, the National Assembly is not without blame in this fiasco. Why, for instance, did the House of Representatives wait till January this year to pass the Bill after the Senate passed its version in March 2017? Why did the version sent to Buhari in August not include, among others, the clauses about the Card Reader? Surely NASS could have done better to make this Bill passed six months before the election date, a valuable point raised by Buhari campaign spokesman Festus Keyamo.
Notwithstanding, it would seem right for President Buhari to sign the Bill. INEC says it is familiar with its contents and will be able to carry out the elections accordingly. The claim about the Bill throwing the elections into confusion is no more than a ruse. To channel Farooq Kperogi’s and Olisa Agbokoba’s comments on the issue, it is a contrivance that really makes little sense. And the convention Keyamo points to is not a law; nothing in Nigeria’s constitution prevents an amendment of the Electoral laws in the present circumstance.
As his opponents observe, Buhari’s veto looks like groundwork for benefiting from a process that could be flawed. This appears so especially when you consider the overwhelming use of incident forms in the 2015 elections. Nigerians expect free, fair and credible polls in February. Hence, they would be right to seriously doubt a process that does not have legal backing for electronic accreditation for all voters.
I wonder who advised PMB to decline assent of the electoral bill amendment. Even if he wins re-election it will be tainted. The only good reason to decline would be fear of losing in a free and fair election. Is this the message they wish to send?
— Mustafa Chike-Obi (@ChikeMustafa) December 9, 2018
Buhari’s rejection letter also cited technical errors. He wants the legislators to reword some definitions and be more specific on some clauses. It behooves NASS to make one final effort to pitch the Bill to the President with the errors corrected. A fifth rejection based solely on the potential for confusion will certainly be hard to justify.
Already, the posture of the National Assembly inches towards overriding the President’s veto. This is now a merry-go-round that doesn’t bode good expectations for the integrity of the elections.
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