Politics

Presidency berates CSOs calling for assent to Electoral Bill

President Muhammadu Buhari

The presidency on Monday described as “ignorant” the calls for President Muhammadu Buhari to sign the Electoral Act Amendment Bill into law.

In a statement, the president’s media aide, Femi Adesina, said Civil Society Organisations that have been calling for assent to the bill are cashing in on the delay by the president to foment civil disorder and muddy the waters.

He said the president has a window of 30 days within which to sign the Bill or decline assent. To this end, he said, the executive could do due diligence on it till March 1 since it was transmitted on January 31, 2022.

“Some interest groups are cashing in on what they consider a delay in the signing of the Electoral Bill into law by the President to foment civil disorder and muddy the waters.

“One can just pity their ignorance of Constitutional requirements… A proposed legislation that has to do with the electoral fortunes of the country needs to be thoroughly scrutinised, and be made as near-perfect as possible.

“Those playing cheap politics with it are, therefore, encouraged to hold their peace, knowing that the right thing will be done within the lawful time,” part of the statement read.

The statement comes amid calls from civic groups for the president to assent to the legislation on or before February 22.

The lawmakers transmitted the bill to the president on January 31, for assent – after the latter had declined assent to the bill five times.

In March 2018, he rejected the bill on grounds that it could usurp the powers of the electoral umpire, INEC. In July of the same year, he rejected the bill citing drafting issues.

In September, he failed to act on the bill until the time frame elapsed. In December, his reason was that it was too close to the 2019 general elections.

And in December 2021, he declined assent to the current bill based on the adoption of direct primaries as the only legally approved procedure for the nomination of candidates.

In an interview, Mr Buhari promised to sign the legislation should the lawmakers review the bill and allow for more options for mode of primaries.

Last month, both the Senate and House of Representatives amended the bill making provision for direct, indirect and consensus modes of primaries. It was transmitted to the president for assent a week later.

While the president has 30 days to act on the bill, as prescribed in the constitution, civil groups have said if it is not signed by February 22, it could affect the schedule of the 2023 elections.

In the new bill, INEC is required to issue Notice of Election not later than 360 days before the day appointed for an election and since INEC has fixed February 18, 2023 for the election, the bill has to be signed by February 22 for the law to take effect.

Some CSOs have since declared Tuesday, February 22 as a day for National Protest – to demand immediate assent to the legislation.

Read the full statement:

STATE HOUSE PRESS RELEASE
ASSENT TO ELECTORAL BILL: NO NEED FOR SABER RATTLING
Some interest groups are cashing in on what they consider a delay in the signing of the Electoral Bill into law by the President to foment civil disorder and muddy the waters.

One can just pity their ignorance of Constitutional requirements, as the President has a window of 30 days within which to sign the Bill, or decline assent, after it had been transmitted to him by the National Assembly.

It is on record that the amended Bill was sent to the Presidency on January 31, 2022, which means that the Executive could do due diligence on it till March 1, as prescribed by the Constitution.

A proposed legislation that has to do with the electoral fortunes of the country needs to be thoroughly scrutinized, and be made as near-perfect as possible.

Those playing cheap politics with it are, therefore, encouraged to hold their peace, knowing that the right thing will be done within the lawful time.

Femi Adesina

Special Adviser to the President

Media and Publicity

Abuja

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