Unsigned Electoral Bill: INEC, Political Parties Meet This Week


The leadership of the Independent National Electoral Commission will, this week, hold a crucial meeting with the leaders of political parties towards the coming 2019 General Elections.

President Muhammadu Buhari’s decision to withhold assent to the Electoral Act (Amended) Bill 2018, it was learnt, would top the agenda of the meeting.

The PUNCH gathered on Sunday that despite threats by some federal lawmakers to override Buhari on the rejected bill, opposition political parties feared that the National Assembly as currently constituted might not get the required number of members to do so.

They have therefore resolved to look beyond the parliament in finding a way out.

The first national spokesperson for the Coalition of United Political Parties, Imo Ugochinyere, confirmed these in an interview with our correspondent on Saturday.

He said, “The leadership of political parties will be meeting with INEC this week and top on the agenda of the meeting is that now that the President has refused to sign, it is now left for the electoral commission.

“There are some powers given to the commission under the 1999 Constitution and the Electoral Act to ensure free and fair conduct of elections.

“There are some provisions that INEC can amend the election guidelines with or without the President signing the law. Some of them include the use of card readers like the commission did in Ekiti and Osun states. You can see that the number of voters did not skyrocket in those states because INEC did not use incident forms.”

He added, “INEC can also allow agents to have access to electoral materials, verify them and even do video recording of the materials without any law.

“The issue of ensuring that no result is announced without agents of political parties being present at the spot, stopping the police and soldiers from chasing away party agents so that they can doctor the results, the issue of ensuring that results are announced at every polling unit, the issue of collecting electronic results by INEC to compare, issue of serialising ballot papers for each polling unit, all these the INEC can do with or without the President.

“The first thing the INEC chairman must do, or else all political parties will pull out of the election, is that he has to announce to Nigerians that there will be no use of incident forms.”

He claimed the non-use of incident forms was important to avoid a repeat of what allegedly happened in 2015, when “out of the over seven million votes he (Buhari) got from the North-West, over five million came from incident forms.”  He claimed that most of the people that voted for Buhari in the North-West were not accredited.

Ugochinyere added that another area of concern for the opposition parties ahead of the elections was the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris.

He said opposition parties were not comfortable with the information that the present administration might extend Idris’ tenure which he said would expire by January.

“Another important aspect is the position of the IG whose tenure is expiring in January. Going by the public service rule, he ought to have proceeded on terminal leave.

“But the two people who have hijacked the President want him re-appointed. Once that happens, what we will be having is no longer an IG but a man who will be willing to deploy security forces to achieve the dastardly act they are planning,” he alleged.

Ugochinyere said one of the steps that would be taken by opposition parties was to mobilise the people to perform the police function of arresting people who had committed electoral offence.

He said such people would be encouraged to resist and disarm political thugs.

That, he said, would be the option left for the opposition.

He said securing two-thirds in the House of Assembly to override the President would be impossible.

“So, we are looking beyond that to engage INEC to make promises and commitments to Nigerians on how the forthcoming elections can be free and fair,” he said.

He said the outcome of the meeting with INEC would go a long way in deciding whether the opposition parties would take part in the elections or not.

‘National Assembly can’t override Buhari’

Also, the National President of the Vanguard for Transparent Leadership and Democracy, Igbini Emmanuel, has said the National Assembly cannot override Buhari on the bill.

In an interview with our correspondent, Emmanuel said the bill was dead on arrival just like the desire of the National Chairman of APC, Adams Oshiomhole, to have the President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, removed.

He said, “The President has withheld his assent to the Electoral Amendment Bill 2018 and appealed that if it would be eventually passed, its date of commencement should be after 2019 General Elections.

“Recall I made my position very clear months ago that any proposed amendment to our Electoral Act be suspended till after the 2019 General Elections or be considered dead on arrival the same way the plot to impeach Saraki was dead on arrival.

“The National Assembly cannot override Buhari on this bill for the same reason Oshiomhole cannot mobilise to remove Saraki and recover the ‘crown.’

APC senators will block veto – Ashafa

Meanwhile, the Senator representing Lagos-East, Gbenga Ashafa, has stated that the APC senators in the 8th Assembly will oppose any plan by the National Assembly to veto the President’s refusal to sign the recent amendments to the Electoral Act.

Ashafa stated this in an interview with journalists after a stakeholders’ meeting of the Lagos-East chapter of the All Progressives Congress in Epe on Saturday.

Ashafa stated that he had studied the reasons given by Buhari for not signing the amended act and that he agreed with the President.

He said, “Both the President and the National Assembly have shown good faith in the back and forth caused principally by drafting inconsistencies that have delayed the bill till now. We must all understand that both sides must be dispassionately and painstakingly disposed to ensuring that there is no loophole in the final result of the proposed amendments, considering the sensitive nature of the Electoral Act and overarching effect of same on National security and stability of the polity.

“It cannot be in tandem with any standard democratic ethos to introduce new rules to the field of politics less than two months to general elections, we must be fair to all concerned.”

On the threat by some members to veto the bill, he said, “It is a game of numbers and to conduct a successful veto of the President’s position, the National Assembly would require two-thirds majority of both houses. I am certain that the progressive block of senators who have already seen reason with the President would not be in support of such a veto.”