Electoral Act: Buhari Demands Voting Rights For Political Appointees

Buhari
President Buhari

Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari, has officially conveyed his reservation about the Electoral Act 2022 to the country’s National Assembly, asking the federal parliament to delete Section 84(14) of the new electoral law.

President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, at the plenary on Tuesday, read Buhari’s cover letter on the Electoral Act 2022 (Amendment) Bill, dated February 28, 2022.

Buhari, while assenting to the Electoral Act 2010 (Amendment) Bill at the Presidential Villa in Abuja on Friday, had highlighted sections of the new law that would revolutionalise the electoral system in the country but expressed reservations about Section 84 (12).

The Section reads, ‘No political appointee at any level shall be voting delegate or be voted for at the convention or congress of any political party for the purpose of the nomination of candidates for any election.’

In the letter, Buhari drew the attention of chamber to the provisions of Section 84(12), which, according to him, constitutes a “defect” that is in conflict with extant Constitutional provisions.

The President wrote, “I write with reference to the recent assent to the Electoral Act (Amendment) 2022, and to draw your kind attention to some salient issues contained in the Act and to seek your immediate legislative action thereon.

“I have carefully studied the content of the recently assented Electoral Act (Amendment), 2022; I must admit that there are positive provisions that could revolutionize election process in Nigeria particularly through the introduction of new technological innovations that will in turn guarantee the Constitutional rights of Citizens to vote and to do so effectively.

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“The recently assented Electoral Act has improved and engendered clarity, effectiveness and transparency of the election process, as well as reduced to the barest minimum incidences of acrimony arising from dissatisfied candidates and political parties.

“I, therefore, commend the legislative wisdom of the National Assembly which is in line with our policy to bequeath Nigerians and posterity, a landmark legal framework that paves the way for credible electoral process that we would all be proud of.”

Buhari added, “I, however, will want to kindly draw your attention to the provisions of Section 84(12) of the Act, which I believe, constitutes a fundamental defect as it is in direct conflict with extant Constitutional provisions.

“Section 84 (12) of the Act constitutes a disenfranchisement of serving political office holders from voting or being voted for at conventions or congresses of any political party, for the purpose of nomination of candidates for any election in cases where it holds earlier than 30 days to the election.

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“This provision has introduced qualification and disqualification criteria that are ultra vires the Constitution by way of importing blanket restriction and disqualification to serving political office holders of which they are constitutionally accorded protection.

“The practical application of Section 84(12) of the Electoral Act, (Amendment) 2022, is to subject serving political office holders to inhibitions and restrictions referred to under Sections 40 and 42 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).

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“It is imperative to note, that the only constitutional expectation placed on serving political office holders that qualify, by extension as public officers within the context of the Constitution is resignation, withdrawal, or retirement at least 30 days before the date of the election, as provided in Section 66(1)(f) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), among others.

“Hence, it will be stretching matters beyond the constitutional limit to import extraneous restrictions into the Constitution on account of practical application of Section 84(12) of the Act where political parties’ conventions and congresses were to hold earlier than 30 days to the election.”

Buhari stated, “Arising from the foregoing, I request the National Assembly to consider immediate amendments that will bring the Act in conformity with the Constitution by way of deleting Section 84(12) accordingly.”

The National Assembly had told The PUNCH on Friday that it would seek legal advice on the request by the President, stating that it would review the clause and consults with the relevant stakeholders, including constituents, before taking a decision on his reservations.

Chairman of the Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Ajibola Basiru, had said, “His request would be looked at as appropriate. We will look at it, get legal opinions and know the legislative action to take. He has assented to the bill and it has become law. He should send an executive bill.”

Also, the Chairman of the House of Representatives’ Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Benjamin Kalu, had said, “We will always look at the important elements of any communication from Mr President and give it the required attention. That, we promise the Presidency and the people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”

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