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Editor's PickSenators incensed, may override Buhari on electoral bill – Moro

Senators incensed, may override Buhari on electoral bill – Moro

OrderPaperToday – Following the refusal of President Muhammadu Buhari to assent to the Electoral Act Amendment Bill 2021, Senator representing Benue South senatorial district, Senator Abba Moro has said reasons adduced by the President are not convincing enough and may trigger an override of his decision.

He said this in an interview with newsmen shortly after plenary on Tuesday at the National Assembly complex.

President Buhari, in a letter to the National Assembly on Monday, conveyed his reasons for withholding assent to the Electoral Amendment Act Bill, 2021.

Sen. Moro recalled that the President had reasons to reject the electoral bill in the past, including the inclusion of electronic transmission of election results by the lawmakers.

He said: “The reasons given (by President Buhari), to my mind and the minds of majority of senators, are not enough because all stakeholders have acknowledged the fact that the amended electoral bill as it is today contains very fantastic provisions that could deepen democracy.

“If we reject the amended electoral act because of direct primaries it is very unfortunate. Let me say whether you like it or not our electoral system, given the background of the average Nigerian, especially politicians, there is no way you can prevent any politician from trying to induce or corrupt the electorate.

“It is embedded in our style that you must go to the people either via stomach infrastructure or monetary inducement but let me say this that the cost implication that is being used as an excuse now is neither here nor there because relevant stakeholders in the electoral process especially the INEC has told us that there is no additional cost implication.

“As a matter of fact, as a member of appropriation committee when INEC chairman was invited, he frankly told us that even in the present electoral act that provides for direct and Indirect, that they are prepared for all forms of election, which means they prepared for direct or indirect, assuming a party opts for direct primary INEC will not ask for additional funds.

“So by my experience it is the aspirants that bear the cost of primaries. The party only sends people to monitor, INEC will also send people to monitor and observe.

“The INEC chairman has said that they have personnel in all the 774 local governments in the country that would be able to handle direct primary.”

He continued: “So Buhari has no excuse. In any case we are conducting election every year. You are talking about security concern; are we not going to hold election in 2023 in all pulling units, not in Local Government headquarters, not in ward but in all polling units. If the security agents are stretched now as being claimed how stretched would they be during the 2023 election?

On what should be done next and whether an override of the President is on the cards, the Benue lawmaker said that the rules are very clear; adding that majority of Senators and Members of the House of Representatives conceded to this very amendment and this amendment to them represented the greatest leap forward aimed at deepening democracy.

“It is providing for a participation of the wider number of electorate, party members to select those to fly their flags and invariably who will lead them. So anything otherwise is shrinking the political space for a few persons.

“Now the President has rejected our amendment the law is very clear; Section 58 of the constitution on how National Assembly can pass law on how the President can assent to the law, and if the President refuses to assent to the law, how the National Assembly can override him (President) and on this note we are convinced that majority of Nigerians like the amendment as proposed; direct primaries, electronic transmission.

“In 2019 the reason for rejection was transmission of election, now the same electronic transmission is there; he has no problem with it any more now he has problem with direct primary. So if it is one reason enough to reject the exposition of the will of the people through direct primary.

“I can assure you that my colleague-senators and I are prepared this time around to override the President. He alluded to the fact that some governors are against direct primary, stating that it is part of democracy.

“They are free not to like direct primary but majority of senators and a sizeable number of Governors are also not opposed to direct primary and in any democratic dispensation, whether you are Governor or senator it is instructive that you be on the side of the people.

“We are attempting to widen democracy, (build a) sustainable and a durable electoral process; and by all standards that gives room for members of the political party to choose their leaders.

“This certainly a better one than handing over the destiny of all Nigerians to a few cabals that want to control the commonwealth of this country and that is not acceptable. This senate has the courage to say no this time around,” he said.

An opportunity to override the President may only come after the National Assembly resumes from its yuletide break.

Ojochenemi Onje-James
Ojochenemi Onje-James
Ojochenemi Onje-James is a research writer and journalist with years of proven footprints in areas of crime and politics. She has M.Sc in International Relations and Strategic Studies; and B.Sc in Mass Communication.
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