Electoral Bill: Buhari not constitutionally bound to declare decision publicly

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Presidential spokesperson, Garba Shehu, has said President Muhammadu Buhari is not legally bound to publicly declare his decision on the 2021 amendment Electoral Act Amendment Bill sent to him for assent a month ago.

The bill, transmitted from the National Assembly to the State House on November 19, exceeded its 30-day window for Mr Buhari to sign or withhold his assent to it, on Sunday.

As stipulated by Nigeria’s constitution, the president has a 30-day period to “signify” his decision on the proposed legislation.

As speculations continue to trail the proposed legislation, Mr Shehu, on Channels Television programme “Sunday Politics,” argued that his boss owes no obligation to make his decision public despite the provision of the constitution.

Although the section of the constitution does not specify who the president should signify to within the stipulated days about his decision, many believe that Nigerians, who yearn for the provisions in the proposed bill, deserve to know.

The president’s spokesperson further argued that taking such a decision to the public without the knowledge of the National Assembly will amount to “unkind treatment of the lawmakers”.

“I’m not in a position to tell you, yes or no. But given the way things are done, the president would have completed his consultations some time back. The president would be communicating with the National Assembly on whatever he decides, either yes or no.

“And as I said, it would be disrespectful of the National Assembly, for me at this time, to say this is the content of the president’s communication, assuming that the communication has been sent to them. So as I said, allow them to resume, I believe that the president will not act in breach of the Constitution. No, he will do what is right.

“The constitution says the president must sign within 30 days, the constitution did not say that there should be the disclosure of that decision within 30 days to the public when the disclosure to the National Assembly has been made,” Mr Shehu said.

The lawmakers are expected to resume plenary on Tuesday and embark on the Christmas and New Year break soon after.

If any communication concerning the legislation has been sent to the NASS as suggested by Mr Shehu, the bill may not be considered until their resumption in 2022.

ALSO READ: CSOs urge Buhari to sign Electoral Bill, fault reports of rejection by president

Also speaking on the show, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) spokesperson, Debo Olorunagba and the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, described the uncertainty around the bill as irresponsible.

Mr Olorunagba faulted the stipulation of direct primary for nomination of candidates by political parties.

“The Constitution is so clear. It says the president “shall.” The word ‘shall’ is mandatory. Now we have a president who has kept Nigerians in limbo for 20 hours after the deadline passed in the same environment. That’s an impeachable offense.

“We think that it is irresponsible of any government to keep the people in darkness, the obligation of the president and the APC to tell us if he’s going to sign or he has withdrawn assent. And it’s unfortunate that this is what we’ve gotten from the APC government,” he said.

Mr Wike alleged that the 87 clause mandating direct primaries for all political parties was smuggled in to prevent the electronic transmission of election result bill from being signed into law.

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