PTCIJ, YIAGA, others ask NASS to resolve logjam in 30 days

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A coalition of some Civil Society Organisations has asked the National Assembly to veto the president on the Electoral Act Amendment Bill or expunge the direct primaries clause from the bill.

The coalition stated this in a statement on Tuesday in Abuja.

The organisations which signed the joint statement are Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ), YIAGA Africa, International Press Centre (IPC), Centre for Citizens with Disability (CCD), Albino Foundation, CLEEN Foundation, Institute for Media and Society (IMS) and Nigerian Women Trust Fund (NWTF).

President Muhammadu Buhari had in a letter to the two chambers of the National Assembly on Tuesday conveyed his reasons for declining assent to the bill.

He cited security, financial and legal constraints as a result of mandatory direct primaries clause in the bill for declining assent, which was transmitted to him on 19 November after the two chambers passed the bill.

The CSOs demanded quick action by the lawmakers to save off-season elections such as Abuja Area Council elections , Ekiti and Osun states governorship elections, all which will be conducted by INEC next year.

The CSOs said the lawmakers have two options, to either trigger Section 58(5) of the 1999 Constitution which gives the lawmakers the power to override the president’s decision “or remove the contentious clause (s) from the Bill and transmit the Bill back to the President for assent within the next 30 days.”

They added that the “National Assembly should ensure that all clerical, editorial, and cross-referencing gaps in the current Bill are resolved before transfering back to the President.”

On the president’s delay before acting on the amendment bill, the CSOs described the action as “disappointing”, noting that “relevant electoral stakeholders have spent enormous time and resources to put together the bill.”

“More disappointing is the fact that the President delayed his response until the effluxion of time required for assenting to legislation until the date that the National Assembly is proceeding for the Christmas and New Year holiday,” the statement said.

ALSO READ: Electoral Bill: Buhari not constitutionally bound to declare decision publicly – Aide

The coalition said the rejection would not afford INEC the needed opportunity to put the new provisions of the bill to test before the general elections in 2023.

“Successful conduct of any election is predicated on the certainty and clarity of the election legal framework, amongst other factors. This is to preclude any uncertainties that may occasion manipulation and subversion of the electoral process,” the CSOs said.

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives adjourned for the Christmas and New Year holidays after passing the 2022 budget, hence, the bill will have to wait till 2022 before any action would be taken on it.

The lower chamber is expected to reconvene on 18 January though the Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, said it would
be willing to convene ”whenever the need arises”.

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