President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday wrote to the National Assembly, seeking fresh amendments to the Electoral Act he signed into law last Friday. This confirmed THISDAY’s exclusive report last week that Buhari was seeking assurances for the National Assembly leadership that they would amend Section 84 of the new law as a pre-condition for him to sign the bill into law. He eventually signed the reworked bill into law last week Friday, according to reliable sources with knowledge of the conversation, was after he got the assurances of the leadership of the lawmakers.
Buhari’s request was contained in a letter dated February 28, 2022.
Senate President Ahmad Lawan read the official communication on the floor during plenary yesterday.
Lawan drew the attention of the chamber to the provisions of Section 84(12), which, according to him, constitutes a “defect” that is in conflict with extant constitutional provisions.
He said Section 84(12) of the Act amounted to 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.
The letter read in part, “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 revolutionise 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.
“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.
“Distinguished Senate President, 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. Section 84(12) of the Act provides as follows: ‘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.”
The letter added: “This provision has introduced qualification and disqualification criteria that is 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).
“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.
“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.”