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Buhari signs electoral bill into law

Buhari signs the Electoral Act as Senate President and House Speaker look on

President Muhammadu Buhari signs into law the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill 2022 at the Presidential Villa in Abuja on Friday.

Senate President Ahmad Lawan, Femi Gbajabiamila, speaker of the house of representatives, and Kayode Fayemi, chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) were among the dignitaries present at the ceremony.

The legislation was transmitted to the president on January 31 after both chambers of the national assembly had reworked it.

The Bill holds great promise for improving elections in the country with new technology and efforts to foster clarity and transparency, he said.

However, he emphasized the necessity of deleting clause 84(12), which he said violates the rights of elected officials to vote or be elected at political party conventions and congresses.

Referencing the section that says “No political appointee at any level shall be voting delegate or vote for at the Convention or Congress of any political party for the nomination of candidates for any election”, the President noted that it had introduced qualification and disqualification criteria that ultra vires the Constitution by way of importing blanket restriction and disqualification to serving political office holders of which they are constitutionally accorded protection, he said.

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

In light of the aforementioned, President Buhari said he hereby assents to the Bill and requested the National Assembly to consider quick revisions that will bring the Bill in line with legality by way of eliminating section 84(12).

He lauded the National Assembly’s devotion and commitment to amending the earlier Electoral Bill 2021.

“It is gratifying to note that the current Bill comes with a great deal of improvement from the previous Electoral Bill 2021. There are salient and praiseworthy provisions that could positively revolutionize elections in Nigeria through the introduction of new technological innovations. These innovations would guarantee the constitutional rights of citizens to vote and to do so effectively”, the President said.

My assessment of this bill is that it is both reformative and forward-looking. Because I recognize Bill’s enormous potential, I’m making this bold declaration. Sections 3, 9(2), 34, 41, 47, 84(9), (10) and (11), among others, are noteworthy for their democratic efficacy, he added.

Buhari had opposed the Act

Buhari initially opposed the bill after the national assembly mandated direct primaries for all political parties in the country.

The measure, according to the president, “violates the spirit of democracy.”

On that premise, the law was modified by the Senate and House of Representatives to include indirect and direct primaries, as well as consensus candidates.

Parties can now select their candidates for any election organized by the Independent National Electoral Commission using any of the three procedures listed above (INEC).

The bill’s new features include electronic communication of election results.

Reporting by Abdallah Bello, Editing by Saadatu Albashir