BEVERLY HILLS, September 19, (THEWILL) – Five months into the 2019 general elections, the political turf appears not to be too smooth to guarantee free, fair and credible polls. This arises from several issues that have unfolded, as well as other evolving matters which if not resolved, could disrupt the country’s democratic wheel.
One of the dominant issues is the unresolved Electoral Act Amendment Bill, which President Muhammadu Buhari again declined to approve.
In the face of lapses observed in previous elections, it is imperative that the Amendment Act be retouched to make next year’s elections more credible. It is therefore worrisome that Buhari, who had declared at several local and international platforms to deliver credible elections, had again failed to sign the Bill due to what he called irregularities and draft errors.
In explaining the rejection, Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters, Senator Ita Enang, said “Presidential decision to decline assent to the Electoral (Amendment) Bill, 2018, was due to the areas of conflicts, as was communication in a letter dated August 30, 2018, to the Senate and the House of Representatives.”
It is disheartening that the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, which controls both the Executive and National Assembly (until recent events) have not been able to work together seamlessly on this key amendment.
It is essential that all stakeholders resolve the challenges in the overall interest of Nigerians, so that this impasse is not allowed to continue and derail the elections.
This is more so as uncertainty surrounds the reconvening of the National Assembly.
Another matter that must be expressly addressed is the budget by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), which the Joint Committee of the National Assembly had requested it to adjust from the initial N189 billion to N143 billion.
Though, the Chairman, National Assembly Joint Committee on Electoral Matters, Senator Suleiman Nazif (APC, Bauchi) confirmed that INEC had sent the amendment to the committee, the approval by the entire National Assembly is still sacrosanct. While urging the subcommittee to complete its work on the matter urgently, it is being speculated that the National Assembly may shift its resumption from next week to sometime in October which may further delay the passage.
In urging the National Assembly to treat the matter with the urgency it requires, including applying its overriding veto power to pave way for its application, we implore President Buhari to soft-pedal on his hard stance so that the upcoming general election is not in any way impeded.
THEWILL sees nothing wrong in the amended Bill as sent to the president, and hold that his refusal to sign the bill could be interpreted to mean that he does not support genuine moves to correct the flaws noticed in the 2015 general election, upon which the amendments were premised.
For instance, we see nothing wrong in the amendments that states that results of election at the polling units be electronically transmitted to INEC’s office. Not signing the Bill therefore, could mean that the president wants the manipulations that usually occur between voting and collation periods to continue, among others.
The 2019 election is so important to Nigerians that the selfish ambitions of some leaders cannot be allowed to jeopardize the opportunity for the electorate to choose their leaders in free, fair and credible manner.
We urge all concerned individuals and organizations to prevail on the executive and the legislature to cooperate in the interest of the electorate who elected them for service and not to bicker.
It is also of great concern that the several allegations of cloning of Permanent Voters Cards, PVCs, have not been clarified by INEC, while the inter and intra party disagreements, though allowed for credible engagements, which have rocked the major political parties, could further complicate the system.
THEWILL believes that if the feared crises that would arise from the impending party primaries are allowed to join these troubling issues, they could further implode the system to threaten the soul of the election, and by extension the right of Nigerians to elect the candidates of their choice.