“I had warned Nigerians, using the print and electronic media, that President Buhari would not asset to the Electoral Amendment Bill.” – Ozekhome
Omoniyi Salaudeen and Onyedika Agbedo
Eminent legal professionals within the nation, yesterday, traded tackles over President Muhammadu Buhari’s refusal to signal into regulation the Electoral Amendment Invoice transmitted to him by the Nationwide Meeting.
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Whereas a number of the legal professionals who spoke with Sunday Solar alleged that the president’s denial of his assent was a plot to rig the 2019 elections in his favour, others insisted that the choice was within the curiosity of the nation.
They have been additionally sharply divided on the 2016 Supreme Courtroom choice on Wike v. Peterside, which technically eliminated the cardboard reader from being a binding a part of the Nigerian Electoral regulation.
The president had penultimate Friday introduced his choice to withhold his assent to the electoral invoice, which the Nationwide Meeting transmitted to him on November 7, for the fourth time.
He had earlier rejected it for the third time and returned it to the legislature on August 30.
Human rights activist, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), who spoke extensively on the difficulty, stated the improvements within the Amendment Invoice have been meant to usher in a brand new daybreak of credible elections within the nation, questioning why the president withheld his assent.
“I had earlier warned some Nigerians, using the print and electronic media, that President Buhari would not asset to the Electoral Amendment Bill. I predicted my sure-footedness on my study of the antecedents of the heavily rigged and militarised election of Ekiti State, where Fayose, a sitting governor was tear-gassed, held hostage and the radio and television of his stations jammed. I studied the Osun governorship election, where not only opposition voters, but international observers and media men were forcibly blocked and denied access; Adeleke still won with over 350 votes, but had the election suddenly declared inconclusive, contrary to Section 179 of the 1999 Constitution. I was, therefore, not surprised that President Buhari declined his assent. How can any person, if he is truly a democrat, be afraid and allergic to salutary amendments that are meant to usher in a new dawn of transparent, acceptable, free, fair and credible elections, imbued with integrity?” Ozekhome queried.
He argued that the current Electoral Act was closely manipulated within the 2015 presidential election, particularly within the North-West, extra notably in Kano State, explaining that “the Electoral Amendment Invoice was partly to remedy the hybrid nature of card reader accreditation and simultaneous guide reader accreditation, which led to unprecedented manipulation.
“The Supreme Courtroom in Wike v. Peterside Sc/1002/2015 (SC), selected February 12, 2016, was agency that till the Electoral Act was amended, INEC lacked energy to make use of solely card readers, which it has argued it will need to deploy solely for the 2019 elections.
INEC had argued it might not use incidence varieties, however solely card readers for accreditation. However the apex courtroom within the judgment within the Wike case held that besides the Electoral Act was amended, INEC can’t by means of its Tips, Manuals and Directives, determine to make use of solely digital card readers for accreditation, however should nonetheless resort to guide accreditation and use of incidence varieties. The manipulable nature of utilizing the hybrid template was manifestly demonstrated through the 2015 presidential election.
“The recent improvements mandate INEC to publish voters’ register on its web site for straightforward accessibility. It additionally mandates INEC to examine election supplies in audio-visual recordings; and implement celebration democracy and political participation inside political events. What on earth is flawed with these improvements? Nothing.
“The introduction, nay, validation of already existing use of electronic card readers for accreditation and automatic transmission of results from polling units to a central counting centre to prevent rigging and enhance credibility of vote count are some of the most audacious innovations which President Buhari’s withholding of assent seeks to kill. He should not be allowed to.”
Ozekhome urged members of the Nationwide Meeting to look at the bigger image of a united Nigeria, her future generations but unborn and save the nation by invoking Part 58 (four) and (5); and overriding the president’s veto, emphasising that heavens wouldn’t fall in the event that they do this.
“Surely, passing the bill into an Act now with over 60 days to the next election, is the right thing to do and the right path to follow,” he added.
Additionally Yusuf Ali (SAN), expressing the identical view concerning the modification act stated: “The place of the regulation about it isn’t unsure. If the legislators make regulation and ship it to the president or governor because the case could also be for assent and he doesn’t really feel like assenting to it, he sends it again to the legislators. Legislators can do certainly one of two issues; both they only maintain it and overlook about it or they override the president’s veto in the event that they really feel strongly about it.
“There is no sentiment or morality about it; it is strictly a constitutional issue. I don’t see any issue of morality in the amendment. The National Assembly can override the president’s veto if they have the number. It is a constitutional issue. No sentiment.”
Additionally weighing in on the matter, elder statesman, Senator Femi Okurounmu, stated the president had an ulterior motive for declining assent to the electoral act, urging the lawmakers to override his veto. His phrases: “I think the president is up to some kind of mischief by denying assent to the electoral bill. I don’t see how we can have an election without a validly signed electoral bill. If he doesn’t sign it, it means we are going to rely on the old electoral bill for the election with all its inadequacies. I don’t know why the president is afraid of his shadow by not signing it. It means the president want to rig the election.”
Dismissing the president’s argument that the brand new act might create confusion if the INEC applies it to the continued electoral course of, Okurounmu requested: “Why will it lead to confusion, after all, they don’t have to go and procure new equipment. It is all about the operational aspect of the election. If the amendments are good, why can’t we start operating them now? Why must we wait till after his own election before we start the operation?”
Based on him, the INEC has the capability to transmit outcome electronically from any get together of the nation, as there isn’t any a part of Nigeria that doesn’t have cellular community.
He dismissed as unfounded the worry of hackers stepping into the INEC’s server.
“There is always the possibility of hacking in every part of the world. Don’t the Chinese hack? Don’t the Americans hack? It is for the INEC to take precautions that will protect its server from being hacked. We can’t wait until we have a perfect act before we organise our system,” he posited. Nevertheless, the Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Anti-Corruption (PACAC), Prof Itse Sagay (SAN), stated that the Buhari’s determination was so as, noting that the lawmakers blaming the president for withholding his assent have been those that had been “sending him bills with deficiencies of all sorts.”
Sagay additionally took a swipe on the Supreme Courtroom for its judgment on Wike v. Peterside, noting that the judgment was perverse and laid the inspiration for the controversy trailing the Electoral Amendment Invoice.
His phrases: “The people who find themselves sad concerning the President not signing try to put the blame at his door; that isn’t right. They themselves have been sending him payments with deficiencies of all types. That’s primary. Quantity two, the opposite company I blame most for the current state of affairs is the Supreme Courtroom of Nigeria. It’s the Supreme Courtroom, towards the apparent proven fact that the cardboard reader is already a part of Nigerian regulation by means of regulation made by INEC beneath its powers underneath the Electoral Act, that determined to shut its eyes to that reality and to say that the cardboard reader is just not a part of our Electoral Act is completely improper; they usually knew it was flawed.
“Individuals of that erudition and degree of enlightenment and information couldn’t have been mistaken in what they did. The results of that’s that technically, they’ve now eliminated the cardboard reader from being binding a part of Nigerian Electoral regulation. If that perverse judgment had not been given, then we might don’t have anything to fret about as a result of the cardboard reader will mechanically be there despite the fact that there might be no provision for digital transmission of outcomes.
“In the case of Rivers State in 2015, the result was that the card reader registered just over 200, 000 voters but the Supreme Court preferred to accept the bloated and rigged register of voters which registered over one million. So, I lay the blame in the house of the Supreme Court completely. If they didn’t do what they did, which was very wrong and to me one of the worst decisions ever in the history of this country, we will not have the problem we are having now.”
Sagay stated the president had no ulterior motives in refusing to signal the Act, including that Buhari was straight and incapable of partaking in underhand offers.
“Everybody knows Buhari; he is as straight as anyone can be. He is incapable of doing anything underhand. It’s just not his nature. Definitely, there is no negative motive. But you see, he has this reason that the time is too close to introduce a new law, which I accept fully. But beyond that, I as a person want to add something to it and that is that the provision for electronic transmission of results is dangerous for two reasons. One, there are many parts of this country that don’t have network. So, it will not be possible to transmit results electronically from such areas. Secondly, there had been a lot of attempts to hack into INEC data and if we are not careful, they will succeed. That is why I agree with the president that we need to test this law in smaller elections. If we don’t do that, the Card Reader can read one thing, and somebody can obstruct what is being transmitted electronically and insert false figures and we now have a different figure arriving at INEC headquarters and somebody who was not elected would be declared the victor. So, those are the two dangers I see there. I agree that we should use the old law. It’s a pity the Supreme Court decided perversely to say that the card reader is not binding. It is binding and they know that.”
On the decision on the lawmakers to override the president’s veto and cross the invoice into regulation, Sagay emphasised that “they cannot.” He added: “I mean they have a right to do that legally, but that will never happen. A minority cannot override the majority. The PDP is a minority in the Senate and the House of Representatives. So, that’s a practical impossibility. We can discuss it legally and technically, but it will never happen, because they are in the minority and the APC people are determined to vote against any attempt to override the president’s veto.”
Additionally talking, Senator Anthony Adeniyi blamed the opposition political events for the useless controversy.
His phrases: “They are only politicising the issue; there is no controversy about it. If the president signs it now, it cannot be used for the coming election because there is an international agreement that says electoral law must have been promulgated six months before the election. The opposition parties are just making noise about it in order to give Buhari a bad name. Quote me as a senator and as a lawyer, the new amendment bill cannot be used for the coming election unless it has been promulgated six months earlier than now.”