The Network of Civil Society Organisations of Nigeria (NCSON) has raised concern over the non-assent to the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill by President Muhammadu Buhari, saying it was ominous.
The National Coordinator of the group, Mr Kalu Victor, told News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja that the amendments were corrections of some challenges identified in the 2015 elections.
While appreciating Buhari’s concerns over the bill, Victor said, “in view of the importance of the bill, particularly for the success of the 2019 general elections, the concerns could have been resolved and the bill signed.
“This is a danger to democracy. For instance, the president was complaining about the amount, but even his own party is selling Expression of Interest form, Nomination form and other forms is high.
“If he had signed the bill that would have been resolved. Besides that, there are many provisions in the bill that would be beneficial to the 2019 elections and sustenance of democracy.
“Unfortunately, it has been rejected three times and this is not good for our democracy.
“This is not about any individual but about the interest of Nigerians,” he said.
Victor called on the federal legislature to override the president’s veto in the interest of the country.
He said, “Our position as a group is that the National Assembly should override the president’s veto.
“I know the reason the National Assembly has been foot-dragging on overriding the president’s veto on some crucial bills he declined assent to; it is the respect they have for him.
“They are also being careful in doing that so that those who do not understand it will not misinterpret their actions.
“But for us, especially for the sake of our democracy, they should override his veto.”
NAN reports that the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill, 2018, when signed, would among other things, prohibit political parties from imposing arbitrary fees on political aspirants.
The bill prescribes limits for each elective office and they include N150, 000 for Ward Councillorship aspirant in Federal Capital Territory (FCT), N250, 000 for an Area Council Chairmanship
aspirant in the FCT.
House of Assembly aspirant is N500, 000; N1 million for House of Representatives aspirant, N2million for a senatorial aspirant, N5 million for governorship aspirant and N10 million for presidential.
The bill also seeks to ensure that the use of the smart card reader and other technological devices in elections are legalised.
It also seeks to provide solution to a situation where a candidate dies before being declared winner as was the case in Kogi in 2015.
Furthermore, the bill seeks to create additional observation privileges for polling agents and accredited observers, by allowing inspection of election materials.
In addition, it allows written and audio-visual recordings of inspections by polling agents before commencement of elections.
The bill seeks to ensure that political parties seeking to
nominate candidates for elections hold either direct or indirect primaries for aspirants to all elective positions.
The president had on Sept. 3, declined assent to the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill, 2018, transmitted to him by the national assembly on Aug. 3, for the third time.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Sen. Ita Enang, had disclosed this in a statement in Abuja.
He said the president declined assent to the bill due to some drafting issues and the period fixed for primaries among others.
Enang had in August, clarified that the bill, as forwarded to the president, was alive and awaiting assent.
He gave the clarification against the backdrop of a newspaper report that Buhari had again vetoed the bill forwarded to him for assent.
Enang had said that the vetoed bill was the one sent to the president on June 27 and not the one passed by both chambers of the National Assembly on July 24, the day it embarked on annual recess.
NAN reports that besides the vetoed version of the 2018 electoral bill forwarded to the President on June 27 and vetoed on July 26, he had earlier rejected the first amendment bill in February, for assent.
NAN further reports that following the July 26 veto, the Court of Appeal on Aug. 1, nullified the April 25 judgment of the Federal High Court, which struck out the National Assembly’s election re-ordering provision of the bill.