Lawmakers yesterday took steps to repackage the controversial Electoral Act amendment Bill President Muhammadu Buhari rejected.
Members of Senate and House of Representatives committees on Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) held a closed session to reconsider contentious clauses of the rejected Bill.
If the Bill is passed by the two chambers, it will be the fourth time the National Assembly has considered and passed the Electoral Act amendment Bill.
President Buhari vetoed the Electoral Act Amendment Bill 2018 earlier this month, citing drafting issues, which he said were likely to affect the interpretation and application of the Principal Act.
In separate memos to Senate President Bukola Saraki and House of Representatives Speaker Yakubu Dogara, the President said that some of the provisions of the Bill would adversely affect the operations of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) if allowed to pass.
The rejection of the Bill was communicated to the presiding officers of the National Assembly in a September 3, 2018 letter.
Although the use of electronic card readers was not raised by the President in his veto of the Bill, some stakeholders believed that his rejection of the Bill also meant that the card reader will not be used for next year’s general elections.
The Presidency has come up strongly to say that the card reader was not part of what the National Assembly sent to the President for assent.
President Buhari had in March turned down the amendment to the Electoral Law, which altered the sequence of elections.
The amendment placed the National Assembly election first, followed by the presidential election. Governorship and Houses of Assembly elections are to hold last in the order of elections.
Buhari noted that “Section 25 of the principal Act may infringe upon the constitutionally guaranteed discretion of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to organise, undertake and supervise elections provided in Section 15(A) of the third statue to the Constitution”.
The Chairman, Senate Committee on INEC, Senator Suleiman Nazif, who spoke briefly yesterday before the meeting went into a closed door session said: “I know that this committee is in the eye of the storm and Nigerians are desirous and expecting to hear from us.
“Here we are, again, trying to address the Electoral Act for the fourth time. Nigerians will recall that there was a first Electoral Act (amendment bill), the second and the third one.
“And if we pass this one it will be the fourth one. I believe that what we are doing is in the best interest of this country.
“It will address all the fears and we will ensure that we equip INEC with what is necessary and what will ensure free and fair elections in 2019.
“I will not be in a position right now to address the press and I don’t think any member of this committee is in a position to address the press.
“We will have to look at what transpired (concerning the bill) in an executive session and tomorrow by 11am, we will call all press men and we will tell you in detail what transpired and the position this committee has taken.”