Electoral Act: Reps Threaten to Override President’s Veto

Electoral Act: Reps Threaten to Override President’s Veto

…Refusal of President to Sign after 30 Days …Several Members will not Return to the Parliament Angered by the outcome of the political parties’ primaries which will see several members of the House of Representatives not returning to the green chamber, there are concerted moves to override President Buhari’s refusal to sign the amended Electoral

…Refusal of President to Sign after 30 Days

…Several Members will not Return to the Parliament

Angered by the outcome of the political parties’ primaries which will see several members of the House of Representatives not returning to the green chamber, there are concerted moves to override President Buhari’s refusal to sign the amended Electoral Act (2022) which has stayed for longer than 30 days with the President.

Refusal of the President to append his signature to a bill is interpreted as a veto in parliamentary language. In the past, where the President had reservations about a bill he intends to sign, he would return the bill with a correspondence to the leadership of the National Assembly pointing out his areas of his reservations.

Proceedings at the House of Representatives on Wednesday shows plans may have been concluded to override the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), on Section 84(8) of the Electoral Act 2022 which seeks to provide for statutory delegates at the meetings, congresses and conventions of political parties.

A formal motion to embark on this route may be moved on Thursday or next week but the debate leading to this was started by two members of the Peoples Democratic Party – the Deputy Minority Leader, Toby Okechukwu and Ben Igbakpa – who failed to get return tickets to the green chamber had protested on the floor of the House about the President’s failure to sign the amendment.

This came on the heels of a speech by the Speaker of the House Rt. Hon. Gbajabiamila at Tuesday’s plenary faulting the way political parties conducted their primaries leading to the failure of members of the National Assembly to get tickets of their respective parties to seek reelection in the 2023 general elections.

The Speaker blamed the non-signing of the bill for the failure of the parties to allow statutory delegates to vote for candidates at the primaries as the National Assembly had proposed in the amendment to Section 84(8) of the Electoral Act 2022.

The National Assembly transmitted the bill to the President for his assent on May 13, 2022 but this was yet to be signed as at June 13, 2022, exactly 30 days after. However,

Leading the debate on Wednesday, Hon Okechukwu said, “I want to take notice regarding the very copious and auspicious comments you (Speaker) made on Tuesday regarding the Electoral Act where, in the circumstances, it has been weaponised; where as a matter of fact, there was an aspiration to make the law a more perfect law to remove every ambiguity; and where there isn’t any material difference between the 2010 Act and that of 2022. And suddenly, the majority of members, where it has been weaponised, have become victims.

“Something is wrong in an environment – in an institution – where the two (Majority and Minority) Leaders of the Senate would have to cross to other parties because of inherent inclement conditions. Anything that occasions it, anything that warrants it, if it is our Electoral Act, if it is our politics, if it is the environment where we operate, we need to retool. And like you said, we have to do better work and we have to fight on.

“For me, it is just a battle that is lost, the war is on and we should go ahead to make sure that that law is retooled, made clear. And if it requires this parliament to take action to override what has not been signed, we should be willing to do so.”

Hon Ben Igbakpa (Delta State) went down memory lane and recalled how the legislators were recalled from recess to quickly consider and pass the amendment to Section 84(8) and it was transmitted to the President for assent.

“Mr President did not just ignore (the amendment bill), he travelled out of the country on a condolence visit to Dubai and that created a lot of problems for the country. There was tension and many of our political parties, out of the tension, created what will now be for us in the 2023-2027 electoral process.

“Nigerians are crying for good leadership and the leadership recruitment process starts with our primaries. You have worked hard and that is why I took us to Section 58 (of the Constitution). We are to make laws and present to Mr President and where he does not sign (a bill into law), that same 58 gives us the powers to make sure that we pass that law without Mr President’s assent.

“There is nowhere in the Constitution that says that one arm of the government is subservient to the other. And that is why we cannot continue to act as if we are under the Executive arm of government.

“This Constitution gave us the powers, just as it gave to them. We must wake up as a parliament. When we pass laws and we are sure that we have done the right thing, we should start overriding Mr. President, because this is just the beginning.

“Today, the NDDC Act is in force because the parliament, which you were part of, did it. Why are we afraid? Mr. President has not committed any offence. What he has done is the rule of law and the Constitution, and I believe by the time we do our own by overriding his veto, we would not have committed any offence. We would be working according to the Constitution and the rule of law.

“I think it is time for us, before some of us leave, if we manage to come back, that this parliament must stamp its feet and tell Nigerians that we are working for them and not for any party or any individual.

“Mr. Speaker, I implore you as a great leader, to please, it is time, if we are sure we have done what is right to the Electoral Act 2022, rise up, take our pens, collect signatures and by the grace of God, override Mr President and give Nigerians the enabling electoral law that will stand the test of time.” he submitted.

Responding, the Speaker listed the conditions under which the lawmakers could override a veto successfully. “Clearly, the Constitution says he has 30 days leeway and we have since gone beyond the 30 days. But the Constitution also says it is not automatic that you override, it is if you are convinced as a House that that amendment must stand. If you are not convinced with the arguments advanced by the president, or in this case there is really no argument advanced, then you can override.

“For us to override, I believe we require two-thirds majority and it cannot be by voice vote neither can it be by way of signatures unless, of course, you have enough two-thirds by signatures what I will suggest is that you bring the application – a formal motion on notice – perhaps tomorrow (Thursday) or whenever you are able to do that and we will determine whether or not this House is ready to override or not.

“I think that is the way to go. That is the proper procedure. I appreciate your comments and I believe you are talking about the provision of statutory delegates which Honourable Toby alluded to earlier. We will go ahead. You can file your motion and hopefully we will be able to list it tomorrow or whenever the calendar permits.” Rt. Hon. Gbajabiamila said.

Ayo Aluko-Olokun

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