Wednesday, 22 December 2021

Senators Gather Signatures To Override Buhari's Rejection Of Electoral Bill


Senators on Tuesday commenced moves to override President Muhammadu Buhari on the Electoral Act Amendment Bill with the collection of signatures, it was gathered last night. 

Twice, the senators went into executive sessions that lasted for about two hours on Tuesday. 

It was reliably gathered from the lawmakers that the move to override the president was hatched during the second session. 

A cross-section of senators who attended the sessions said the passage of the  2022 appropriation bill earlier scheduled for Tuesday was suspended, as many of the lawmakers insisted on overriding the president before the passage of the fiscal document. 

But there are doubts in many quarters as to whether the senators would succeed in the move to have their way considering that President Buhari enjoys enormous support from many legislators and an undiluted loyalty from the leadership of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

Buhari had in a letter to the National Assembly, dated December 13, 2021, titled ‘Withholding of assent to Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill 2021’ withheld his assent to the Electoral Act Amendment Bill, citing economic, security, and legal issues.

While faulting the removal of indirect primaries as contained in Section 87 of the Electoral Act 2010, Buhari said the amendment as proposed violated the underlying spirit of democracy, which is characterised by freedom of choice.

The president also said the amendment would also stifle smaller parties without the enormous resources required to mobilise all their members for the primaries. This, he said was not healthy for the sustenance of multi-party democracy in Nigeria.


Strength of lawmakers

Section 58 (5) of the 1999 Constitution empowers lawmakers to override the president. 

It reads; “Where the President withholds his assent and the bill is again passed by each House by a two-thirds majority, the bill shall become law and the assent of the President shall not be required.”

During the plenary yesterday, many senators said reasons advanced by the president did not hold water, saying refusing to assent to the bill amounted to rejecting the will of the people. 

Midway into the session, the Senate dissolved into executive session following a point of order by Senator George Sekibo (PDP, Rivers).

 Sekibo said the Senate needed to discuss the president’s decision to withhold assent to the much-awaited bill before passing the 2022 budget. 

The closed session, which commenced at 1.57 pm, lasted for about 40 minutes. 

Several senators confirmed that signatures were collected in the chamber to get the buy-in of lawmakers to override the president’s veto. 

Sekibo, after the Senate adjourned sitting to Wednesday, said: “By law, we have the power to override him (Buhari). That is what Section 58 (4 & 5) of the constitution said. 

“We have collected signatures, about 73, to override the veto and it cuts across party lines.” 

A ranking lawmaker, who corroborated Sekibo’s claims, said there was a groundswell of support to override the president. 

“We are praying that it is going to happen tomorrow (today). We just signed up, everybody wanted it, today alone, 78 senators signed, but then they started throwing spanner in the works because at first the Senate president, he is full of pretence, he pretended that he believes in it then all of a sudden he asked for a private audience and suspended plenary and then he left,” the senator said.

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