Nigeria: Reps Lament Rejection of Electoral Amendment Bill

12 December 2018

Abuja — President Muhammadu Buhari's letter informing the House of Representatives of his decision to decline assent to the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill, 2018 yesterday aroused deep resentment among members of the Green Chamber.

Buhari had last Friday communicated to the Senate and the House of Representatives his decision on the bill in accordance with the powers vested in him by the 1999 Constitution (as amended).

The senior special assistant to the president on National Assembly Matters, Senator Ita Enang, who briefed State House correspondents on Buhari's position, said that the president acted in line with his powers.

But members of the House yesterday rebuffed the president's decision, saying the All Progressives Congress (APC) government has something up its sleeve, which negates every well-meaning Nigerian's quest for free, fair and credible elections in 2019.

As soon as Speaker of the House, Yakubu Dogara, finished reading the letter from President Buhari, Hon Aliyu Madaki, took the floor and demanded that the issue be thrown open for debate immediately, noting that the president's action is unbecoming.

Madaki noted that the president's refusal to assent to the amendment should not be ignored.

"The letter is so serious that it can't just be ignored. We want free, fair and credible elections. The president's refusal to assent to the bill shows clearly what his intention and that of his party are on the upcoming 2019 elections. We are watching. The whole world is watching. Everybody is watching", he said.

His observation was repeatedly interrupted by shout of "point of order" from the Leader of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, who reminded the lawmakers that it is not the tradition of the House to debate a communication of the president.

Insisting that due process must be followed, Gbajabiamila said, "I have been in this House for 16 years and there has never been a situation where a letter is debated. It is simply a communication. We have never debated a letter. If there is need to debate the president's letter, we table it on the order paper. Several letters have been written by past presidents and none had been debated."

Consequently, Speaker Dogara noted that for the letter to be debated, the rules must be followed.

"I think this matter should be laid to rest. I advise we follow the provisions of the rules", he said.

But the Speaker bowed to pressure from members of the House who kept insisting on debating the letter, saying "let's debate it tomorrow (today).

Meanwhile, another lawmaker, Hon. Ibrahim Muritala representing Matazu/Musawa federal constituency of Katsina State, yesterday announced his decision to dump the ruling APC for the People's Democratic Party (PDP).

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