…Says New Law Returns Power to the People …Hints that the Need for the National Assembly to Reconsider an Amendment to Section 84(12) is Compelling …Views Dissenting Voices as Echoes of Anarchy
Erstwhile National Publicity Secretary of the defunct New People’s Democratic Party (nPDP), Chief Eze Chukwuemeka Eze has described as worthy of commendation, President Muhammadu Buhari’s assent to the Electoral (Act) Amendment Bill, passed by the National Assembly to engender transparency and reduce incidences of fraud and malpractices in Nigeria’s electoral process as the country gears up for a charged campaign season ahead of the 2023 elections.
In a statement made available to media houses in Port Harcourt, the Chieftain of the All Progressives Congress said with the touch of technology and innovation brought into the amended Act, there are bound to be significant improvements in election and electioneering processes in the country adding that the Nigerian Lawmakers deserve some accolades (not all kudos though) for their efforts in ensuring that the amended Act gets the necessary legislative backing.
“Members of the National Assembly also deserve commendations for being responsive in this matter and delivering an Electoral Act that takes power back to the people by arming them with the necessary tools to make choices at the polls with consequential effects.”
Speaking on innovations in the amended Act, Chief Eze said aside giving legal backing to the deployment and use of electronic card readers for voting and transmission of results for collation, the new law gives the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) more decision-making powers and particularly sets aside early funding for it to avoid the technical and logistic lags that are peculiar to the Commission during elections.
The party chieftain however joined President Buhari to frown at the content of Section 84(12) which bars political appointees from participating either as aspirants or as voting delegates in their parties’ Primaries to choose who bears their party’s flag in the elections.
Describing the said section as grossly inconsistent with the provision of the Nigerian constitution, Eze reminded Nigerian Lawmakers that the constitution is the ‘fons et origo’ – the origin and source from whence every other law (including the amended electoral act) derive their validity.
According to him, “the constitution is express and clear in situations of this nature when it stated in Section 1(3) that “if any other law is inconsistent with the provisions of this constitution, this constitution shall prevail and that other law shall to the extent of its inconsistency be void.” Section 84(12) of the amended law is inconsistent with the Nigerian constitution to the extent that it prohibits political appointees from participating in the internal electoral processes of the parties to which they belong.
Recall that while assenting to the bill, President Mohammadu Buhari made his reservations about the controversial section 84(12) and called for quick amendment to settle the controversy. According to the President, …“the practical application of section 84(12) of the Electoral Bill, 2022 will, if assented to, by operation of law, subject serving political office holders to inhibitions and restrictions referred to under section 40 and 42 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended). It is imperative to note that the only constitutional expectation placed on serving political office holders that qualify, by extension, as public officers within the context of the constitution is resignation, withdrawal or retirement at least 30 days before the date of the election. Hence, it will be stretching things beyond the constitutional limit to import extraneous restrictions into the constitution on account of practical application of section 84(12) of the bill where political parties’ conventions and congresses were to hold earlier than 30 days to the election.”
Expressing confidence that the National Assembly will heed the call from all quarters to quickly reconsider an amendment to settle the conflict triggered between the Nigerian constitution and the amended Electoral Act, Eze called on President Muhammadu Buhari to think the way of making a new request through an Executive Bill to the National Assembly for an alteration of Section 84(12), noting that failure to alter the conflicting section might breed distrust between the executive and the National Assembly going forward and that could negatively impact future bills because the Lawmakers agreed to an amendment before the President assented to the bill.
He commended Nigerians for their patients with the President during the pendency of the amendment noting that Nigerians are the winners as the President through his assent has returned power back to the real owners; the Nigerian people.
He said those opposing the totality of the reform in the new electoral law are perpetrators of electoral fraud and should be watched closely.