Agbakoba Writes Buhari, Demands Assent to 2018 Electoral Act Amendment Bill

Olisa Agbakoba
  • Laments threat to use of card readers Says bill will help INEC function effectively

Gboyega Akinsanmi

Concerned about the credibility of the 2019 general election, former President of Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Mr. Olisa Agbakoba (SAN) Wednesday asked President Muhammadu Buhari to endorse the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill, 2018 in demonstration of his commitment to transparent electoral process.

Agbakoba, Convener of Nigeria Intervention Movement (NIM) and National Chairman of People’s Trust, lamented that failing to sign the bill would pose threat to the mandatory use of card readers and electronic transmission of results designed to make the 2019 elections more credible and transparent.

Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill was passed for the fourth time on October 23 by the Senate and transmitted for assent on November 8, was being looked into.

In view of the 30 days window from the day of transmission within which the president can consider or withhold assent, there has been cause for concern over the bill.

Earlier, the president had withheld assent to the bill, citing the failure of the federal legislators to effect the earlier observations he asked them to review. Consequently, the National Assembly had reviewed and transmitted to the president for assent.

About three months to the 2019 elections, the president has not signed the bill into law, thereby stoking anxiety and concern in the rank of the opposition parties and civil society organisations (CSOs) about Buhari’s commitment to credible and transparent polls.

Last week, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Senator Ita Enang, revealed that the bill was receiving due presidential attention.

But Agbakoba in a two-page letter he addressed to the president yesterday, expressed grave concern that the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill “has not been signed into law three months to the general election in spite of the fact that it has long been transmitted by the National Assembly.”

On this account, Agbakoba personally wrote Buhari yesterday, demanding the need to sign the bill without any delay and citing diverse implications his refusal to endorse it would have on the capacity of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct credible and transparent elections.

The letter, which is titled, “Please Sign the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill 2018,” read in part: “The Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill 2018 is the legal regime for the 2019 election. It is therefore important that every person is familiar with its provisions.

“If you recall, the late signing of the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill 2015 created so much confusion and resulted in widespread electoral malpractices. If you also recall, the late signing resulted in conflicting decisions in the courts, especially on the use of card readers.

“The Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill 2018 was passed by the National Assembly to address all the challenges created by the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill 2015. It is therefore important that you sign into law, the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill 2018.”

Specifically, the letter pointed out the strength of the bill if signed into law, noting that the new electoral regime would enable the INEC, political parties and the courts, among others discharge their responsibilities effectively.