“It is gratifying to note that the current Bill comes with a great deal of improvement from the previous Electoral Bill 2021. There are salient and praiseworthy provisions that could positively revolutionize elections in Nigeria through the introduction of new technological innovations. These innovations would guarantee the constitutional rights of citizens to vote and to do so effectively.
“The Bill would also improve and engender clarity, effectiveness and transparency of the election process, as well as reduce to the barest minimum incidences of acrimony arising from dissatisfied candidates and political parties.
“These commendable efforts are in line with our policy to bequeath posterity and landmark legal framework that paves the way for credible and sound electoral process that we would all be proud of.”
Expressing his rejection of Section 84 (12) of the new law, President Buhari said, “Distinguished Senators and Honourable Members of the National Assembly, from the review it is my perspective that the substance of the Bill is both reformative and progressive. I am making this bold declaration because I foresee the great potentials of the Bill.
“Worthy of note include the democratic efficacy of the Bill with particular reference to sections 3, 9(2), 34, 41, 47, 84(9), (10) and (11) among others.
“This, however, cannot be said about one provision as contained in the proposed Bill, which provision constitutes fundamental defect, as it is in conflict with extant constitutional provisions.
“Section 84 (12) constitutes a disenfranchisement of serving political office holders from voting or being voted for at Conventions or Congresses of any political party, for the purpose of the nomination of candidates for any election in cases where it holds earlier than 30 days to the National Election,”
Quoting the section, “84(12) No political appointee at any level shall be voting delegate or be voted for at the Convention or Congress of any political party for the purpose of the nomination of candidates for any election,” the President noted it had introduced qualification and disqualification criteria that ultra vires the Constitution by way of importing blanket restriction and disqualification to serving political office holders of which they are constitutionally accorded protection.
“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 restriction 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.
“Arising from the foregoing, with particular regards to the benefits of the Bill, industry, time, resources and energy committed in its passage, I hereby assent to the Bill and request the Nationally Assembly consider immediate amendments that will bring the Bill in tune with constitutionality by way of deleting section 84 (12) accordingly.’’
President Buhari commended the National Assembly for their commitment and dedication to improving the previous Electoral Bill 2021.
Speaking to journalists after the ceremony Chairman of Nigerian Governors Forum and governor of Ekiti state, Dr. Kayode Fayemi commended the President for keeping to his promise to sign the amendment bill into law.
Asked on what impact the new law would bring, he said, “I think it’s a huge relief that this piece of legislation has been finally signed 12 years after the last one.
“The last Electoral Act operating is a 2010 Act. And we must commend the National Assembly, particularly the committees on INEC both in the Senate and the House of Representatives for doing such a yeoman’s job of putting this together, and ensuring that we have a law, that can accord with global standards, and also with the yearnings of the ordinary Nigerians.
“There has been a lot of hullabaloo about this over the last few weeks, even bordering on skepticism that it would not be signed. I’m glad that some of us have been proved right, because we told the media that Mr. President will sign this piece of legislation as soon as the section that he raised concerns about are removed from the legislation, and they’ve been removed, and he’s lived up to that belief that many of us have, because he has always said to Nigerians anyway, that one legacy he would like to leave as he departs office is a credible and fair electoral system. And this will go a long way in making that possible.”