Despite pledges to Buhari, House moves to block removal of section of electoral law

Festus Akanbi in Lagos

There are strong indications that the leadership of the House of Representatives has initiated comeback maneuvers to block the removal of Section 84(12) of the Election Law of 2022, despite pledges made to President Muhammadu Buhari by the federal legislators in an executive-legislative election. agreement in order to avoid a presidential veto on the electoral law, THISDAY’s investigation revealed

Before Buhari signed the bill on Feb. 25, 2022, he reportedly struck a deal with the Senate and House of Representatives for lawmakers to strike down the controversial section 84(12) of the law that barred government appointees federal government of their constitutional rights to vote and be elected prior to political party primaries.

The section states: “No politically appointed person at any level shall be a voting delegate or be elected to any convention or congress of any political party for the nomination of candidates for election.”
THISDAY gathered that after Buhari signed the new law, the Speaker of the House, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila gives in to pressure from some presidential candidates to block him.

However, it has been learned that the Senate is considering the president’s request to remove the unconstitutional clause.
A member of the House of Representatives, who opposes his colleagues’ attempts to block him, told THISDAY that the agreement reached between Buhari and the House leadership was a standard deal that should be kept.

“When an agreement is reached, it must be kept. Before the president signed the electoral law, they agreed to remove this clause, but now politics has entered it. The House leadership bows to pressure from presidential candidates.

“We heard that Gbajabiamila wants to be Governor of Lagos State. So they don’t want to remove the controversial article from the law. So while the Senate is considering removing it, the House can block it,” he explained.
While approving the Electoral Law 2010 (Amendment) Bill at the Presidential Villa in Abuja, the President had highlighted sections of the new law that would revolutionize the electoral system in the country, but expressed reservations on section 84 (12).

In the accompanying letter to the National Assembly, where he expressed his reservations about the new law and also asked lawmakers to remove the unconstitutional article, Buhari drew their attention to the provisions of Article 84. (12), which he argues constitutes a “defect” that conflicts with existing constitutional provisions.
The President wrote: “I am writing to you regarding the recent assent to the Elections (Amendment) Act 2022, and to draw your kind attention to certain salient matters contained in the Act and to seek your immediate legislative action thereon.

“I have carefully studied the contents of the recently assented to Election (Amendment) Act 2022; I have to admit that there are positive provisions that could revolutionize the electoral process in Nigeria, including the introduction of new technological innovations which, in turn, will guarantee the constitutional rights of citizens to vote and to do so effectively.

“The recently assented electoral law has improved and engendered the clarity, efficiency and transparency of the electoral process, as well as reduced instances of acrimony from disgruntled candidates and political parties to a bare minimum.

“I therefore salute the legislative wisdom of the National Assembly which is in line with our policy of bequeathing Nigerians and posterity, a historic legal framework which paves the way for a credible electoral process of which we would all be proud.”

Buhari added, “I would, however, like to draw your attention to the provisions of Section 84 (12) of the Act, which in my view constitute a fundamental flaw as they are in direct conflict with the existing constitutional provisions.
“Section 84 (12) of the Act disqualifies incumbent political office holders from voting or being elected at conventions or congresses of any political party, for the nomination of candidates for any election in cases where it is held earlier than 30 days for the election.
“This provision introduced qualification and disqualification criteria that are ultra vires the Constitution by imposing a blanket restriction and disqualification on incumbent political office holders from whom they enjoy constitutional protection.
“The practical application of Section 84(12) of the Electoral (Amendment) Act 2022 is to subject incumbent political office holders to the inhibitions and restrictions referred to in Sections 40 and 42 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
“It is imperative to note that the only constitutional expectation imposed on incumbent political office holders who qualify, by extension, as public officers within the context of the Constitution is resignation, removal or retirement at least 30 days before the date of the election, as provided for in Article 66(1)(f) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), among others.
“Therefore, it will extend beyond the constitutional limit to import foreign restrictions into the Constitution due to the practical application of section 84 (12) of the Act where conventions and congresses of political parties were to be held earlier than 30 days before the election.”
Buhari said, “Following the above, I request the National Assembly to consider immediate amendments that will bring the law into conformity with the Constitution by deleting Article 84 (12) accordingly.”