JUST IN: Reps Seek Override of President’s Veto On Amended Electoral Act

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The House of Representatives, yesterday charged the parliament to override President Muhammadu Buhari’s veto on the amendment the  Section 84 (8) of the Electoral Act.

This was sequel to a point of order raised by a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) member from Delta State, Ben Igbakpa, calling the attention of the House to the failure of the president to assent to amendment over 30 days after it was transmitted to him.

The House had on May 11  altered Section 84( 8) of the Electoral Act to make provision for statutory delegates in political parties primaries to nominate candidates for the 2023 polls. However, the president did not sign the amendment, and is yet to communicate to the House on the bill.

The current version, which was assented to by the president in February, prevented statutory delegates from taking part in party primaries.

The House while on recess convened an emergency session to amend Section 84 (8) of the Electoral Act 2022.

Lawmakers, governors, Ministers, the president among others could not participate during the just concluded party primaries as statutory delegates were not allowed. This was not unconnected with the president’s refusal to sign the amended 2022 Electoral Act.

On Monday, Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila blamed the ad-hoc delegates system used for the conduct of political parties primaries for the loss of many members at the primaries.

However, Igbakpa, while addressing the House, said since the president has failed to assent to the bill within the 30 days window provided by the constitution, the appropriate thing is for the parliament to override him.

“There’s nowhere it is said that one arm of government is subservient to the other…And that is why we cannot continue to act as if we are under the executive arm of government. This Constitution gave us the powers just as it gave to them.

“We must wake up as a parliamentarians. Where we pass our law and we are sure we have done the right thing we should start overriding Mr. President because this is just the beginning. Today NDDC Act is enforced because the parliament which you are part of did it. What are we afraid of?”

Similarly, Deputy Minority Leader, Toby Okechukwu, implored the House to activate the relevant constitutional provision and over ride the president.

The speaker, in his ruling, charged the lawmakers to come up with a motion on the override today. He noted that the parliament needs two-third majority to override the President on any bill.

“Clearly the Constitution says it is 30 days leeway and we have gone beyond the 30 days. But the Constitution also says that it is not automatic that you override. If you are not convinced with the argument advanced by the president or in some cases and in this case, there is no arguments advanced, then you can override. But for us to override, I believe the required two-thirds and it cannot be by voice votes neither can it be by way of signatures unless of course you gave enough signatures by two-thirds.”

In another motion by Benjamin Kalu, the House urged the Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC), to extend the voter registration by 60 days.

The Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) exercise is scheduled to end on June 30.

The House urged INEC to extend the voters registration deadline by an extra 60 days to enable as many Nigerians as possible to register.

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Kalu said the decision to suspend the voters’ registration was in line with the provisions of the Electoral Act, 2022, which required INEC to suspend voters’ registration at least 60 days before an election.

He said in April, INEC declared that about 42 per cent of the voter registrations recorded since the commencement of CVR on 28 June, 2021, were invalid with about 20 million unclaimed Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs)

Kalu also said the large number of unregistered eligible voters willing to be registered as evidenced by crowd seen at various registration centres had resulted in congestion.

He expressed concern due to reports of shortages of voter registration machines, inadequate manpower and personnel at registration centres.

According to him, this may lead to frustration among prospective registrants, and in some cases, unrest at some registration centres.

He said the right to vote was critically important to the health and legitimacy of the country’s democracy, as well as electoral integrity.

Kalu stated that if nothing was done to improve the shortage of voter registration equipment, and extend the deadline for voters registration, millions of Nigerians would be disenfranchised, which would jeopardise the integrity of the 2023 general elections.

The House, therefore mandated the Committee on Electoral Matters to engage INEC in order to examine and proffer solutions to the shortage of registration machines and manpower.

He added that INEC should also deploy an additional 30 voters registration machines in each local government area, train and deploy ad-hoc staff to improve the shortage of manpower at registration centres.

He added that security should also be provided for the ad hoc staff and report back within two weeks.

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