Eight days after President Muhammadu Buhari assented to the Electoral Act 2022, the National Assembly has begun the process of amending the legislation, which has divided Nigerians. President Muhammadu Buhari had written to the Senate to amend the newly signed act.
The President, in a letter addressed to Senate President Ahmad Lawan, and read at plenary yesterday, demanded the federal lawmakers delete Section 84 (12) outright.
The letter reads: “I write to draw your kind attention to some salient issues contained in the act and to seek your immediate legislative action thereon. I have carefully studied the recently assented electoral act amendment 2022 and must admit that there are positive provisions that could revolutionalise election process in Nigeria, particularly through the introduction of technology that will guarantee the constitutional rights of citizens to vote effectively.
He, however, added that the practical application of section 84(12) “subjects serving political office holders to inhibitions referred to under Section 40 and 42 of the 1999 Constitution, as it is imperative to note that the only constitutional expectation from 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, as provided in Section 6(1)(f) of the 1999 Constitution.”
The contentious issue, which the President seeks an amendment, bars political appointees from voting or standing for election in conventions and primaries unless they resigned about 180 days earlier. The provision has continued to divide Nigerians, who are either supporting President Muhammadu Buhari’s call for its amendment or insisting it must be retained.
While majority of Nigerians believe that retaining the provision gives all candidates level playing grounds such that politicians would not use their aides for their advantages during primaries, a few others, like the renowned legal scholar, Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN), are throwing their weight behind the president.
Sagay said: “I agree entirely with the President, because what happened, at least, to my knowledge, was that the bill was first sent to the President containing provision for direct primaries, which he found obnoxious, because it will be difficult to execute and all sorts of constitutional conundrums.
“So, he objected to it and said if they could remove it, he would sign the bill. Now, the lawmakers did something they are very fond of, always looking for some personal advantage when carrying out responsibilities to this country.