Electoral Amendment Bill: Buhari withholding assent makes no sense – Agbakoba
By Dr. Olisa Agbakoba, SAN.
Legal luminary, Dr. Olisa Agbakoba [SAN] has lambasted President Muhammadu Buhari for withholding assent to the Electoral Amendment Bill, saying it makes no sense.
Dr. Agbakoba stated this in a statement he issued and personally signed on Monday and made available to ElombahNews.
The decision of the President to withhold Assent in respect of a Bill to enact a Law to amend the Electoral Act makes no sense. The Final draft Bill considered by NASS, was agreed with the President, precisely to avoid challenges, such as now occurred.
The President states that part of the reason he has withheld Assent is to avoid confusion as to the applicable legal framework for 2019 Elections and the administrative capacity of INEC to cope with the new Electoral Act, as it is all too close to 2019 elections.
We will recall that the major amendment to 2018 Electoral Act relates to electronic technology for the conduct of the 2019 elections.
The 2015 elections were partly conducted by INEC, using smart cards (card readers) but the Supreme Court held that smart cards are not allowed, not been included in the Electoral Act 2010.
The 2015 elections were also partly conducted by INEC using Incident forms; in effect smart cards and Incident Forms were both used to conduct 2015 elections. We will also recall that there was a lot of controversy about the use of Incident Forms as it enabled non accredited persons to vote, questioning the credibility of the elections.
In order to remove constraints that will impact the credibility of future elections, such as 2019, the Electoral Act 2010, was amended by the 2018 Bill, to formalize the legal basis of the Smart Cards which was already in use for elections by INEC anyway.
It will be recalled that the Supreme Court declared use of Smart Cards as contrary to the Electoral Act 2010, so the 2018 amendment is intended to give INEC a legal basis to use Smart Cards and Electronic Technology.
The 2018 Bill also introduced the extremely important procedure of transmitting results of votes from Polling Units by electronic means. Electronic transmission will remove rigging and enhance the credibility of the Vote Count.
INEC says it is familiar with the amendments contained in the 2018 Electoral Bill. INEC has used smart cards at all elections from 2015. INEC has submitted an election budget which provides for Smart Cards and transmission equipment.
The President claims that part of the reason for withholding Assent, is that INEC will not have enough time to become familiar with the 2018 Bill and that a new Act will generate confusion.
This is simply incorrect and flies in the face of INEC’s announcement that it will not use Incident Forms or manual voting in 2019 elections. In other words, INEC is ready to deploy electronic technology for 2019 elections, and only requires that the Electoral Act provides a legal framework.
The 2018 Amendments will help to improve the credibility of our Elections and also give legal basis for INEC to deploy electronic technology in 2019 elections, following doubts cast by the Supreme Court about the legality of the use of card readers because it was not provided in the old Electoral Act of 2010.
I hereby urge the Distinguished and Honourable Members of NASS, to please override Mr. President and enact 2018 Electoral Act.