Senior Special Assistant to the President, Ita Enang, said the president refused to sign the electoral bill because he needed to act in the best interest of the nation.
Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
As mixed reactions continue to trail President Muhammadu Buhari’s refusal to sign the Electoral Amendment Bill into law, the Presidency has explained that he took the decision because doing otherwise may cause confusion and lead to anarchy.
Speaking yesterday on a television programme, Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Ita Enang, said the president did not consult the other 91 political parties before refusing to sign the electoral bill because he needed to act in the best interest of the nation. According to him, “now, let me get to the other issue that Mr. President alluded to, in not assenting to the bill. It is getting too close to election time and it will be dangerous to bring in a new electoral law at this time when the process of election had commenced from August, September, October this year.
“If you come to conclusion under a new law, it will cause confusion and may lead to anarchy. I think that what the president is to do is to take the best of discretion and from his vantage point as president of the country, to look at international best practices.”
Various political parties and public interest groups had criticised the President for refusing to sign the bill. The presidential candidate of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN), Obiageli Ezekwesili, described Buhari’s rejection of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill as an assault on the country’s democracy.
Also, the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, urged President Buhari to sign the Electoral Act Amendment Bill into law.
Meanwhile, the All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship candidate for Enugu State, Senator Ayogu Eze, has commended President Muhammadu for declining to sign the Electoral Amendment Bill, arguing that its signing would create confusion in the country’s legal system.
Eze, who represented Enugu North in the Senate twice, insisted that denying assent to the Bill was in the interest of the nation, as whatever it sought to achieve had already been addressed in other areas, either administratively or legally. Speaking to newsmen at the APC national secretariat in Abuja yesterday, the senator said he was shocked that some people had even expected the law to take effect from the 2019 general elections.
His words: “I chose to speak with you about the vexed issue of the 2018 Electoral Act amendment
in the National Assembly which Mr. President in his wisdom declined to assent to. I want to let you know that as a legislator myself and as a man that is very familiar with the terrain of law making and due process, I want to say categorically that I stand with Mr. President on his decision not to assent to that law.
“Number one, the President’s view is that, signing the law and keeping it in the locker could create a lot of confusion because after every election there will always be litigations, going by the Nigerian standard and you cannot know who will go and pull out a law that is not in operation and then begin to cite it and create confusion in our legal system.
“For the avoidance of doubt, nobody would have expected that even if the President signed that law, it would have governed the 2019 elections because by the time it was passed, electoral process was already at foot. Everything has already started; the parties had selected their candidates, candidates have been identified and confirmed by INEC.
“So you cannot change the rule of the game while the game is in progress. You cannot be playing football and suddenly you stop the football at half time and introduce a new set of rules that govern football game. That is exactly what has happened.
“I was really surprised that Nigerians were expecting that that law, which was passed after this process has started, is going to be applied to this election. That would have been an aberration. What are you going to tell the political parties, which have already selected their candidates? By the provisions of the constitution to which the Electoral Act is … there is specific number of days, which the process of preparing and selecting candidates must commence and that process has already commenced. So it would have been hypocritical on the part of anybody to expect that that particular Electoral Act would apply to this election.”