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Breaking: APC, PDP Reps Clash Over Unsigned Electoral Bill

                           
The All Progressives Congress members in the House of Representatives and their counterparts in the Peoples Democratic Party on Wednesday traded words over the decision of President Muhammadu Buhari to withhold assent to the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill.

While the APC Caucus of the House of Representatives emerged from a closed-door meeting on Wednesday to back Buhari’s decision with a vow to ensure that the National Assembly’s planned move to override the President’s veto failed, their PDP counterparts said the President’s action was against the interest of the country and they would challenge iThe APC caucus described the bill, which was the fourth version the National Assembly would pass and transmit to the President, as an “imperfect document.

Leader of the caucus and Majority Leader of the House, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila, who addressed journalists in company with other members, argued that the National Assembly could not override Buhari’s veto, especially as the President also pointed out clerical errors in the bill.

We back Buhari, bill is imperfect – APC Reps

Asked about the agenda of the meeting, Gbajabiamila said, “It was a one or two-point agenda. What is in the front and centre right now is the electoral amendment law, which the President has not signed and there are calls for us to veto same. But let me say very quickly: perhaps, a lot of people don’t understand the import and the implication of signing an imperfect document.

“If the document is imperfect and you can read it or interpret it anyhow, or if a clause was removed when it should have been there, then you can’t even override an imperfect document. You have to first of all amend that document and start the process all over again, and send it back to Mr President.”

The lawmaker further argued that even though the President cited the reason for vetoing the bill, the constitution does not compel him to explain his decision.

“Mr President has done well. If you study the constitution very well and if you look at Section 57, it does not oblige him to give any reason for veto. All he has to do is return it and say, ‘I am withholding my assent.’ He doesn’t have to give you any reason. But every time he has done that, he has brought forward cogent and verifiable reasons why he is not signing it.

“On this particular one, I believe the thrust, spirit and the reason why Mr President has refused to sign it, which we identify with, is that every vote must count in Nigeria. We have been mouthing this thing and singing this thing for ages.”

Gbajabiamila recalled that the APC lawmakers had while debating the bill, warned against making electronic accreditation of voters in an election compulsory as the bill intended.

He said, “It forecloses manual registration. When you do that; we were all witnesses to what happened in the last election; even the sitting president could not be accredited. So, what Mr President has done is to protect everybody in Nigeria.

“Yes, do your electronic accreditation but make room for the possibility – and a very strong possibility too – where such will not work. It is something that happens every day in the banks. Jammers can even be brought in to jam it. Millions will be disenfranchised and you and I don’t want that.”

Gbajabiamila also cited the Economic Community of West African States protocol “that everybody has been talking” about as worthy of consideration.

He said, “I think the National Assembly should perfect the document and send it back, Mr. President will sign it. There is no question about it. That is our position. Punctuation, a dot or a line can change the meaning of a provision in a law. Just a single ‘coma’ can change the meaning and make it ambiguous. We don’t want that.”

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