The Senator representing Abia South Senatorial District Sen. Enyinnaya Abaribe has decried the reluctance of the President Muhammadu Buhari to append his signature to the amended electoral bill. He expressed that this was a deliberate ploy so as to avoid the use of card readers in order to rig the forthcoming elections.
Sen. Abaribe stated this while featuring on current affairs programme on Channels television Sunrise Daily. The Senator noted that the allegation of ‘impurities’, timing and other issues raised are mere pretensions and that the presidency is only afraid of using card readers in the coming elections. He further criticized the presidency for thinking on behalf of INEC to raise criticisms of the amended bill as per what can be done and what cannot be done as regards the electoral process.
Earlier, the Special Adviser to the President on National Assembly matters, Sen. Ita Enang defended the President’s refusal to accent the bill based on the “impurities” and typographical errors that were evident in the submitted bill. He further explained that the President does not have the right to correct anything on the bill and such bill has to go back to the legislature where it is meant to be corrected.
Sighting some examples, Sen Ita Enang noted, “When you look at the bill, Mr President is saying, there is a cross referencing error in the proposed amendment to the session 18 of the bill. The appropriate amendment is to substitute the existing subsection 2 with the proposed subsection 1a while the proposed subsection 1b is the new subsection 2a.
In the bill transmitted to the President on the 3rd of August, Section 18 subsection 1a says “If the Electoral Officer or any other officer is satisfied as to the circumstances of the lost, destruction, defacement, or damage of the voter’s card, he shall issue to the voter a replacement permanent voters card. No person shall issue a replacement to any voter, on polling day or less than 30 days before the polling.
‘What the president is saying is instead of deleting subsection 3 of the bill. What the bill now does is to create subsection 2 (1a), (1b) and then allow subsection 3 to remain, whereas there ought to be a repeal or deletion of that section and in the statement that I issued, I made that very clear.”
Sen. Abaribe in his reaction traced the historical antecedent of the development to the President’s refusal to sign the amended version in the electoral bill on the basis of the sequence of election. Following the furore that the development generated the National Assembly members only removed the controversial sequence aspect of the bill and returned it to the President.
Aacording to him, “The senate does not have a problem with the President’s disagreement with some aspect of the bill. Our job is to see that those areas that you have objected to are cleaned up. The law as it is today does not have any time stipulation and the only time stipulation is 30 days to the election period, we can still pass a law that INEC must use.”
‘The essence of this whole thing dates back to the last election. In the last election, the court held that the use of electronic card readers is not in the law and because it is not in the law, what we need to do is to put it in. Our own speculation is that there is an attempt not to ensure that it (the use of card reader) is in the law, because we are trying to correct a huge problem that was pointed out by the Supreme Court. He also speculated that when this bill is ‘cleaned up’ and sent to the presidency, it will also be sent back to the house.
This he opined is because the presidency does not want the electoral act to be amended to accommodate the use of card readers. According to him “if you go to INEC today and ask INEC what did the card readers say for the Kano election, you find out that it is not up to 900,000. Yet, what was returned in Kano was 1.9 million votes. That is what we want to clean up. We don’t want anybody who will win election by means that are not electronic as we have set.”
Report by Victor Alagogooko for IbadanCity ANNOUNCER