Electoral Act amendment bill: Senate backs down on overriding Buhari, refers bill to constituents.
THE Senate on Wednesday failed to override the veto of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), on the Electoral Act Amendment bill.
The President of the Senate, Dr Ahmad Lawan, after an executive session, said the lawmakers had decided to take the President’s rejection of the bill to their constituencies during Christmas and New Year holidays before deciding on the next line of action.
Buhari had withheld assent to the Electoral Act amendment bill 2021, insisting that the inclusion of the mandatory direct primaries in the bill might pose financial, legal and security challenges.
While the House of Representatives led by Femi Gabajabiamila had resolved to debate the matter after they returned from recess in January, the Senate remained adamant even as 73 senators reportedly resolved to override the President’s veto.
It was learnt that the leadership of the House was waiting on the Senate to override the President’s veto and then the Reps would follow suit. This information, it was learnt, had been communicated to Lawan.
Aware of the plan to override the President’s veto, several governors of the All Progressives Congress relocated to Abuja and began lobbying Lawan and some other influential lawmakers.
A top source said, “Many APC governors relocated to Abuja over this matter. The lobbying was led by Governor Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti) and Atiku Bagudu (Kebbi), Lawan assured them that the President would not be embarrassed.”
At plenary on Wednesday, Lawan said the chamber would consult with the House of Representatives on how to respond to the President’s decision to veto the bill.
Lawan made this known after the Senate emerged from an executive (closed-door) session to deliberate on the President’s decision to withhold assent to the electoral bill passed by the National Assembly.
He noted that the provisions of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) do not permit the chamber to exclusively take any action on overriding a Presidential veto in the absence of the House.
Lawan stated that a joint position would be reached with the House after due consultation with Nigerians to determine the appropriate line of action, after both chambers reconvene from the Christmas and New Year break.
We will consult our constituents during recess, they have a role to play, says Lawan
Speaking on what transpired in the closed session, Lawan said, “The Senate, in a closed session, deliberated on matters relevant to the workings of the Senate in particular and the National Assembly in general. The Senate, also in the closed session, discussed how to respond to the letter from Mr. President on the electoral bill amendment.
“The Senate consequently resolved to consult with the House of Representatives in January when both the Senate and House will be in session.
“Presently, the House of Reps has gone or recess and like we all know, the constitutional provision is for the Senate and House of Representatives to jointly take the appropriate action.
“The Senate also resolved to consult with our constituents during our recess in January. The Senate believes that our constituents have a role to play as the major stakeholders in the laws that we make in the National Assembly.”
But a top member of the House told The PUNCH that Lawan was only being clever, adding that the House had informed him that the Senate could go ahead to override the veto.
“Lawan was only being clever. We had informed him that once the Senate overrides the President’s veto, we would concur. This is how we passed the bill in the first place. He was the one who scuttled this bill,” the lawmaker who wished to remain anonymous said.
However, it was learnt that the National Assembly may not go ahead with the plan to amend the Electoral Act.
A lawmaker told The PUNCH that in the letter written to the National Assembly by the President, the lawmakers were not advised to send an amended version.
He said the President had shown time and again that he had no problem with the Electoral Act 2015 and so the lawmakers would stop embarrassing themselves.