By Dennis Erezi
Former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and a member of the Coalition of United Political Parties, Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), said Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari lied about his reason for declining assent to the amended electoral bill.
The president refused to assent to the bill on three occasions in 2018. The last time due to ‘drafting errors’ and omission of the use of card readers, his aide on National Assembly matters Ita Enang said in September.
On Friday, December 7, Buhari declined to assent to the bill for the fourth time. He said the electoral processes of 2019 polls may be disrupted if he gives assent to the bill.
Nigeria’s general election is scheduled to hold from February 2019.
However, Agbakoba, said Buhari’s decision to withhold assent was incorrect, claiming the amendment proposed by the bill was targeted at making the 2019 general elections credible with the use of card readers and electronic transmission of election results from the polling units.
“The President claims that part of the reason for withholding assent was 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,” Agbakoba said in a letter to the National Assembly.
“Distinguished and honourable members of NASS, are urged to override Mr President and enact 2018 Electoral Act.”
The lawyer said the President’s claim that the Independent National Electoral Commission was not prepared for the technological innovations proposed by the bill were untrue, as INEC had partly used the card reader in previous elections.
He said, “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 being 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.”
“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,”
He argued that the decline of the Electoral Act would give way to “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 formalise the legal basis of the smart cards which was already in use for elections by INEC anyway.”
Agbakoba said the 2018 electoral act if signed will “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