Nigeria: Electoral Act Amendment Request – Govt to Consider All Options Available – Malami

The Federal Government said yesterday it was yet to take any position on the Senate’s refusal to consider the request by President Muhammadu Buhari to delete section 84 (12) of the Electoral Act, 2022.

The government also said it would exploit all necessary options relating to the Act.

But the Senate in a swift reaction, said it was not using removal of the section as a political weapon against appointees, dismissing insinuation of intending to trade with the issue.

Recall that President Buhari had drawn the attention of the leadership of the National Assembly to Section 84 (12) of the Electoral Act 2022 and requested that the section be deleted through a process of amendment.

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Section 84 (12) stated: “No political appointee at any level shall be voting delegate or be voted for at the Convention or Congress of any political party for the purpose of the nomination of candidates for any election.”

The President noted the section had introduced qualification and disqualification criteria that ultra vires the constitution by way of importing blanket restriction and disqualification to serving political office holders of which they were constitutionally accorded protection.

While rejecting the section, President Buhari had said: “The practical application of section 84(12) of the Electoral Bill, 2022 will, if assented to, by operation of law, subject serving political office holders to inhibitions and restrictions referred to under section 40 and 42 of the 1999 Constitution as amended.

“It is imperative to note that the only constitutional expectation placed on serving political office holders that qualify, by extension as public officers within the context of the constitution is resignation, withdrawal or retirement at least 30 days before the date of the election.

“Hence, it will be stretching things beyond the constitutional limit to import extraneous restriction into the constitution on account of practical application of section 84(12) of the bill where political parties’ conventions and congresses were to hold earlier than 30 days to the election.

“Arising from the foregoing, with particular regards to the benefits of the Bill, industry, time, resources and energy committed in its passage, I hereby assent to the Bill and request the Nationally Assembly consider immediate amendments that will bring the Bill in tune with constitutionality by way of deleting section 84 (12) accordingly.”

Fielding questions from State House correspondents during briefing at the end of the virtual Federal Executive Council, FEC, meeting presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo at the Council Chamber, Presidential Villa, Abuja, yesterday, the Attorney General of the Federation, AGF, and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, stated that options available to the government included making a request/demand for the National Assembly to amend the contentious section of the Electoral Act, judicial option, which is approaching the court or accepting the law as it is.

Malami said it was the responsibility of the lawmakers to legislate, adding that if it became necessary, the Federal Government would exploit all the options available to it.

He, however, said the government was yet to take a conclusive stand as to what it would do on the matter.

“The government has a lot of options to consider and exploit: One of the options is to demand the National Assembly to consider. The other option is to look at the law within the context and spirit of the law and see what it can do.

“No position has been conclusively taken on the part of the government. The government is reviewing, the government is looking and the government will come up with a position at the appropriate time. If the need for further action is required.

“If there is no further need for such action, the government will take it as presented. But no position has been taken by the government as of today with particular regard as to what needs to be done on the part of the executive arising from the provisions of the electoral act in the respect which issues conflict to the Constitution were raised,” Malami said.”Also speaking on the extradition request by the United States government on DCP Abba Kyari, Malami lamented that there had been a misconception on the issue, arguing that the request was still being processed.

He regretted what he called the misunderstanding created around the issue by the media, urging them to get a grip of the facts to avoid creating confusion.

He said: “Starting with the issue of Abba Kyari as raised, maybe by way of an insight as to the workings of the Office of the Attorney General and Federal Ministry of Justice, we need to understand that it is not and has never been part of the functions and duties of the office of the attorney to conduct investigation.

“So, generally speaking, when issues are raised that have some criminal undertones, the responsibility of the office of the attorney general is to refer same to the relevant agencies of government that are saddle with the responsibility of investigation, inclusive, or perhaps police, ICPC, EFCC, among others.

“So with that in mind, during the course of the investigation, there is naturally correspondence and exchange of mutual correspondence between the offices.

“Fundamentally, after the investigation were deposited to the Office of the Attorney General, Attorney General, it will review same to see whether there is need for enhancement of investigation as it relates to certain key elements of the offense.

“So it is from this background perspectives that you will need to consider what fully transpired in the case of Abba Kyari. Allegations were made, investigations were conducted, and then request for further enhancement of investigation were, indeed, made by the Office of the Attorney General for the purpose of covering the field in arriving at an informed decision one way or the other.”

Reacting to the rejection of Section 84 (12) by the National Assembly, as requsted by the President, the Senate, yesterday, denied allegations that it intended to use it as a weapon against political appointees.

Spokesman of the Senate, Senator Ajibola Basiru, in a telephone interview with Vanguard yesterday, faulted allegations that there were attempts to lobby the lawmakers to revisit the section.

“The bill was read the second time, it was voted upon and turned down. That is the end of the bill.

So, if anybody is now insinuating that the National Assembly wants people to come and lobby them, it is annoying. Some people somewhere are mischievous and do not know how to creatively come up with a lie or subterfuge.”

“So while this process of correspondence between the Office of the Attorney General and the police is ongoing, it is indeed a work in progress and never conclusive position. So that is what I can tell you clearly, there was indeed an independent request to an investigation.

“Interim Investigation report was presented to the office of the attorney general and the attorney general at the point requested for further enhancement of the investigation and highlighted some areas in respect of which enhancement of investigation is required.

“So it is indeed premature or perhaps mischievous for any conclusion to have been driven in the direction of exoneration or otherwise of liability or responsibility related therein.”

On the memo he presented to the Council, the Minister said: “Two items were presented by the Federal Ministry of Justice for the consideration of the Federal Executive Council. The two items are all relating to what we are doing in the direction of the fight against corruption. They are intended to advance the fight against corruption, both locally and internationally, to the next level.

“The first item, which has to do with a memo, which seeks for the approval of the Council for repeal of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Code of Conduct Tribunal, is intended to repeal An act.

“As you are rightly aware, there exists what is called an Act of the National Assembly, which is known as the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act. C 15, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.

“We are here today, this morning, (yesterday) and which has been presented before the Federal Executive Council is the amendment bill or repeal bill that is targeted at enhancing what these two bodies are doing.

“The Code of Conduct Bureau is simply responsible for the enforcement of the code of conduct for public officers and the Code of Conduct Tribunal is responsible for enforcing, by way of judicial trials and proceedings, which is associated with the code of conduct of public officers.

“So, what we have done this afternoon is to present a bill that seeks to enhance what has been done, arriving from the identified gaps, for the purpose of enhancing the functions of these two bodies, both in terms of the composition of the tribunal, because we have limited number and the desire arises for expansion of the scope in terms of the number of the panel that should be seated for the purpose of addressing the issues associated with breaches that are presented before the tribunal by the Code of Conduct Bureau.”

Reacting to the rejection of Section 84 (12) by the National Assembly, as requsted by the President, the Senate, yesterday, denied allegations that it intended to use it as a weapon against political appointees.

Spokesman of the Senate, Senator Ajibola Basiru, in a telephone interview with Vanguard yesterday, faulted allegations that there were attempts to lobby the lawmakers to revisit the section.

He said: “I don’t understand what you mean by weapon. There is a provision that was rejected; we have turned down their proposed amendment. What allegations are they talking about?

“We have already turned it down. If we had not considered that amendment and it was before us, we would have said that we want people to lobby us (lawmakers). We have considered it at second reading and it died at second reading since last week.

“If a bill has been sent and turned down and somebody is insinuating ulterior motives, I can’t give credence to such ulterior motives.

“If we keep the bill on our docket, you can say you are expecting somebody to come and lobby you but a bill that has been turned down, why will any serious-minded person be attaching seriousness to it?

“It is very annoying for anybody to make such insinuations. The bill came before us, it passed first reading; some people went to court and the Senate President said we cannot be restrained from doing our job.

“The bill was read the second time, it was voted upon and turned down. That is the end of the bill. So, if anybody is now insinuating that the National Assembly wants people to come and lobby them, it is annoying. Some people somewhere are mischievous and do not know how to creatively come up with a lie or subterfuge.”

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