Electoral Act: Why National Assembly could not override Buhari’s veto, says Saraki
Senate President, Bukola Saraki, has explained why the National Assembly could not garner the required two-third majority to override President Muhammadu Buhari’s veto on the fourth version of the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill.
The nation’s Number Three Citizen who spoke on Wednesday on a live television programme on African Independent Television (AIT), attributed the inability of the National Assembly to override the President’s veto to the division of the Legislature along party lines.
Saraki who doubles as Director General of the PDP Presidential Campaign Council, argued that President Buhari could have risen above partisanship to sign the bill, which aims to reform the nation’s electoral processes.
Section 58 (5) of the 1999 Constitution stipulates that two-third of both legislative houses (73 senators and 240 members of House of Representatives) must be present to override the President’s veto.
Specifically, the section reads: “Where the President withholds his assent and the bill is again passed by each House by two-thirds majority, the bill shall become law and the assent of the President shall not be required”.
But speaking on the television programme monitored by BusinessDay, Saraki said: “It’s something that we realised that we didn’t have the numbers to do that (override the President’s veto). It was clear that people (lawmakers) in the National Assembly had taken positions along party lines. APC legislators were supporting their President. They have elections and I don’t think they will go against their President. There was no way we could have got the veto. But it is not about the veto.
“I think the President should have risen beyond the politics and election and look at prosperity and signed it in the interest of the country and what is right. He acknowledged that it was a good bill and he said let that bill be signed after his election. I think he should have risen above that and signed the bill”.
It would be recalled that President Buhari had on four occasions in 2018 declined assent to the bill passed by the National Assembly.
In rejecting the bill in December 2018, the President had explained to both chambers that passing a new bill with elections close by could ‘create some uncertainty about the legislation to govern the process.’
He also highlighted some parts of the bill that he said need further legislative action.
But the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had kicked against the President’s decision, accusing him of planning to rig the forthcoming General Elections.
Some of the highlights of the proposed legislation are: legalisation of smart card readers for voter accreditation, electronic transmission of election results, limitations of campaign expenses and nomination fees by political parties among others.