Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has flayed President Muhammadu Buhari for his reluctance in signing the reworked Electoral Act Amendment Bill saying his intentions are not nationalistic and patriotic but self-serving.
HURIWA, in a statement by its National Coordinator, Emmanuel Onwubiko, said the intransigence and refusal of the President to sign the Electoral Act is as bad and evil as the military coups in Guinea Bissau, Mali and other West African countries.
The group, while condemning the President for globetrotting when a critical task lay at his table, said Buhari’s refusal to sign the Electoral Act is a calculated attempt to undermine and sabotage the transparent conduct of the 2023 general election.
Buhari had in December 2021 asked the National Assembly to remove the clause that has to do with direct primaries from the Electoral Act Amendment Bill.
The President, who stated this in his letter to the Senate, asked the National Assembly to remove the controversial clause on direct primaries from the bill and return the proposed law to him for assent.
On January 31 2022, the National Assembly transmitted the reworked bill to the President for assent.
Buhari consequently forwarded it to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN), for legal advice.
Malami had hinted that he might advise the President to withhold assent if he (Malami) found the reworked bill to contain proposals hinged on personal interests.
The President has not shown any significant sign of signing the reworked bill 20 days after it was transmitted to him by the National Assembly.
By law, the President is expected to respond to the National Assembly’s proposal not more than 30 days after receiving it.
The bill was transmitted to him on January 31, 2022, meaning he has barely 10 days left to act on it. The President has in the last five years rejected electoral amendment bills five times.
The INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, had said last month that the commission would quickly release the timetable and schedule of activities for the 2023 general elections based on the new law once the bill is signed by the President.
Commenting on the development, HURIWA said the body language of the President on the assent of the Electoral Act betrays his many rhetorics that he will leave a legacy of democratic values and tenets in Nigeria when he leaves office in 2023.
The group described the President’s delayed assent as “an attempt to destabilise democracy because constitutional democracy runs seamlessly in an atmosphere of certainty and legality.”
HURIWA added, “But what President Muhammadu Buhari has done with his blatant failure to sign the Electoral Act is to put democracy in jeopardy and make it seem that the country isn’t ripe for free and fair polls.
”His refusal offends the heart of the constitutional independence of the legislature and endangers the principles of checks and balances enshrined in the constitution.
“Already, no fewer than 26 civil society organisations have resolved to embark on a protest on Tuesday if the President fails to assent to the bill in two days. The President must sign the Electoral Act immediately or Nigerians should consider civil disobedience actions like street protests to compel the President not to jeopardise next year’s election.”