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Buhari signs Electoral Bill Friday, CSOs suspend protest

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The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), is expected to sign the much-anticipated Electoral Act Amendment Bill, 2021 on Friday, The PUNCH has learnt.

This was revealed on Wednesday by an authoritative source in the Presidency, who confirmed that Buhari would assent the bill around noon on Friday.

In the past few weeks, Nigerians have expressed heightened anxiety and displeasure over the President’s delay in assenting to the re-amended bill, with some stakeholders saying he would, for the sixth time, withhold assent to the draft legislation.

The PUNCH had earlier reported that the National Assembly re-transmitted the Electoral Act Amendment Bill, 2021 to the President on January 31 for the second time, having revised the bill on which he withheld assent for reasons ranging from security and the overwhelming cost of conducting direct primaries.

On January 18, the Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, told State House correspondents that the bill was being “cleaned up” by the legislature, after which it would be transmitted to the President.

He had said, “For us in the 9th Assembly, the Electoral Act Amendment Bill is one of the primary legislative agenda that we wanted to deal with in the 9th National Assembly, and to the glory of God Almighty Allah, by tomorrow (Wednesday), we will be able to pass that bill for Mr President to consent to it.

“I hope that the cleaning process will not take more than a day. But if it does, then it has to be early next week. But I’m very optimistic that there is not much to clean up, because normally when we pass a bill like this, it goes to the legislative drafting unit of the National Assembly.”

However, about 24 days after receiving it, Buhari had yet to assent to the re-amended bill; though the constitution allows him a 30-day window, he is mandated to either assent to the bill or withhold his assent and explain the rationale for his decision.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, in an interview on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily, assured Nigerians that the Electoral Bill would be signed in a matter of hours.

He said, “It could be signed today; it could be signed tomorrow in a matter of hours, not days. Hours could be 24 hours. It could be 48 hours, but not days and not weeks.”

On Wednesday, a source close to the office of the President told one of our correspondents that arrangements had been finalised for the President to sign the amendment bill into law on Friday.

This, the source said, would finally put all anxieties to rest.

The source stated, “All these anxieties will disappear by Friday afternoon. He (Buhari) will be signing the bill around noon of that day.

“I believe that he has taken his time so that the Act can be as unassailable as much as possible.”

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The President had withheld his assent to the bill in November 2021, citing the cost of conducting direct primary elections, security challenges, and possible manipulation of electoral processes by political players as part of the reasons for his decision.

He, however, gave some conditions to assent the bill, prompting the lawmakers to re-work it, which initially led to the emergence of two versions from the green and red chambers of the National Assembly.

No comment for now, say 26 CSOs

Meanwhile, a coalition of 26 civil society organisations has declined to speak on the report that the President will sign the Electoral Act Amendment Bill on Friday.

The CSOs said they would only speak after being convinced that Buhari would do the needful.

The coalition had on Tuesday protested against the refusal of the President to sign the bill.

After declaring a national day of protest to demand immediate assent to the reworked bill by the President, the CSOs said the peaceful public direct-action activities were to further the demand Buhari’s assent to the bill.

But when asked to comment on the report that the bill would be signed on Friday, the Executive Director of Yiaga Africa, Samson Itodo, said, “Let’s wait and see.

“The news suggests that the President will assent to the bill on Friday. So, we will be waiting to see the action he will take on the bill and our expectation is that he will assent to it. No comment for now, only to continue to urge him to assent the bill.”

The members of the coalition pushing for the signing of the bill include the Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room, Yiaga Africa, Partners for Electoral Reform, International Press Centre, Institute for Media and Society, Nigerian Women Trust Fund, The Albino Foundation, Centre for Citizens with Disability, Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism, Labour Civil Society Coalition, Transition Monitoring Group, CLEEN Foundation and the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre.

Others are Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre, Nigeria Network of Non-Governmental Organisations, Inclusive Friends Association, Enough is Enough, The Electoral Hub, Centre for Liberty, Take Back Nigeria Movement, International Peace and Civic Responsibility Centre, 100 Women Lobby Group, Women in Politics Forum, Raising New Voices, Millennials Active Citizenship Advocacy Africa and Ready To Lead Africa.

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