The House of Representatives has concluded plans to override the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), on Section 84(8) of the Electoral Act 2022 which seeks to provide for statutory delegates at the meetings, congresses and conventions of political parties.
To achieve this, Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, called on members willing to move a motion for the chamber to override Buhari’s veto to do so anytime from Thursday.
Two members of the Peoples Democratic Party – the Deputy Minority Leader, Toby Okechukwu and Ben Igbakpa – who failed to get tickets to seek reelection at the recently concluded primaries, had protested on the floor of the House on Wednesday.
Okechukwu backed Gbajabiamila on the comments made by the Speaker earlier on Tuesday, faulting the way political parties conducted primaries leading to the failure of members of the National Assembly to get tickets of their respective parties to seek reelection in the 2023 general elections.
Gbajabiamila had particularly criticised the failure of the parties to allow statutory delegates to vote for candidates at the primaries, as the National Assembly proposed in the amendment to Section 84(8) of the Electoral Act 2022, which the President has yet to assent to.
The PUNCH had reported that the National Assembly, on May 13, transmitted the bill to the President for assent. However, Buhari had yet to sign the amendment bill into law as of Tuesday.
It is now over 30 days after the National Assembly passed and transmitted the legislation to the Presidency, the window within which the parliament can veto the bill should the President fails to assent to it.
On Wednesday, Okechukwu said, “I want to take notice regarding the very copious and auspicious comments you (Gbajabiamila) made yesterday regarding the Electoral Act where, in the circumstances, it has been weaponised; where as a matter of fact, there was an aspiration to make the law a more perfect law to remove every ambiguity; and where there isn’t any material difference between the 2010 Act and that of 2022. And suddenly, the majority of members, where it has been weaponised, have become victims.
“Something is wrong in an environment – in an institution – where the two (Majority and Minority) Leaders of the Senate would have to cross to other parties because of inherent inclement conditions. Anything that occasions it, anything that warrants it, if it is our Electoral Act, if it is our politics, if it is the environment where we operate, we need to retool. And like you said, we have to do better work and we have to fight on.
“For me, it is just a battle that is lost, the war is on and we should go ahead to make sure that that law is retooled, made clear. And if it requires this parliament to take action to override what has not been signed, we should be willing to do so.”
Shortly after, Igbakpa decried that lawmakers were recalled from recess to quickly consider and pass the amendment to Section 84(8) and it was transmitted to the President for assent.
He said, “Mr President did not just ignore (the amendment bill), he travelled out of the country on a condolence visit to Dubai and that created a lot of problems for the country. There was tension and many of our political parties, out of the tension, created what will now be for us in the 2023-2027 electoral process.
“Nigerians are crying for good leadership and the leadership recruitment process starts with our primaries. You have worked hard and that is why I took us to Section 58 (of the Constitution). We are to make laws and present to Mr President and where he does not sign (a bill into law), that same 58 gives us the powers to make sure that we pass that law without Mr President’s assent.
“There is nowhere in the Constitution that says that one arm of the is subservient to the other.”
The lawmaker noted that Gbajabiamila, despite showing good leadership of the House, would only be judged by Nigerians based on the laws passed that better their lot. “And that is why we cannot continue to act as if we are under the Executive arm of ” he said.
Igbakpa added, “This Constitution gave us the powers, just as it gave to them. We must wake up as a parliament. When we pass laws and we are sure that we have done the right thing, we should start overriding Mr President, because this is just the beginning.
“Today, the NDDC Act is in force because the parliament, which you were part of, did it. Why are we afraid? Mr President has not committed any offence. What he has done is the rule of law and the Constitution, and I believe by the time we do our own by overriding his veto, we would not have committed any offence. We would be working according to the Constitution and the rule of law.
“I think it is time for us, before some of us leave, if we manage to come back, that this parliament must stamp its feet and tell Nigerians that we are working for them and not for any party or any individual.
“Mr Speaker, I implore you as a great leader, to please, it is time, if we are sure we have done what is right to the Electoral Act 2022, rise up, take our pens, collect signatures and by the grace of God, override Mr President and give Nigerians the enabling electoral law that will stand the test of time.”
While responding, Gbajabiamila listed the conditions under which the lawmakers could override a veto successfully.
The Speaker said, “Clearly, the Constitution says he has 30 days leeway and we have since gone beyond the 30 days. But the Constitution also says it is not automatic that you override, it is if you are convinced as a House that that amendment must stand. If you are not convinced with the arguments advanced by the president, or in this case there is really no argument advanced, then you can override.
“For us to override, I believe we require two-thirds majority and it cannot be by voice vote neither can it be by way of signatures unless, of course, you have enough two-thirds by signatures what I will suggest is that you bring the application – a formal motion on notice – perhaps tomorrow or whenever you are able to do that and we will determine whether or not this House is ready to override or not.
“I think that is the way to go. That is the proper procedure. I appreciate your comments and I believe you are talking about the provision of statutory delegates which Honourable Toby alluded to earlier. We will go ahead. You can file your motion and hopefully we will be able to list it tomorrow or whenever the calendar permits.”