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It is elementary principle of law that an Electoral Law should not be amended in the middle of an election, when the electoral process had commenced under an existing electoral law. That will undermine the Integrity and credibility of the process. As at today, some political parties have held some of their primaries under the existing provision of S.84(8) of the Electoral Act 2022. How then can the law be changed at this time. What happens to those who have operated pursuant to the provision the law as it is?
On the 25th of February, 2022, President Mohammadu Buhari signed into law the new Electoral Act 2022. The new Electoral Act introduced some changes, most of which were to serve the personal interests of some lawmakers, their political sponsors and godfathers.
For instance, S.84(12) was introduced to exclude political appointees from voting or being voted for in their internal party congresses and conventions. The general believe was that the section was introduced to sideline some political appointees interested in the process. Also, S.35(5) in the Electoral Act 2011 which empowered any member of society who has information that a candidate for an election presented a forged certificate to approach the court for the disqualification of that candidate was changed completely in S.29(5) of Electoral Act 2022 and made it nearly impractical to question the qualification of a candidate on ground of presentation of forged certificate.
The Supreme Court had held that the issue of presentation of forged certificate comes alive whenever a candidate completes an INEC form and the question: “Have you ever submitted forged certificate to INEC” is asked and that candidate answers in negative (No), the cause of action arises. In 2019, Governor Wike for instance escaped being disqualified because the court on technical ground held that the complaint against him was filed outside 14days. David Lyon, Governor-Elect of Bayelsa State was not sworn in because discrepancies in his Deputies certificate. With the new amendment, candidates like Governor Wike may have escaped disqualification permanently.
Unfortunately, the lawmakers in their bid to undermine political appointees inserted a new provision, S.84(8) of the Act, 2022, the effect of which is that only delegates elected by the political parties can vote to elect candidates in the event that a political party adopts indirect form of primary election. On the other hand, most political parties, especially the APC and PDP have in their constitutions all forms and categories of persons who are automatic members of their congresses and conventions, whom they referred to statutory delegates.
The statutory delegates are made up of former and present Presidents and Vice Presidents, Governors, Deputy Governors, Members of National Assembly who are members of the party, members of this and that defined by the political parties as members of congress and convention. Unfortunately, S.84(8) of the Electoral Act 2022 excluded the statutory delegates. The implementation, for instance is that if President Buhari, or the Senate President, etc wants to vote in the convention, he must first travel to his local government area where he will contest and be elected as a voting delegate at the convention. The APC constitution provides for three (3) delegates per local government area.
In the last one week, the National Assembly has been moving for the President to assent to the amendment of S.84(8) of the Act. The amendment process was one of fastest in Nigerian history, first, second and third reading of the amendment all happened in less than one hour. Curiously, when the President wrote to the National Assembly to amend or delete S.84(12) of said Act for being unconstitutional and undermining the adult suffrage of some members of the country (political appointees), the National Assembly argued that there wasn’t enough time for that process. But the one that affected their interest was executed in less than an hour.
The amendment of the section at this time portends danger for the two major political parties. Even where the President assents to the Amendment, that provision cannot be applied to this electoral process, other political parties having “been misled” by and acted based on the old provision. Any subsequent primaries done pursuant to a new provision is liable to be set aside. That would mean that new provision has conferred some advantages and disadvantages some political party. The legal foundation for the aggrieved political parties who have been or are “deceived” by INEC application of old provision to them and a new provision to others are already provided by the Constitution in the Fourth Alteration.
It will be foolhardy for APC and PDP to push for the amendment. Perhaps it is a way the supernatural forces want shift these political parties out of the way. It calls for caution.
Wrote from Abuja