The presidency has assured Nigerians that President Muhammadu Buhari is not against e-voting and the use of card readers in the 2019 general election, as it pleaded with the National Assembly to cut short its recess to reconsider the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill 2018 that was vetoed for the third time last month by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The president had returned the bill unsigned in a letter dated August 30, 2018, citing unresolved drafting issues and uncorrected clerical errors, according to the Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters, Senator Ita Enang.
The bill had been passed by the federal legislature on July 24, the day it adjourned for its long vacation, and transmitted it to the presidency on August 3. The National Assembly is billed to resume on September 25 even though there are talks of a shift in resumption date.
The president’s veto, for the third time, has put in jeopardy the use of card reader and electronic transmission of results, two of the 14 main features of the alteration proposals aimed at delivering cleaner elections in the country.
Following persistent criticism that the veto was meant to block the use of card reader, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, in a statement yesterday kicked against allegations from ‘opposition politicians’ that create “the impression that Buhari is against e-voting and the use of card reader in the 2019 elections.”
He denied the insinuations and appealed to the National Assembly to reconvene and reconsider the bill in line with the president’s observations.
Shehu rejected the allegations that Buhari deliberately withheld his assent because he was uncomfortable with the incorporation of card readers and electronic voting in the bill.
“The card reader is not in danger of being discarded. It is a sine qua non for credible elections. We appeal to the National Assembly to reconvene as soon as possible to consider and approve the necessary corrections to the amended electoral act,” he said.
The presidential spokesman insisted that the incorporation of e-voting and use of card readers into the bill was never part of the issues raised by the president on the bill.
Part of the statement read, We wish to state in clear and unambiguous terms that the issue of e-voting and use of card reader was never an issue for the president’s decision to decline assent to the Bill.
“It is equally important that this issue was not raised either by the Executive or the Legislature in the recent reviews.
“Moreover, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) adoption of e-voting reforms is enshrined in the 2015 Amendment Act to the Electoral Reform Act.
“Card reader is, therefore, a settled matter.
“The president’s recent decision to decline assent to the Bill has no effect whatsoever on INEC’s use of card reader.
“The president is not in confrontation with the parliament on this issue. He has asked his officials to dialogue with the legislature; for the corrections to be effected.
“An issue has been raised by the president concerning some ill-prepared and flawed parts of the bill for which corrections needed to be made to allow for his signature. The president wanted engagement with the parliament for the corrections to be effected so that, at the end of the day, both arms of government will be happy with the fact that we have a good electoral law in place.”