The Electoral Offences Commission Bill, which was passed into law three months ago by the Nigeria Senate, is yet to be assented to by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Checks by Muhabarishaji revealed that the bill, which its legislative debate started much earlier and which was meticulously handled by the Senate Committee on Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), headed by Senator Kabir Gaya representing Kano South Senatorial district, was finally passed into law on 13th July, 2021.
However, for undisclosed reasons, the bill has not been signed for it to become an act three months after it was passed into law.
Much and strategic as the Electoral Offences Commission bill was, it was believed that it would sanitise political elections in Nigeria. Unfortunately, neither has President Buhari raised an observation and return it to the National Assembly for harmonisation nor communicated his intention whatsoever on the bill.
Recently, he signed the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), now Petroleum Industry Act (PIA), which was on 16th August, 2021, while the last bill assented to was the Agricultural Research Council Amendment Bill (2021) which was signed into law on 8th October, 2021.
Constitutionally, lawmakers have inherent powers to overrule or veto the President on unassented bill that is in the interest of citizens, but it couldn’t be confirmed if the Senate would consider overruling the President on the Electoral Offences Commission bill, given its importance to the 2023 general election.
In the highlight of the bill, it states that the Commission will investigate election crimes, prosecute culprits and maintain records of electoral offenders.
It is recalled that there was jubilation across the nation over the provision of the bill which prescribes a 20-year jail term for ballot box snatchers during elections, if found guilty as well as sponsors of the crime.
The bill also proposed that any candidate or agent who damages or snatches ballot boxes, ballot papers or election materials before, during and after an election without the permission of the election official in charge of the polling station, shall be jailed for 20 years or fined N40 million.
Moreso, if the bill wasn’t signed or vetoed before the end of the session on May 29, 2023, it would lapse with the session.