Federal lawmaker representing Nasarawa South constituency in the red chamber, Senator Suleiman Adokwe is a vocal senator who does not shy away from hitting the nail on the head regardless of whose ox is gored. He rose again to the occasion on the issue of electoral bill.
In this no-hold-barred interview with Sundiata Post’s Assistant News Editor, Chibuike Nwabuko, Senator Adokwe dissects President Muhammadu Buhari’s refusal to assent to the electoral bill, what it portends to his integrity and the implication to the electoral process.
Come along with me and hear him!
Qstn: As a federal lawmaker and an elder statesman, do you think that President Muhammadu Buhari’s not assenting to the electotal law is a good omen?
As somebody who participated in the making of that law, I participated in the amendment, so my job as a lawmaker completed there. Except the issue of overriding the President’s veto is being considered, then I will take a new stand. We have done our part and the President has refused to assent.
Of course, it is his prerogative to assent or not, it is his constitutional prerogative and he has done so. The electoral bill is an issue that the general public is interested in. My own concern is that if the President didn’t like the amendment right from day one, he should have said so. This question of going back and forth about three times – he raised observation of lapses, we correct it; he pointed out another one we corrected it, it does short changes his integrity, every concerned Nigeria will think he is playing games. For me he has the right to say yes or no, nothing is sacrosanct to assent or refusal to assent to the bill.
But why the general public is concerned is that some gains have been made in the development of electoral process and we are at the verge of making electoral process electronic and he has set the hand of the clock backwards.
I was arguing with one of our colleagues yesterday, it is not really refusing to assent that is the issue, the issue is what the implication is, that is what everybody should be concerned with.
Qstn: Distinguished, are you suspecting any surreptitious motive?
I am not going to ascribe any motive at all rather than to look at the matter the way he has done it. If you go back and forth, anybody can assume that you have some ill motive, or you simply didn’t want to but you could not come forth. So there is deficit in integrity in the whole process, which is the way I see it.
Nobody can compel you to assent to any law just as nobody can stampede you into assenting or refusing to assent. My point is, if you don’t assent to this bill what are the implications?
The implication is that we have gone to pre-2015 electoral act, we are back to 2010, that is what it means to me. Because even though we did not provide for use of electronic in the last amendment, but there is a tacit understanding that you can use a card reader which is a piece of electronic device to ensure that accreditation done speedily and concretely by biometric measures that will know that this is the true owner of the permanent voters card.
Now, the Supreme court has ruled, even in my own case in the Court of Appeal, when my mandate was returned to me, part of the judgement was that Court of Appeal rejected the tendering of the print out from the card reader as evidence of accreditation because it was not admissible, as it were. So we have to rely strictly on the voters register.
Similarly, the Supreme Court also held that the card reader is not recognized in law. Now if the president refused to give assent, it means we are back to pre-2015 position and clearly, there is no room for card reader. So this one the Chairman of INEC is saying they are going to deploy the use of card reader during the 2019 election, it is not acceptable.
Voters should generally refuse to subject themselves to the use of the card reader because it is of no effect. The print out of the card reader cannot be admitted in court so why are you subjecting anybody to it, so that is the long and short of it. That is the implication of not assenting to the electoral bill.
Qstn: The President is of the view that assenting to the electoral bill at this critical time will disrupt the electoral process; he adduced that as his reasons? What is you take?
If you want to argue that from either side you can, there is no doubt about it. In 2015, the electoral act that was used to conduct the 2015 election was signed ten (10) days to the election, it did not change anything but some arguments have been advanced that at this time it begs the question.
It is not even morally right to argue that if you sign now it is going to jeopardize the electoral process. I saw one of the people arguing yesterday on television where he was quoting that the bill was returned to the president in November.
He forgot that the first instant of the bill was sent to the president in July. If he had assented at that time; if there is sanity between the presidency and National Assembly, everything would have been concluded before now but it has been returned three times, so there is no good faith in it. So to now spring that argument now is neither here nor there.