National Assembly’s plenary resumption: Uncertainty over Electoral Act Amendment Bill

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…Override Buhari or delete contentious provision – PDP Govs to NASS

…NASS will do whatever is in Nigerians’ best interest – Gaya

…We will not allow Bill to be frustrated – Senate Spokesperson

By Moses Adeniyi, Olasehinde Ibrahim, Barth Ndubuwah&Uthman Salami

As the National Assembly resumes plenary today (Tuesday), uncertainties cloud the fate of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill which has raised intense debate following President Muhammadu Buhari’s disposition of withholding assent from the Bill.

Following the controversies surrounding the Electoral Act Amendment Bill with controversies, Governors under the aegis of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Governors’ Forum, have called on the National Assembly to rapidly conclude deliberations on the Amendment Bill either by overriding President Muhammadu Buhari’s veto or delete areas where controversial issues have been raised.

The Governors, however, held that the option of sustaining the Buhari’s veto would lead to a quicker resolution and would deny the President the opportunity to once again truncate a reformed Electoral jurisprudence for Nigeria.

“An early concluded Electoral Act is vital for credible elections,” the Governors maintained.

The PDP Governors’ call on the National Assembly followed their first 2022 meeting held on Monday at the Rivers State Government House, Port Harcourt, to discuss salient national issues.

At the meeting, the Governors arrived at a seven point resolution revolving around review of the state of subnational units (States), the state of the nation, the PDP as a political party, and the 2023 elections.

The Communique containing their resolutions read by the Chairman of the PDP Governors’ Forum, Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto partly states: “The PDP Governors congratulated the entire PDP family for conducting a smooth and credible National Convention that led to the emergence of the highly acclaimed Senator Dr. Iyorchia Ayu-led National Executive Committee and commended the new PDP NWC for hitting the ground running with respect to repositioning the PDP into a credible vehicle for RESCUING and REBUILDING Nigeria which has been battered by bad economy, insecurity, unemployment and other social ills by the incompetent and inept APC Administration.

“The PDP Governors requested the National Assembly to quickly conclude deliberations on the Electoral Act Amendment Bill either by overriding Mr President’s veto or deleting areas of complaints. The meeting advised that the option of sustaining Mr President’s veto would lead to a quicker resolution and would deny Mr President the opportunity to once again truncate a reformed Electoral jurisprudence for Nigeria. An early concluded Electoral Act is vital for credible elections.”

Among other subjects deliberated by  the Governors include the state of insecurity and the economy.

On insecurity, the Governor’s lamented that though the state of insecurity in the Country has waxed gross with “persistent and ceaseless flow of Nigerians’ blood on a daily basis,” yet the disposition of President Buhari shows unwillingness to honour the proposals for state policing.

Stating that the prevailing situation was moving near collapse of security situation in the Country, the Governors described insecurity challenge as a major problem of the APC administration.

The Governors further lamented that against what obtained under the PDP, the economy under the ruling APC has experienced huge strains of  “inconsistent and differential exchange rate regime, high interest rates, unsustainable unemployment figures and borrowing spree some of which have not been applied to important projects, and other bad economic indicators.”

“The meeting lamented the continued state of insecurity in the country, the persistent and ceaseless flow of Nigerians’ blood on a daily basis in many parts of Nigeria, the near collapse of the security situation in Nigeria. The strategies to confront terrorists, kidnappers, bandits and other criminals is still a major problem of the APC administration.

“The meeting expressed regrets that Mr President is unwilling, from his recent comments discountenancing the proposals for state policing, to participate in reviewing the structural problems of tackling insecurity in Nigeria and urges Mr President to reconsider his position and consider decentralisation and restructuring of the security architecture as the most viable solution, together with proper arming, funding and training requirements for Security Agencies.

“The Nigerian Economy has continued to deteriorate and Nigerians have become numb and accustomed to bad economic news as exemplified by the inconsistent and differential exchange rate regime, high interest rates, unsustainable unemployment figures and borrowing spree some of which have not been applied to important projects, and other bad economic indicators.

“In particular, it is clear that the APC Government is a massive failure when compared with the records of PDP in government. The PDP handed over a $550 billion economy (the largest in Africa), but under APC, Nigeria is the Poverty Capital of the world.

“In 2015, under PDP, the exchange rate was N198 per Dollar, it is now under APC almost N500 to a Dollar; In 2015, unemployment rate was 7.3% under PDP, it is now 33%, one of the highest in the world under APC; In 2015, the Pump price of Petroleum was N87 per litre, it is now N165 per litre and climbing under APC. Debt Servicing now under APC takes over 98% of the Federal budget. The tales of woe is endless,” the communique read.

Furthermore, the PDP Governors noted that the management of the Country’s “Oil and Gas resources, the administration of Federation Account remittances have remained opaque, confusing and non-transparent.

“In addition, the transition to NNPC Ltd under the Petroleum Industry Act has not been properly streamlined to ensure that the interests of all the tiers of Government are protected, consistent with the 1999 Constitution,” the Governors observed.

“The meeting urged eligible Nigerians of all walks of life, particularly the Youths, to register en masse with INEC to exercise their franchise in the 2023 general elections.

“It further noted that the next election is a very consequential election that should be used to end the dominance of very youth unfriendly APC Government; a government that had the arrogance to deny Nigerian youths of the use of TWITTER, a business friendly tool for the young, for over a year. The youths should empower themselves to determine who leads them,” the Governors maintained.

In attendance at the meeting held in Port-Harcourt, the Rivers State Capital, were: Rt. Hon. Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, CFR – Sokoto State – Chairman; Gov. Udom Emmanuel  – Akwa Ibom State;  Gov. Sen. Douye Diri  – Bayelsa State;  Gov. Samuel Ortom – Benue State; Gov. Ifeanyi Okowa  – Delta State;  Gov. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi – Enugu State;  Gov. Nyesom Wike, CON – Rivers State; Gov. Oluseyi Abiodun Makinde – Oyo State;  Gov. Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri  -Adamawa State; and Gov. Bala Mohammed – Bauchi State.

…Electoral Amendment Bill as National Assembly resumes plenary

It would be recalled that following the passage of the 2022 budget, both chambers of the National Assembly in December had respectively adjourned plenary till January 18, 2022 (Today).

It has been gathered that to top  matters of deliberation in the Parliament upon resumption would be the Electoral Amendment Act Bill which has remained a top subject of debate recently.

…Bill too valuable than direct/indirect primaries controversies – Senate Committe Chairman on INEC

In his comments on the controversies surrounding the veto exercised by the President withholding assent from the Bill, the Chairman, Senate Committee on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Kabiru Gaya, mentioned that the Bill is more significant to the Country’s electoral process, than been thrown away by direct or indirect primaries controversies.

“We have a good Bill but unfortunately we should not now throw the bill away by saying direct or indirect primaries.

“We put over almost 200 amendments in this Bill in order to go along with the current situation of political dispensation in this Country and how best we can encourage people to have good fair and reasonable play in politics.

“I believe the National Assembly will do whatever is good and in the interest of the Country. The ego is based on the number of people who have agreed to work on this Bill. We all agreed that we are going for the direct primaries and we passed that one; it went to the President and it came back.”

On overriding the President’s veto, he said: “It is a long work to override the President’s veto – if we are to commit to the veto, it takes time. Overriding the President’s veto doesn’t come easy, but if we agree this is the stand and the nation has the number to veto, we can, it’s possible.

“Remember, the NDDC, the National Assembly vetoed the president and  passed the Bill and it is working now. That is not a new thing but it all depends on what most of us agree with. If later some people are convinced, that stand may not work and maybe create problems, that may lead to different issues. But I believe on the stand, I don’t know what will happen tomorrow,” he said while featuring on Channels’ Politics Today programme on Monday.

…We will not allow Bill to be frustrated – Senate Spokesperson

In his point of emphasis on the debate,  Senate’s spokesperson, Senator AjIbola Bashir, maintained that while there is  no unanimous position taken on the Bill yet, it is clear that the Nigerian populace look forward to a reform of the electoral process in the Country.

“This time, I don’t think there is any unanimity for the position that has been taken. But what is clear is that Nigerians want reform of the electoral process. They want credibility of elections. They also want timely closure of the Electoral Amendment Act.

“Beyond that, I have also heard people coming up with conspiracy theories and attempt to frustrate Electoral reform in Nigeria. I think part of the things you will have to contend with in public governance are issues like such conspiracy theories, not to allow the Electoral Bill to be passed,” he said.

He maintained that the 9th National Assembly  has committed costly resources to the Bill and hence would stand against allowing the Bill being frustrated by those who he believes are sponsoring conspiracy theories against the Bill.

“Indeed the 9th Assembly has expended resources in terms of time and manpower on this work that we will not allow it to be frustrated.

“We have 185 sections in the Bill or so, and issues are pounding around the section, then the thing is to look at what are the options before the National Assembly. One option that is sceptical is that this 9th Assembly will go the way of the previous Assembly by abandoning the work.

“Just as the speaker, Hon. (Femi) Gbajabiamila said, we are not going to throw away the baby with the bath water. There are so many significant provisions of the Electoral Act to strengthen, even though on incremental basis, institutions of free and credible elections in Nigeria.

“Therefore, we will be considerate not to abandon the Electoral Bill like the previous Assembly. We will look at the two options to see whether the contentious provisions could be amended so that the Bill could be re-presented to the President.

“This will be after broader consultation to be agreed upon by the National Assembly. Secondly, whether section 58(5) of the Constitution can be invoked to override the veto, but there is a decision of the committee that they will necessitate the passage of the Bill by 2/3 majority. This is also an option. We are concerned about ensuring timely passage of the Electoral Bill,” he said at the Yiaga Africa’s  Town Hall meeting on Electoral Bill held on Sunday.

On the issue of not consulting stakeholders before the passage of the Bill, he affirmed that there had been wide consultation and engagement of civil society organisations, political parties and members of the public.