President of Nigeria’s Senate, Dr. Ahmad Lawan, has hinted that the National Assembly was ready to rework and pass the 2021 Electoral Act Amendment Bill which President Muhammadu Buhari refused to assent to last December on Wednesday.
Lawan, who spoke with newsmen on Tuesday after a closed-door meeting with President Buhari at the State House, Abuja, said he was hopeful that both chambers of the National Assembly would pass the bill on Wednesday (today) and be ready to re-present it to the President by next week.
This was just as the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila also disclosed Tuesday that the proposed legislation which was rejected by President Muhammadu Buhari would be reintroduced today for amendments.
Gbajabiamila, who made the disclosure while delivering his welcome address at the resumption of plenary, noted that the objective of the lawmakers in introducing the direct primary provision was to strengthen the foundations of democracy so that it works for all of the nation’s people.
But leadership of the Inter Party Advisory Council, (IPAC) has expressed concern over the continued delay in the resolution of the Executive-Legislative differences on the matter, just as the Conference of Northern States Civil Society Networks on yesterday asked the National Assembly to, as a matter of urgency, override the president’s veto on the passed Electoral Act Amendment bill.
Speaking further, Lawan: “Well, I smile because that again, by the grace of God tomorrow (today) both chambers, the Senate and the House of Representatives will pass the bill. And I hope that by before the end of the week, the bill could be brought back to Mr. President for his assent.
“I hope that but one thing I’m sure by the grace of God is we are passing the bill, the Electoral Act Amendment Bill 2010, tomorrow Wednesday the 19th in both chambers, and we are happy that at the end of the day, we have been able to narrow down our differences and arrive at the very patriotic resolution that our country must have a new electoral law that will guide the 2023 general elections in the country, and Nigeria would have everything to benefit from this law.
“And for us in the 9th Assembly, the Electoral Act Amendment Bill is one of our major legislative agenda that we wanted to deal with in the 9th National Assembly, and to the glory of God Almighty Allah. by tomorrow (Wednesday), we will be able to pass that bill for Mr. President to assent to it.
“I hope that the cleaning process will not take more than a day. But if it does, then it has to be early next week. But I’m very optimistic that there is not much to clean because normally when we pass the bill like this, it goes to the legislative drafting unit of the National Assembly.
“So, what you have in the National Assembly, as passed, is not the final document that comes to the President.”
Speaking earlier in his welcome speech at plenary after a one-hour closed session, where the issue and other critical ones were deliberated upon, he said the Senate, after due consultations, decided to critically examine the observations raised against the bill by Buhari and address them accordingly.
He explained: “The Senate postponed discussions on the consideration of the response of Mr. President on the Electoral Act 2010 Amendment Bill to enable us consult with our counter parts in the House of Representatives and also consult with our Constituents.
“Like we all know, the Senate and indeed the National Assembly worked so hard on the bill. Having consulted, the Senate will expeditiously look into the issue.”
Lawan added that the review of the 1999 Constitution was a major plank of the legislature agenda of the 9th Senate and that the committee on the review of the 1999 Constitution had done so much work so far.
He reminded his colleagues that political activities leading to the 2023 general elections had already commenced.
According to him: “This Senate should continue to provide the support that Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) needs for successful elections across the country.
“Most of our colleagues will be running for various political offices in 2023. I wish all our distinguished colleagues easy victories and success at the polls.”
Gbajabiamila disclosed that the proposed legislation which was rejected by President Muhammadu Buhari would be reintroduced today for amendments.
He also stressed that the process by which political parties nominate candidates for election is essential, perhaps even just as important as the general election itself.
According to the Speaker, a primary nomination process that deprives the majority of party members of the opportunity to choose who represents them in the general elections was susceptible to bad outcomes and ought to be fixed.
He faulted the argument that lack of proper membership registration of the political parties was among the reasons why the bill was rejected.
He said failure of political parties to maintain a proper register of members violates the spirit of the constitution, as it makes it impossible for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to enforce the constitutional requirement for political parties to ensure that their membership reflects the federal character of Nigeria.
He opined that including a direct primary mandate in the law, would have forced political parties to properly register their members within the shortest possible time.
While insisting that the proposal for direct primary elections was valuable for building accountability in the political system, Gbajabiamila however assured that a credible electoral law was what the people want and that’s what they would get.
He added that the lawmakers would work quickly to address the mitigating concerns, pass the bill and send it back to the president for assent.
The Speaker said, “Principal amongst these priorities is the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill. First, let me express my profound gratitude to all of you for your work to pass this most critical legislation. I want to commend you all for the work done.
“Unfortunately, that bill did not receive presidential assent, and it is unlikely that it will in its current form. Now, we have to choose between sticking to our guns regarding the provision to mandate direct primary elections for political parties or reworking that provision to save the rest of the bill.
“Some argued that political parties do not have proper registers of their members, which was a reason to reject the direct primary option. This is an appalling admission that political parties in the country do not have credible and up to date registers of their members.
“We are left to question how those parties have thus far managed their affairs, including conducting congresses and primary elections, whether by direct or indirect means.
“Nonetheless, it is disappointing that the failure of political parties to adequately document their membership is being used to not give the Nigerian people the power to fully participate in our nation’s politics.
“If nothing else, including a direct primary mandate in the law, would have forced political parties to properly register their members within the shortest possible time. This would have been the singular most significant reform of our political party system in a generation. I remain convinced that the proposal for direct primary elections is valuable for building accountability in our political system.”
He added: “But we must not allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good. Therefore, the House will reintroduce the amendment tomorrow. And we will work quickly to address the mitigating concerns, pass the bill and send it back to President Muhammadu Buhari for assent.
“As to the issues relating to inelegant drafting and other technical errors in the bill. This is a matter of concern as it appears the version sent to the President differs from what is circulating in the public domain. However, in December of last year, I appointed a technical team to look into the issue. I expect to have their report within the next day or two so that we can proceed to the next stage.
“We have less than thirteen months to the next general election, so time is of the essence. A credible electoral law is what the people want. It is what the people deserve, and we must give to them. The Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill includes many other provisions that will serve our democracy well, and we cannot throw away the baby with the bathwater.”
Speaking further, he assured that the lawmakers would prioritise action to pass the constitutional amendment bill.
The Speaker thereby urged his colleagues to approach the last stretch of their tenure with the forthright focus and earnestness that comes from knowing that they are in a race to make good history.
Time Running Out on New Electoral Law, CSOs Say
Meanwhile, the leadership of the Inter Party Advisory Council, (IPAC) has expressed concern over the continued delay in the resolution of the Executive-Legislative differences on the passage of the amended Electoral Act into law.
In the same vein, the Conference of Northern States Civil Society Networks yesterday asked the National Assembly to, as a matter of urgency, override President Muhammadu Buhari’s veto on the passed Electoral Act Amendment bill.
IPAC said the failure to reach a compromise in the short run may invariably translate into the death of the other very crucial provisions, such as the provisions on electronic transmission of election results.
In his speech at the meeting of party chairmen with INEC on the FCT area council election held at the INEC headquarters, Abuja,
National Chairman, IPAC, Mr. Yabagi Yusuf Sani, said that time is dangerously running out for the resolution of the disputes between the two arms, adding that immediate resolution of the unnecessary impasse over the Electoral Amendment Bill should be seen as a superior and overriding national interest.
” Perhaps, the most serious and potent impediment to the successful conduct of the 2023 general elections, is the lingering debacle between the Executive and the Legislature on the fate of the 2021 Electoral (Amendment) Bill.
“While time is dangerously running out for the resolution of the disputes between the two arms, the IPAC is of the position that the controversy may have been contrived in the first instance, purely and clearly in the pursuits of narrow and self-centered political ambitions of some of the gladiators,” he said.
He said IPAC was using the occasion to make strident call for the immediate resolution of the unnecessary impasse over the Electoral Amendment Bill in the superior and overriding national interest.
Yagbagi said that IPAC has persistently suggested at various forums that, the first rational step in the circumstance, is for the two apex legislative houses to immediately expunge from the Bill, the provisions that make it mandatory for political parties to use Direct Primary elections in the selection of their flag bearers in general elections.
He said that IPAC has also called on the President to thereafter, assent to the Bill without delay.
“Our concern in the IPAC, is that failure to reach a compromise in the short run may invariably translate into the death of the other very crucial provisions, such as the provisions on the Electronic Transmission of election results. As it is, compromise and shifting of grounds in respect of the Bill by the two arms of government, incidentally controlled by the same political party, the APC, should not ideally, be too cumbersome a task to accomplish.
19 Northern CSOs Ask NASS to Override Buhari’s Veto
The northern states’ civil society networks urged the NASS to override Buhari and exercise its constitutional provision by vetoing the rejected electoral act by the president.
In a letter addressed to the Senate by the Chairman of the Networks, Ibrahim Waiya and signed by 19 northern civil society organisations, he reminded the National Assembly that overriding the president on the bill was a national duty not a party affair.
He explained that the signing of the Electoral Amendment bill would enhance electronic transmission of results and tackle the problems of ballot box snatching, as well as alteration and rigging of election results.
He said: “It will also enhance popular participation by party members via direct primaries, eliminate money politics associated with the delegate system of voting in the indirect primaries and reduce political apathy by party members in particular and the citizens in general.
“Decimate the overbearing influences of Godfathers as party members will be stakeholders and partners in the conduct of all party activities and It will strengthen political parties and democracy in Nigeria.
“It therefore behooves on the leadership of the National Assembly to as a matter of public importance override the president and assent the electoral amendment bill 2021 owing to the fact that, the reasons given were not justifiable enough for president’s decline.”
Deji Elumoye, Sunday Aborisade, Onyebuchi Ezigbo, Udora Orizu in Abuja and Francis Sardauna in Katsina