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Senate Sets Campaign Spending Limit …Passes Electoral Act Amendment Bill Again …As Saraki Reveals NASS’ Plan On PIGB

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The Senate yesterday read the Independent National Electoral (INEC) Amendment Act Bill for the third time and subsequently passed it.
The bill was passed after the Chairman of the Senate Committee on INEC, Suleiman Nazif, presented the report a review.
The bill was read for the second time on October 10 as the lawmakers put into consideration reasons President Muhammadu Buhari gave for rejecting the bill which had earlier been passed by the parliament.
President Buhari announced the rejection of the bill on September 3 due to “some drafting issues” that were unaddressed by prior revisions.
“Mr President invites the Senate and House of Representatives to address these issues as quickly as possible so that he may grant assent to the Electoral Amendment Bill,” Ita Enang, a presidential aide, said in a statement then.
His refusal to assent the bill made the National Assembly Joint Committee on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to reconvene and deliberate on the bill for the fourth time.
Presenting the report, Mr Nazif explained that the main objectives of the bill which is to provide for the use of card readers and any other technological devices in conducting elections, to provide a timeline for the submission of lists of candidates as captured in Section 31(6) and 85(1) of the bill.
He also said the bill is meant to identify criteria for substitution of candidates, limits of campaign expenses as well as addressing problems related to the omission of names of candidates or logo of political parties.
Prior to the clause-by-clause consideration of the bill, the chairman explained that some observations of the president were considered.
“Clause 4, amends Section 18 of the Principal Act which deals with erroneous cross-references made in the Bill that was sent earlier for assent.
“Clause 10, amends Section 36 (3) of the Principal Act that deals with qualifying language.
“Clause 14, amends Section 49 (4) of the Principal Act that deals with the failure of a card reader. Where a smart card reader deployed for accreditation of Voters fails to function in any polling unit and a fresh card reader is not deployed 3 hours before the close of the election in that unit, then the election shall not hold but be rescheduled and conducted within 24 hours thereafter, provided that where the total possible votes from all the affected card readers in the unit or units does not affect the overall result in the constituency or election concerned, the commission shall notwithstanding the fact that a fresh card reader is not deployed as stipulated, announce the final results and declare a winner.
“Clause 24, amends Section 87 (13) 0f the Principal Act that deals with the issue of a deadline for primary election. The dates of the Primaries shall not be earlier than 150 days and not later than 90 days before the date of the election to the elective offices.”
He further explained that the same section stipulates a specific period within which political party primaries are required to be held since the unintended consequences left INEC with only nine days to collate and compile lists of candidates and political parties for the various elections.
“This is because the earlier Electoral Act Amendment Bill did not properly amend Sections 31, 33 and 85 of the principal Act that stipulate times for submission of lists of candidates, publication 0f lists of candidates, notice of conventions and congresses tor nominating candidates for elections.
“Clause 32, amends Section 140 (4) 0f the Principal Act that deals with the omission of the name of a candidate or logo of a political party.”
The other sections of the main electoral act that were amended are 31, 33, 34, 38, 44, 67,76, 78, 82, 85, 87,91, 99, 112, 120,138, 143, 151, and the Schedule.
During the clause-by-clause consideration of the bill, the Senate resolved to set campaign spending limits for senatorial elections at N250 million and N100 million for House of Representatives.
The bill was, thereafter, read for the third time and passed.
Meanwhile, the President of the Senate, Dr Abubakar Bukola Saraki says the National Assembly would continue to mount necessary pressure to get presidential assent on the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB).
Saraki spoke at a dinner as part of activities at the ongoing 24th Nigerian Economic Summit in Abuja, last Monday night.
The dinner which ended late in the night, was attended by trade experts, industrialists, Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) operators and financial experts among other dignitaries.
According to Saraki, the resolve by the legislature to mount pressure to ensure the bill gets presidential assent has become necessary, given its importance to development of the oil and gas sector in Nigeria.
It would be recalled that President Muhammadu Buhari had withheld assent on the PIGB following its passage by the National Assembly.
The President had also communicated its decline of assent to the PIGB 2018, citing constitutional and legal reasons in the bill.
The Senate president said that it was unfortunate that the bill had not been assented to, adding “we took it as a responsibility to drive that bill to a level it has never been in a decade’’.
“That bill, a lot of people when we started said we cannot do it, but we demonstrated we have the political will and the commitment to do it.
“We passed the governance bill and it went to the executive.
“What I expected considering the kind of work that was done was for us both arms to seat down, because the issues that were raised are not issues that are not surmountable.
“Unfortunately, after so many months, the bill has come back with query that can easily be trashed out in a day session.
“Those in the petroleum sector will agree with me that they have never seen the engagement we saw in the governance bill.
“Secondly, we had the fiscal bill and we have taken it to the point that has never been archived, but I believe a lot of the operators will want to ask what will happen to the fiscal bill if the governance bill was not assented to.
“Our intension is to go back to the executive and seat down with them in the interest of Nigeria.
“This is a very good bill as most operators and the technical people in the sector commended it.’’
He said the observation made on the bill was not enough reasons to stop its assent because of the huge positive impact it would make on investments in the sector.
“As you know, there is no serious investment going on in the oil and gas sector because people are not sure of what to expect”, Saraki said.
On cost of governance, Saraki said it was huge but added that there were some wastages that could be reduced.
The Senate president said the fight against corruption must be transparent, and credible, adding that effort should also be made to prevent it.
“For example, the main area where we produce our major revenue is mainly in the oil and gas sector.
“But when you look at corruption cases, I am not sure you will find many of the cases in that sector, the fight is so selective.
“But if it is transparent, you should start from where you are producing your large source of revenue.
“If you can tackle corruption in the sector, there will be less leakage down the line.
“For example, today, we are back to spending close to $3.6billion on petroleum subsidy, so, apart from the National Assembly, which anti-corruption agency is looking at that?
“The point I am making is that there should be a transparent process and approach in fighting corruption.
“If we can make the petroleum sector most efficient which accounts for large revenue, government will be more efficient.”
Meanwhile, amid criticisms and call for slashing of its funds, the Governor of Sokoto State, Hon Aminu Tambuwal has advocated for more funding for the National Assembly to enable it adequately perform its duties.
Tambuwal disclosed this, last Monday, while delivering a lecture at the second convocation and awards ceremony of the National Institute of Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS) in collaboration with the University of Benin.
The former Speaker of the House of Representatives said that even though it is an unpopular argument, that so long as Nigeria operates a presidential system of government, the funding of the National Assembly remained meagre.
Giving insights on how to boost the institutional capacity of the National Assembly, the Sokoto governor stressed that for the committees of NASS to work effectively, more money must be allocated.
“The constitutional responsibilities of the National Assembly are enormous, especially in the areas of law making and oversight. Adequate financial resources are required for the Assembly to be able to discharge these responsibilities effectively in line with public expectations.

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2023: PDP Govs Task NASS On New Electoral Law

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The Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) Governors Forum has tasked the National Assembly to immediately set up a conference committee to harmonize the two versions of the Electoral Act Amendment passed recently by the two chambers.
In a statement, yesterday, the Chairman of the forum and Sokoto State Governor, Hon Aminu Tambuwal, said any delay in the passing and assenting of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill will hamper preparations for the conduct of the 2023 polls.
The forum also charged the National Assembly to adopt the version of the bill passed by the House of Representatives, as it gives the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) the latitude to adopt electronic transmission of election results.
“The PDP Governors’ Forum requests the Senate and House of Representatives (House) Conference Committee when set up, to adopt the House version of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill on the issue of electronic transmission.
“It should be noted that Section 52(2) of the House version says, ‘Voting at an election and transmission of result under this Bill shall be in accordance with the procedure determined by the commission,’ and Section 52 (2) of the Senate version provides, ‘The commission may consider electronic transmission of results provided that the national coverage is adjudged to be adequate and secure by the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) and approved by the National Assembly.
“The Senate version which subjects the decision of INEC to deploy electronic transmission to the decision of the Nigerian Communications Commission and National Assembly is manifestly a usurpation of the powers of INEC and offends relevant provisions of the Nigerian Constitution that guarantees INEC’s autonomy and independence,” the opposition governors.
According to them, INEC has demonstrated capacity to transmit votes electronically with the introduction and deployment of the Biomodel Voters Accreditation System (BVAs), used in the recent bye-election in Delta State.
The PDP governors further charged the National Assembly conference committee on the Electoral Act Amendment Bill, to jettison the position of the House to compel all political parties to adopt one method of conducting primary elections.
“The forum is of the view that political parties should be allowed discretion to adopt either direct or indirect primaries in their Constitutions and in practice.
“The Senate version that retains the original provision in the Electoral Act should be adopted in the interest of the growth of our political parties and freedom of choice, the hallmark of a functional democracy.
“This intervention of the PDP governors is predicted on the need to ensure a free, fair and credible election, that strengthens Nigeria’s democracy, constitutionalism and rule of law. Only a credible election will guarantee accountability and good governance which Nigeria so desperately needs today,” the governors stated.

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Cholera: NCDC Records 46 New Deaths In One Week

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The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) says 46 new deaths linked to suspected cholera cases were recorded in the country in the past one week.
The NCDC said this via its officially verified website, yesterday morning, stating that the situation report was published based on data sent in by the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory, for the respective reporting week.
It stated that eight states accounted for the new cholera fatalities.
The public health agency, in its epidemiological report for August 30 to September 5, said a total of 2,323 people had so far died as a result of suspected cholera infections in 25 states and the federal capital territory (FCT), since the beginning of 2021.
It stated that 1,677 cholera infections were recorded in 12 states within the period of one-week, bringing the total suspected cases to 69,925 as at September 5.
“In the reporting week, 12 states reported 1,677 suspected cases – Bauchi (566), Katsina (282), Sokoto (258), Yobe (183), Borno (179), Niger (94), Kaduna (66), Adamawa (34), Gombe (8), Kano (4), Kebbi (2), and Nasarawa (1),” the report said.
“There was a 58% decrease in the number of new suspected cases in week 35 (1,667) compared with week 34 (3,992).
“Of the cases reported, there were 46 deaths from Borno (13), Sokoto (12), Katsina (8), Bauchi (6), Niger (3), Kaduna (2), Adamawa (1) and Kano (1) states with a weekly case fatality ratio (CFR) of 2.7%.
“Twenty-five states and the FCT have reported suspected cholera cases in 2021. These are Adamawa, Bauchi, Bayelsa, Benue, Borno, Cross River, Delta, Ekiti, Enugu, FCT, Gombe, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Kogi, Kwara, Nasarawa, Niger, Osun, Plateau, Sokoto, Taraba, Yobe, and Zamfara.
“As at September 5, 2021, a total of 69,925 suspected cases, including 2,323 deaths (CFR 3.3%) have been reported from 25 states and FCT in 2021.
“Two new states (Osun and Ekiti) reported cases, though with dates of onset in weeks prior to week 35,” it explained.
The NCDC added that the national multi-sectoral EOC activated at level 02 continued to coordinate the national response.
Cholera is a waterborne disease with a high risk of transmission where there are poor sanitation and disruption of clean water supply.
The wrong disposal of refuse and practices, such as open defecation, endanger the safety of water used for drinking and for personal use, thereby leading to the spread of water-borne diseases such as cholera, and without proper WASH, Nigeria remained at risk of cholera cases and deaths.

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Buhari Seeks Senate’s Approval For $4bn, €710m External Loan

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President Muhammadu Buhari, has asked the Senate to approve a fresh loan of $4,054,476, 863.00, €710million, and a grant of $125million to finance critical projects in the 2021 budget.
Buhari’s request was contained in his letter read by Senate President, Dr Ahmad Lawan, at plenary following the resumption of the upper chamber from its two-month annual vacation, yesterday.
According to the President, the request is an addendum to the proposed 2018–2021 Federal Government External Borrowing Rolling Plan earlier approved by the National Assembly.
He said that the projects listed in the addendum to the 2018–2021 Federal Government External Borrowing Rolling Plan are to be financed through sovereign loans from the World Bank, French Development Agency, China Exim Bank, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and Credit Suisse Group, among others.
“In view of other emerging needs and to ensure that all critical projects approved by FEC as at June, 2021 are incorporated, I hereby forward an addendum to the proposed borrowing plan,” Buhari said.
The letter titled, ‘Addendum to the request for Senate’s concurrent approval of multilateral fund projects under the 2018-2021 Federal Government external borrowing (rolling) plan’ reads, “I write in respect of the above subject and to submit the attached addendum to the proposed 2018-2021 Federal Government external borrowing (rolling) plan for the consideration and concurrent approval of the Senate for same to become effective.
“The distinguishing Senate President may wish to recall that I earlier transmitted a request on the proposed 2018-2020 Federal Government External Borrowing Plan for the concurrent approval of the Senate in May, 2021.
“However, in view of other emerging needs and to ensure that all critical projects approved by FEC as at June, 2021 are incorporated. I hereby forward an addendum to the proposed borrowing plan.
“The projects listed in the addendum to the 2018-2021 Federal Government External Borrowing Rolling Plan are to be financed through sovereign loans from the World Bank, French Development Agency, China Exim Bank, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and Credit Suisse Group and Standard Chartered/China Export and Credit (SINOSURE), in the total sum of $4,054,476,863.00, plus €710million, and grant component of $125million.
“The Senate is kindly invited to note that the projects and programmes in the borrowing plan were selected based on positive, technical and economic evaluations and the contribution they would make to the socio-economic development of the country, including employment generation and poverty reduction as well as protection of the most vulnerable and very poor segments of the Nigerian society
“The Senate may also wish to note that all the listed projects in the addendum form part of the 2018-2021 External Borrowing Plan and covered both the Federal and States Government Projects and are geared towards the realization of the Nigeria Economic Sustainability Plan that cut across key sectors such as infrastructure, health, agriculture and food security, energy, education and human capital development and Covid-19 response efforts.
“I hereby wish to request for the kind consideration and concurrent approval of the Senate for projects listed in the addendum to the 2018-2021 Federal Government External Borrowing (Rolling) Plan to enable the projects become effective.”

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