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Electoral Act Amendment: Still Riding The Storm

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If members of the National Assembly had hoped to give themselves a quiet and rejuvenating break from their legislative labours through the year when they decided to keep the consideration and passage of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill as the last item on their agenda before proceeding on their annual recess, they must have realized by now that they didn’t do themselves any favours by the way they handled the matter, especially section 52 (3).
As things have turned out, they murdered their own sleep when they ended up with varying and divergent positions on the subject matter of the electronic transmission of election results from the polling units that fall short of the yearnings and aspirations of the people.
From the proposition, that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) could employ electronic transmission of results where practicable, as indicated in section 52 (3) of the amendment bill, the senate, by a 52 votes to 28 (with 28 absentions) concluded that INEC should consider electronic transmission only if the national network coverage is adjudged by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to be adequate and secure, and then approved by the National assembly.
According to the Senate, “The commission may consider electronic transfer provided the national network coverage is adjudged to be adequate and secure by the Nigerian Communications Commission and approved by the National Assembly”.
The House of Representatives on its part, however, voted to retain the controversial clause which gives INEC the discretion to determine when, where and by what means voting and transmission of results may be conducted.
“Voting at an election and transmission of result under this bill shall be in accordance with the procedure determined by the commission, the House stipulated.
While a wide range of Nigerians and most critical stakeholder groups and individuals have since outrightly faulted, floored and condemned the senate for unconstitutionally subjecting INEC to the NCC in the discharge of its (INEC) assignment, they have not spared the green chamber for falling short of making it mandatory for INEC to transmit results by electronic means, especially when the commission itself has not complained of any inadequacy, inability or impediment to undertake the venture.
The lawmakers, on the other hand, have been laboring to explain and defend their roundly flawed position.
Speaking to newsmen last weekend while on a visit to his Yobe North Senatorial District, the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, said the upper legislative chamber did what it did in defence of Nigerian voters whose votes may not be counted with the immediate deployment of technological means of transmitting results.
“I’m happy that we have been able to pass the amendment even though some people are complaining of what we have passed in the senate and probably what the House of Representatives also passed.
“When the majority of senators voted against immediate application or deployment of electronic transmission of results from the polling units, to the ward, to the local government, states and federal, they didn’t say they do not believe in electronic transmission.
“All of us in the senate, 109 of us, believe that at one point, our electoral process must deploy electronic transmission so that it eases and enhances the electoral process and give it more credibility and integrity”, Dr Lawan said.
Continuing, he said, “But you see, when you have not reached that stage where you could deploy the electronic transmission from every part of the country, then you have to be very careful. And no matter what anybody may say, you can not have about 50 per cent of Nigerian voters not participating or not getting their votes counted in elections and say it doesn’t matter, that we have to start the electronic transmission.
“We know the evils of not transmitting results electronically but compare the evils of electronically transmitting just half of the electoral votes from Nigerians and say you have elected a president with 50 per cent only”.
The Senate President further explained that the lawmakers expect that whenever the NCC is satisfied that INEC could deploy the technology for transmission, both institutions would approach the National Assembly for the final nod, adding that the federal lawmaking body would never turn down the request when all the conditions have been met.
However, the Independent National Electoral Commission has insisted without equivocation that it has what it takes to transmit election results from everywhere in the country, including very difficult to reach locations.
Speaking in reaction to the development on National Television, Festus Okoye, INEC’s National Chairman and Commissioner in charge of Information and Voter Education, said “We have uploaded results from very remote areas, even from areas where you have to use human carriers to access. So, we’ve made our position very clear, that we have the capacity and we have the will to deepen the use of technology in the electoral process”.
Of course, with the success achieved in the Ondo and Edo State’ gubernational elections where INEC opened a portal into which results were posted and made accessible to the public, Nigerians have refused to believe whatever explanation from the naysaying lawmakers and their apologists but are instead insistent that the national electoral body be given all the assistant, support and encouragement to consolidate on the gains already achieved.
Expressing his views on the subject matter, Adekude Adekoya, a public affairs analyst, berated the National Assembly for complicating an otherwise knotty situation.
“Now, this is really bothersome. Instead of simplifying a knotty situation, the senate seems to be worsening it. Why bring NCC into this matter? Why must the National Assembly approve it? There is a fixation about how the results of future elections will be delivered by the ruling faction of the power elite. Why this obsession?”, he queried, adding that “I suspect dark motives behind this obsession with not having electronic transmission of results is because the collation centres, which are actually business centres, will go out of business”.
According to Adekoya, “Unscrupulous politicians have always used the business, sorry, collation centres, to subvert the will of the people, time and again, and they know that the game may be up if electronic transmission is part of the law. It may explain why the clause is worded with trips and traps that will make INEC and NCC collide, while the National Assembly has already appointed itself the umpire.” Suspecting desperation by vested interests that care less about the welfare and wellbeing of the Nigerian people, Adekoya urged the lawmakers to always ensure to deliver the best that Nigerians deserved.
“Must we be stuck with politics of thuggery and elections of ballot box snatching? Technology developed from science to make life and living easier. Why don’t we want it in our electoral systemy? There seems a grand determination by people questing for power to attain it at all costs. A lame electoral law will be a huge enabler”, he said.
Evidently, this is why some Nigerians are clamouring for a review of the bill as passed by the National Assembly through the harmonization process while others are urging the President, Muhammadu Buhari, to withhold his assent unless what is delivered to him provides for the unmitigated power of INEC to organize, supervise and conduct elections without recourse to any other institution or authority as enshrined in the constitution.
However, there appears to be very little or no hope at all that the National assembly will deviate from the path it has taken as the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila has been reported to be urging the NCC and INEC to work together to deliver credible elections to Nigerians.
Brieging journalists in Abuja, last Tuesday, Rt. Hon. Gbajabiamila said, “INEC is empowered by our laws and the constitution to conduct elections and NCC has the mandate in terms of technology and capacity and all of that. So, they need to work together for us to have credible elections”.
The lawmakers may be on holiday, but they will have to spend every day bogged by the burden of their misadventure with the Electoral Act Amendment Bill 2021.

By: Opaka Dokubo

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Sanwo-Olu Signs Anti-Open Grazing Bill Into Law

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Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, on Monday, signed the bill to prohibit open cattle grazing and trespass of cattle on land in the state into laws.
With the law, Lagos has joined some states in southern Nigeria that have anti-open grazing laws in place.
The law is coming more than two weeks after the September 1 deadline set by the Southern Governors Forum for states.
The governor also signed the Lagos State Domestic And Sexual Violence Agency Bill, into Law.
Meanwhile, the state government has said it is committed to tackling the menace of drug abuse frontally to reduce the ravage among youths in the state.
Sanwo-Olu stated this on Monday at the Lagos House, Ikeja, during a courtesy visit by the delegates of Anglican Communion Church of Nigeria, led by the Archbishop Metropolitan and Primate, Most Reverend Henry Ndukuba.
Sanwo-Olu said his government was building a massive rehabilitation hospital at Ketu-Ejirin to tackle drug abuse, adding that his administration would  partner with the Church to ensure that the people lived a better life.
He said governance started from the leadership of spiritual homes, noting that government and church can jointly build a community that would outlive all, while restating the commitment to improve the movement of people on road, water as well as building rail infrastructure to make Lagos a livable city.
Speaking earlier, Ndukuba thanked the governor for partnering with the church in the welfare of the people and commended him for his outstanding performance in tackling Covid-19. 
 Also present at the courtesy visit were the Deputy Governor, Obafemi Hamzat, Chief of Staff to the Governor, Tayo Ayinde, Secretary to the State Government, Folashade Jaji, Commissioner for Information, Gbenga Omotoso, among other dignitaries.

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Okowa Tasks NASS On True Federalism

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Delta  State Governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, has called on the National Assembly to embody in the 1999 Constitution being amended, true federalism and independence of Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC).
The governor made the call on Monday at a nationwide sensitisation on the review of the existing revenue allocation formula held at Unity Hall, Government House, Asaba.
He explained that an independent RMAFC would carry out its functions independently, including laying its proposals directly before the National Assembly for approval.
According to the governor, the current practice where recommendations of the commission are presented to the President has led to the non-review of the revenue allocation formula since 1992 as no President demonstrated the political will to forward the amendments to the parliament.
He commended RMAFC for ongoing sensitisation of the states before a zonal exercise where recommendations from the states would be received.
“For quite some time a lot of talks have gone on in the revenue allocation and it’s very unfortunate that in this country we are still operating a revenue allocation formula that was actually reviewed in 1992.
“As we look forward to a new revenue allocation formula, we hope that you come out with something that is fair, justifiable and equitable.
“But, the challenge is that when you have done all this work, you are going to eventually, by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, lay this before the President and the President ought to lay it before the National Assembly.
“There is a challenge there and there has always been a challenge there, because what is there in our laws that will ensure that the President lays the recommendations of RMAFC before the National Assembly?
“We hope that the National Assembly takes a look at this amendment because RMAFC is supposed to be an independent commission, a commission on behalf of all federating units and component parts of the federation.
“They cannot tie your hands; the constitution ought to be amended to enable chairman of RMAFC to directly lay before the national assembly whatever review it has come up with so that nobody stands it down,’’ he said.
Okowa stated that the National Assembly must do what was right because “a nation is a nation.

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Reps Query Presidential Committee Over Assets Seized From Past Leaders

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The House of Representatives on Monday ordered the Presidential Implementation Committee (PIC) on Landed Property to produce reports of all assets seized from former Nigerian leaders.
Members were more particular about the late Head of State, Sani Abacha, whose property and money were recovered by the Federal Government. 
 The chairman, ad-hoc Committee on Abandoned Property, Ademora Kuye, said the House wanted a report on all assets seized from Nigerian leaders in and out of Nigeria, particularly Abacha.
He said this when the Executive Secretary of PIC appeared before the committee in Abuja.
“We need to know the state of those property and to also know if the property have titles of deed,’’ Mr Kuye said.
The committee also queried the sale of federal government’s assets held in trust by the PIC.
Mr Kuye said the committee discovered that some of the property the PIC claimed to have sold were either not sold or were not paid for, contrary to claims made by the PIC.
He added that some of the seized houses which the PIC claimed were vacant were still being occupied.
He directed the PIC to furnish the House of Representatives committee with up-to-date reports of federal government’s assets sold, amount realised from the sales, those yet to be sold and those under litigation.
Mr Kuye also asked that the PIC must state the amount of money remitted to the federal government from the sales with evidence of remittance, adding that all assets pointed out to the committee but not included in its first report should be forwarded to the House of Representatives committee.
Responding to Mr Kuye’s submissions, the Executive Secretary, PIC, Bala Samid, stated that some of the people occupying government quarters had refused to vacate them.
He added that as soon as the occupants were approached for payment or to vacate the houses they went to court to obtain injunctions restraining the PIC.
“We approached the federal government to report them and the federal government said that we should give them time”.

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