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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 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”.
With Nigerians already calling for the prosecution of the NCC officials whose testimony under oath has been found to be false and thereby misled the House of Representatives, the ghost of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill, whose body was laid at the hallow chambers of the National Assembly, will continue to haunt the lawmakers until they come back and meet Nigerians on their terms.

By: Opaka Dokubo

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We Are Here To Mend And Heal The Nation-Tinubu

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Being a text of the inaugural address of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu during his inauguration ceremony at the Eagle Square in Abuja on Monday, May 29, 2023.
My fellow citizens, I
stand before you honoured to assume the sacred mandate you have given me. My love for this nation is abiding. My confidence in its people, unwavering. And my faith in God Almighty, absolute. I know that His hand shall provide the needed moral strength and clarity of purpose in those instances when we seem to have reached the limits of our human capacity.
This day is bold and majestic yet bright and full of spirit, as is our precious nation.
As a nation, we have long ago decided to march beyond the dimness of night into the open day of renewed national hope.
The question we now ask ourselves is whether to remain faithful to the work inherent in building a better society or retreat into the shadows of our unmet potential.
For me, there is but one answer. We are too great a nation and too grounded as a people to rob ourselves of our finest destiny.
This nation’s journey has been shaped by the prayers of millions, and the collective sacrifices of us all.
We have endured hardships that would have made other societies crumble.
Yet, we have shouldered the heavy burden to arrive at this SUBLIME moment where the prospect of a better future merges with our improved capacity to create that future.
To the surprise of many but not to ourselves, we have more firmly established this land as a democracy in both word and deed.
The peaceful transition from one government to another is now our political tradition. This handover symbolizes our trust in God, our enduring faith in representative governance and our belief in our ability to reshape this nation into the society it was always meant to be.
Here, permit me to say a few words to my predecessor, President Muhammadu Buhari. Mr President, you have been an honest, patriotic leader who has done his best for the nation you love. On a more personal note, you are a worthy partner and friend. May history be kind to you.
For many years, Nigeria’s critics have trafficked the rumour that our nation will break apart, even perish.
Yet here we are. We have stumbled at times, but our resilience and diversity have kept us going.
Our burdens may make us bend at times, but they shall never break us.
Instead, we stand forth as Africa’s most populous nation and as the best hope and strongest champion of the Black Race.
As citizens, we declare as one unified people devoted to one unified national cause, that as long as this world exists, Nigeria Shall Exist.
Today, Fate and Destiny join together to place the torch of human progress in our very hands. We dare not let it slip.
We lift high this torch so that it might shine on every household and in every heart that calls itself Nigerian. We hold this beam aloft because it lights our path with compassion, brotherhood, and peace. May this great light never Extinguish.
Our administration shall govern on your behalf but never rule over you. We shall consult and dialogue but never dictate. We shall reach out to all but never put down a single person for holding views contrary to our own.
We are here to further mend and heal this nation, not tear and injure it.
In this vein, may I offer a few comments regarding the election that brought us to this juncture. It was a hard fought contest. And it was also fairly won. Since the advent of the Fourth Republic, Nigeria has not held an election of better quality.
The outcome reflected the will of the people. However, my victory does not render me any more Nigerian than my opponents. Nor does it render them any less patriotic.
They shall forever be my fellow compatriots. And I will treat them as such. They represent important constituencies and concerns that wisdom dare not ignore.
They have taken their concerns to court. Seeking legal redress is their right and I fully defend their exercise of this right. This is the essence of the rule of law.
Over six decades ago, our founding fathers gave bravely of themselves to place Nigeria on the map as an independent nation.
We must never allow the labour of those who came before us to wither in vain but to blossom and bring forth a better reality.
Let us take the next great step in the journey they began and believed in.
Today, let us recommit our very selves to placing Nigeria in our hearts as the indispensable home for each and every one of us regardless of creed, ethnicity, or place of birth.
My supporters, I thank you. To those who voted otherwise, I extend my hand across the political divide. I ask you to grasp it in national affinity and brotherhood. For me, political coloration has faded away. All I see are Nigerians.
May we uphold these fitting and excellent notions as the new Nigerian ideal.
My fellow compatriots,
The Nigerian ideal which I speak of is more than just an improvement in economic and other statistics. These things are important; but they can never convey the fullness of our story.
Our mission is to improve our way of life in a manner that nurtures our humanity, encourages compassion toward one another, and duly rewards our collective effort to resolve the social ills that seek to divide us.
Our Constitution and laws give us a nation on paper. We must work harder at bringing these noble documents to life by strengthening the bonds of economic collaboration, social cohesion, and cultural understanding. Let us develop a shared sense of fairness and equity.
The South must not only seek good for itself but must understand that its interests are served when good comes to the North. The North must see the South likewise.
Whether from the winding creeks of the Niger Delta, the vastness of the northern savannah, the boardrooms of Lagos, the bustling capital of Abuja, or the busy markets of Onitsha, you are all my people. As your President, I shall serve with prejudice toward none but compassion and amity towards all.
In the coming days and weeks, my team will publicly detail key aspects of our programme. Today, permit me to outline in broad terms a few initiatives that define our concept of progressive good governance in furtherance of the Nigerian ideal:
The principles that will guide our administration are simple:
* Nigeria will be impartially governed according to the constitution and the rule of law.
We shall defend the nation from terror and all forms of criminality that threaten the peace and stability of our country and our subregion.
* We shall remodel our economy to bring about growth and development through job creation, food security and an end of extreme poverty.
* In our administration, women and youth will feature prominently.
* Our government will continue to take proactive steps such as championing a credit culture to discourage corruption while strengthening the effectiveness and efficiency of the various anti-corruption agencies.
Security
Security shall be the top priority of our administration because neither prosperity nor justice can prevail amidst insecurity and violence.
To effectively tackle this menace, we shall reform both our security Doctrine and its Architecture.
We shall invest more in our security personnel, and this means more than an increase in number. We shall provide, better training, equipment, pay and firepower.
The Economy
On the economy, we target a higher GDP growth and to significantly reduce unemployment.
We intend to accomplish this by taking the following steps:
First, budgetary reform stimulating the economy without engendering inflation will be instituted.
Second, industrial policy will utilise the full range of fiscal measures to promote domestic manufacturing and lessen import dependency.
Third, electricity will become more accessible and affordable to businesses and homes alike. Power generation should nearly double and transmission and distribution networks improved. We will encourage states to develop local sources as well.
I have a message for our investors, local and foreign: our government shall review all their complaints about multiple taxation and various anti-investment inhibitions.
We shall ensure that investors and foreign businesses repatriate their hard earned dividends and profits home.
Jobs
My administration must create meaningful opportunities for our youth. We shall honour our campaign commitment of one million new jobs in the digital economy.
Our government also shall work with the National Assembly to fashion an omnibus Jobs and Prosperity bill. This bill will give our administration the policy space to embark on labour-intensive infrastructural improvements, encourage light industry and provide improved social services for the poor, elderly and vulnerable.
Agriculture
Rural incomes shall be secured by commodity exchange boards guaranteeing minimal prices for certain crops and animal products. A nationwide programme for storage and other facilities to reduce spoilage and waste will be undertaken.
Agricultural hubs will be created throughout the nation to increase production and engage in value-added processing. The livestock sector will be introduced to best modern practices and steps taken to minimize the perennial conflict over land and water resources in this sector.
Through these actions, food shall be made more abundant yet less costly. Farmers shall earn more while the average Nigerian pays less.
Infrastructure
We shall continue the efforts of the Buhari administration on infrastructure. Progress toward national networks of roads, rail and ports shall get priority attention.
Fuel Subsidy
We commend the decision of the outgoing administration in phasing out the petrol subsidy regime which has increasingly favoured the rich more than the poor. Subsidy can no longer justify its ever-increasing costs in the wake of drying resources. We shall instead re-channel the funds into better investment in public infrastructure, education, health care and jobs that will materially improve the lives of millions.
Monetary Policy
Monetary policy needs thorough housecleaning. The Central Bank must work towards a unified exchange rate. This will direct funds away from arbitrage into meaningful investment in the plant, equipment and jobs that power the real economy.
Interest rates need to be reduced to increase investment and consumer purchasing in ways that sustain the economy at a higher level.
Whatever merits it had in concept, the currency swap was too harshly applied by the CBN given the number of unbanked Nigerians. The policy shall be reviewed. In the meantime, my administration will treat both currencies as legal tender.
Foreign Policy
Given the world in which we reside, please permit a few comments regarding foreign policy.
The crisis in Sudan and the turn from democracy by several nations in our immediate neighbourhood are of pressing concern.
As such, my primary foreign policy objective must be the peace and stability of the West African subregion and the African continent. We shall work with ECOWAS, the AU and willing partners in the international community to end extant conflicts and to resolve new ones.
As we contain threats to peace, we shall also retool our foreign policy to more actively lead the regional and continental quest for collective prosperity.
Conclusion
This is the proudest day of my life. But this day does not belong to me. It belongs to you, the people of Nigeria.
On this day, Nigeria affirms its rightful place among the world’s great democracies. There, Nigeria shall reside forever.
The course of our past and the promise of the future have brought us to this exceptional moment.
In this spirit, I ask you to join me in making Nigeria a more perfect nation and democracy such that the Nigerian ideal becomes and forever remains the Nigerian reality.
With full confidence in our ability, I declare that these things are within our proximate reach because my name is Bola Ahmed Tinubu, and I am the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
May God bless you and May He bless our beloved land.

 

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CAN Congratulates Tinubu, Hints At Challenges Ahead

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The Christian Association of Nigeria on Monday congratulated President Bola Tinubu on his inauguration, describing it as a momentous occasion.
The organisation told him that with the plethora of challenges facing the country, it was clear that “there is much work to be done in order to ensure that Nigeria can reach its full potential.”
The President of CAN, Archbishop Daniel Okoh, made the remark in a statement titled, “Tinubu’s inauguration: A new chapter for Nigeria.”
The Tide source gathered that this was the first official congratulatory message from the religious body to Tinubu since he emerged victorious during the February 25 presidential election.
Okoh said, “On behalf of the Christian Association of Nigeria, I would like to extend our warmest congratulations to the new President of Nigeria, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, as he assumes office today.
“This is a momentous occasion for Nigeria, and we wish President Tinubu well as he takes on the responsibilities of leading our great nation. Nigeria is facing a number of challenges that require strong and decisive leadership.
“From security concerns to economic struggles, it is clear that there is much work to be done in order to ensure that Nigeria can reach its full potential. We urge President Tinubu to prioritise these issues and to work tirelessly to find lasting solutions that will improve the livelihoods of the people of Nigeria.”
Okoh said Nigerians must come together as a people with a spirit of unity and a great sense of accommodation to form a potent force.
“To this end, we believe that as His Excellency, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu engages the active participation of all Nigerians regardless of their political, ethnic and religious leanings, Nigeria can overcome all obstacles to emerge stronger than ever.
“Once again, we congratulate President Tinubu and wish him all the best as he begins the onerous task of leading Nigeria at this time of our national history,”  Okoh added.

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Ibori Mourns Dokpesi, Says Death Huge Loss To Nigeria

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Former Governor of Delta State, Chief James Ibori, has expressed sadness over the death of the Chairman of Daar Communications Plc, Chief Raymond Aleogho Dokpesi.
Ibori’s condolence was conveyed in a statement he personally signed on Monday.
Dokpesi, who was a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, died at the age of 71 in Abuja on Monday afternoon.
Ibori, who said he received the news of Dokpesi’s death with shock, described his passage as a monumental loss to the nation, the media industry and the PDP family.
According to him, as one of the pioneers of Nigeria’s media industry, Dokpesi’s vision, doggedness and diligence transformed and inspired a generation of media entrepreneurs in the country.
He said, as a loyal and dependable member of the PDP family, Dokpesi, who served as the Deputy Director-General Technical and systems of PDP Presidential Campaign Council for the February 25, 2023 presidential election, contributed immensely to the entrenchment of democracy in Nigeria.
Ibori prayed the Almighty God to be with the deceased’s family, associates and staff and grant them the fortitude to bear what he described as a huge and irreparable loss.

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