…Senators Move To Override Buhari …Lawan, Gbajabiamila Read Withdrawal Of Assent Letters …CISLAC, TI Task NASS To Veto President
Strong indications emerged, yesterday, that senators may override President Muhammadu Buhari’s veto on the Electoral Amendment Bill, 2021, today.
The development followed the rejection of President Muhammadu Buhari to assent to the Electoral Amendment Bill, 2021, which a letter was acknowledged and read in the Upper Chamber by the Senate President, Dr Ahmad Lawan, at yesterday’s plenary.
This is as the President of the Senate, Dr Ahmad Lawan, yesterday, read the letter of President Muhammadu Buhari withholding of assent to the 2021 Electoral Act Amendment Bill, just as the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) and Transparency International (TI) Nigeria expressed disappointment over the failure of Buhari to sign the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill, 2021, and challenged the National Assembly to override the president in the interest of Nigerians.
Senator Thompson Sekibo, representing Rivers East Senatorial District and Chairman, Senate Committee Chairman on Nigeria Navy, in an interview, confirmed, yesterday, that signatures of lawmakers were being collated in earnest to override President Muhammadu Buhari.
The lawmaker described as a huge disappointment, Buhari’s failure to assent to the amendment bill, saying that senators would rise to the occasion irrespective of political differences.
Sekibo believed that majority of senators were not happy, disclosing that about 73 signatures have so far been collated preparatory for today’s override of Buhari’s veto.
Though, efforts to access list of senators who have already indicated readiness to override Buhari through signatures proved abortive, a senator from a North-West state who is a member of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) said, he and “many more others”, are committed to overriding Buhari’s veto today.
“We are 109 in number, and I can vouch for myself and many others that we form the required number in tomorrow’s plenary to override President Buhari.
“Remember that it’s not only direct or indirect primary election that was amended. There are several other items that are of immense benefit to the political development of the nation.”
The lawmaker, who insisted that he should not be quoted further, hinted that they may convene an emergency meeting of northern senators before tomorrow to convince others to see reasons.
President Muhammadu Buhari had, last Monday, written to the upper and lower legislative chambers, saying he declined his assent to the Electoral Act Amendment Bill.
The letter was read by the President of the Senate, Dr. Ibrahim Lawan at yesterday’s plenary.
Buhari’s letter to lawmakers cited several reasons he declined assent, among which he cited security concerns, lack of capacity of smaller political parties and the cost inherent in the conduct of direct primary elections.
Other lawmakers who spoke in similar vein, hinted that overriding Buhari’s veto would precede passage of the 2022 budget.
However, the President of the Senate, Dr Ahmad Lawan, yesterday, read the letter of President Muhammadu Buhari withholding of assent to the 2021 Electoral Act Amendment Bill.
This is as the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) and Transparency International (TI) Nigeria have expressed disappointment over the failure of Buhari to sign the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill, 2021, and challenged the National Assembly to override the president in the interest of Nigerians.
Buhari, in the letter is withholding assent to the bill, had cited the imposition of direct primaries approved by the National Assembly, as a means of picking candidates by political parties in the amended Electoral Act as a violation of the spirit of democracy.
According to Buhari, with direct primaries, there will be plethora of litigation from party members and stakeholders, just as he said that allowing the process would fuel corruption as well as encourage over monitisation of the process.
In the letter read during plenary after the senators came out from a closed-door session that was held from 10.42am to 11.42am, Buhari said that direct primaries would raise credibility issues as well as lead to undue interference, even as Buhari asked the Senate to quickly consider 2021 Appropriation Virement of N13.588trillion to fund infrastructure.
Buhari also said that he was withholding assent to the bill based on direct primaries because it would cause a huge financial burden on political parties, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the economy and security agencies, adding that the process was undemocratic.
The National Assembly had on Tuesday, November 9, 2021, passed the much anticipated Electoral Act Amendment Bill 2021 after both the Senate and House of Representatives deliberated extensively on the report of the Conference Committee on the bill.
The Senate had on that day, passed the harmonised version of the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill, 2021.
The passage followed the consideration of the report of the Conference Committee of the Senate and House of Representatives on the bill.
In line with customary legislative procedures, the two chambers had in September set up Conference Committees to reconcile disparity in the versions of the bill as passed by the Senate and House of Representatives.
Consequently, the National Assembly had on November 19, 2021, transmitted the bill to Buhari for assent in line with Section 58(4) of the 1999 Constitution that “Where a bill is presented to the President for assent, he shall within 30 days thereof, signify that he assents or that he withholds assent.”
Similarly, Speaker, House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, has formerly received and read the letter conveying President Muhammadu Buhari’s reasons for withholding assent to the Electoral Act Amendment Bill.
In the letter, the president advanced a couple of reasons for withholding the signature.
The mood of the House can be described as sombre as Gbajabiamila read the letter.
“The conduct of direct primaries across the 8,809 wards across the length and breadth of the country will lead to a significant spike in the cost of conducting primary elections by parties as well as increase in the cost of monitoring such elections by INEC who has to deploy monitors across these wards each time a party is to conduct direct primaries for the presidential, gubernatorial and legislative posts”, the president said amid other reasons.
Reacting, the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) and Transparency International (TI) Nigeria expressed disappointment over the failure of President Muhammadu Buhari to sign the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill, 2021.
Consequently, CISLAC and TI have urged the National Assembly to override the president on the Electoral Bill.
The Executive Director of CISLAC and Head, TI Nigeria, Auwal Ibrahim Musa, called on the National Assembly not to disappoint Nigerians but do the needful.
“Elections remain a critical aspect of democracy as it is the gateway for all citizens to achieve their aspirations for democracy, and a transparent election can only be achieved by creating a legal framework, a robust legal framework that can respond to the current challenges we face.
“The bill seeks to improve the electoral system by providing the legal backing for the use of technology in the accreditation of voters and transmission of election results. It seeks to enhance timelines for electoral activities, including voting, collation, and announcement of results, and adequately defines over-voting, confers authority on INEC to review questionable election results and monitor direct primaries for all political parties.
“We believe that this bill will increase transparency in our electoral process, encourage citizens to participate in the process as aspirants and voters as well as help improve the ideology of our elections by reducing the reliance on dirty money.”
Auwal, who is the chairman, Transition Monitoring Group (TMG), urged the lawmakers to exercise their powers to override the president.
“We, therefore, call on the 9th Assembly to etch its name in gold in the right pages of our history by exercising its powers under Section 58 (5) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as Amended) which states that, ‘Where the President withholds his assent and the bill is again passed by each House by two-thirds majority, the bill shall become law and the assent of the President shall not be required’.
“If the National Assembly vetoes the president, it will show their independence and above all, respect the view of the constituents who gave them the mandate to legislate on their behalf.
“NASS can simply not afford to disappoint Nigerians!” he said.
Earlier, President Muhammadu Buhari had explained why he declined assent to the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill 2021.
In a letter to the leadership of the National Assembly, Buhari expressed reservations over the imposition of direct primaries on the parties.
Buhari said the bill has serious adverse legal, financial, economic and security consequences.
He noted that the limitation or restriction of the nomination procedures available to political parties and their members constitutes an affront to the right to freedom of association.
In the letter titled: “Withholding of Assent to Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill 2021,” Buhari said: “Further to the letter dated 18th November, 2021, forwarded for Presidential assent, the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill 2021, as passed by the National Assembly, I have received informed advice from relevant Ministries, Departments and Agencies of the government, and have also carefully reviewed the bill in light of the current realities prevalent in the Federal Republic of Nigeria in the circumstances.”
Buhari stated that based on the review, the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill 2021 “has serious adverse legal, financial, economic and security consequences, which cannot be accommodated at the moment considering our nation’s peculiarities.”
Besides, the president stated that the bill also “has implications on the rights of citizens to participate in the government as constitutionally ensured.”
According to him, “The Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill 2021 seeks to amend certain provisions of the extant Electoral Act 2010. Part of the objective of the bill is the amendment of the present Section 87 of the Electoral Act, 2010 to delete the provision for the conduct of indirect primaries in the nomination of party candidates such that party candidates can henceforth only emerge through direct primaries.
“The conduct of direct primaries across the 8,809 wards across the length and breadth of the country will lead to a significant spike in the cost of conducting primary elections by parties as well as increase in the cost of monitoring such elections by INEC, who has to deploy monitors across these wards each time a party is to conduct direct primaries for the presidential, gubernatorial and legislative posts.
“The addition of these costs with the already huge cost of conducting general election will inevitably lead to huge financial burden on the political parties, INEC and the economy in general at a time of dwindling revenues.”
The president also hinged his rejection of the bill on security implications.
According to him, “In addition to increased costs identified above, conducting and monitoring primary elections across 8,809 wards will pose huge security challenges as the security agencies will also be overstretched, direct primaries will be open to participation from all and sundry and such large turn-out without effective security coordination will also engender intimidation and disruptions, thereby raising credibility issues for the outcomes of such elections.”
Buhari also said the bill is a violation of the spirit of democracy.
He said: “The amendment as proposed is a violation of the underlying spirit of democracy, which is characterised by freedom of choices. Political party membership is a voluntary exercise of the constitutional right to freedom of association. Several millions of Nigerians are not card-carrying members of any political party.
“Thus, the emphasis should be on enabling qualified Nigerians to vote for the candidate of their choice during general election as a means of participation in governance and furtherance of the concept of universal adult suffrage or universal franchise.”
The president added that the bill as presently captured would give rise to litigations “based on diverse grounds and issues of law including but not limited to the fact that the proposed amendment cannot work in retrospect given that the existing constitution of the parties already registered with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), permits direct, indirect and consensus primaries.
“This real possibility, will, without doubt, truncate the electoral programme of the nation as another electoral exercise is imminent towards a change of government in 2023. Nigeria is at the moment still grappling with the issues of monetisation of the political process and vote buying at both party and general election.
“The direct implication of institutionalising only direct primaries is the aggravation of over monetisation of the process as there will be much more people a contestant needs to reach out to thereby further fuelling corruption and abuse of office by incumbent contestants, who may resort to public resources to satisfy the increased demands and logistics of winning party primaries.”
The president did not rule out manipulation of the process through direct primaries.
He said: “Rival parties can also conspire and mobilise people to vote against a good or popular candidate in a party during its primaries just to pave way for their own candidates. Whereas where voting is done by accredited delegates during indirect primaries, the above irregularities are not possible.
“The major conclusions arrived at upon the review are highlighted hereunder, to wit: Asides its serious adverse legal, financial, economic and security consequences, the limitation or restriction of the nomination procedures available to political parties and their members constitutes an affront to the right to freedom of association.
“It is thus undemocratic to restrict the procedure or means of nomination of candidates by political parties, as it also amounts to undue interference in the affairs of political parties.
“Indirect primaries or collegiate elections are part of internationally accepted electoral practices. More so, direct primaries are not free from manipulations and do not particularly guarantee the emergence of the will of the people especially, in circumstances like ours, where it is near impossible to sustain a workable implementation framework or structure thereof.
“In the premise of the above, I hereby signify to the National Assembly that I am constrained to withhold assent to the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill 2021 in line with the provisions of Section 58(1) & (4) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
“It is my considered position that the political parties should be allowed to freely exercise right of choice in deciding which of direct or indirect primaries to adopt in the conduct of their primary elections as their respective realities may permit. Please, accept the assurance of my highest consideration and esteem.”
By: Nneka Amaechi-Nnadi, Abuja
Wike, Promise Keeper – Eze Gbakagbaka
His Majesty, Eze Oha Evo III, King Leslie Nyebuchi Eke, has described the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, as an astute leader and a promise keeper.
Eze Eke stated this when he spoke with newsmen at the commissioning of Rumuigbo internal roads in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area, yesterday.
Governor Wike, he said, has so far proven that he has the interest of the state at heart, and expressed satisfaction over the Governor’s continuous project execution even towards the end of his administration.
According to him, the internal roads built by Governor Wike have opened the area to new trench of business and economic activities.
He noted that the community has now become a bee hive of business activities due to the roads.
The Evo King recalled how floods ravaged the area in recent times, but said such now belong to history due to Wike’s intervention.
On the recently commissioned phase one of the Trans-Kalabari Road, he said it has exposed the riverine communities to business activities as well.
He noted that the prices of commodities in the area will now stabilise as more business operators will be trooping into the place.
“The jinx of monopolistic operation is now broken. Everyone in the area will now be moved to do one business or the order. I think the Trans-Kalabari Road is one in million. Kudos to Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike”, he said.
He also called on the people to jettison all forms of rancour and acrimony and give the in-coming administration under the leadership of Sir Siminialayi Fubara the needed support in order to enable him execute more people-oriented projects like the out going governor.
The monarch, who supported the idea of ‘Consolidated Government’, revealed that it would bring about rapid development in the state.
“My thinking is that Consolidation is necessary. For instance, the beauty of governance in Lagos State is that they maintained one party over the years, which has addressed the issue of abandoned projects”, he said.
The Governor Nyesom Wike-led administration has executed more projects in the state than any other government with no record of abandoned project.
By: King Onunwor
Pensioners Demand Separate Ministry Under Tinubu’s Govt
Nigeria Union of Pensioners (NUP) has called on the President-elect, Sen. Bola Tinubu, to create a ministry that will be saddled solely with the responsibility of addressing the plights of retirees in the country.
The South-West zone of NUP made the call after its quarterly meeting in Abeokuta, yesterday.
The Tide source reports that the meeting was attended by chairmen and secretaries of NUP from Ogun, Oyo, Ondo, Osun, Lagos and Ekiti states.
Speaking with newsmen after the meeting, the Zonal Public Relations Officer of NUP in the zone, Olusegun Abatan, said that the creation of the ministry would turn the fortunes of pensioners around in the country.
Abatan called on Tinubu to do more for pensioners when he assumed office as president.
“President Muhammadu Buhari has done quite a lot for pensioners. He really helped them and so we are appealing to Tinubu to please give the matter of pensioners serious attention.
“We want a separate ministry that will be solely addressing matters that have to do with pensioners under the administration of Tinubu,” he said.
Abatan alleged that governors of South-West states were owing pensioners in the zone huge sums as gratuities and pensions.
He urged all the governors in the zone to implement the consequential adjustment and the 35 per cent increment in pensions without further delay.
Abatan particularly cited Ogun, Ekiti and Osun states where he claimed that the gratuities of pensioners were paid last in 2012.
“They are owing arrears of pensions, gratuities and other entitlements, including gratuities and entitlements to the next of kin of some deceased pensioners.
“We want to appeal to our governors to step up their interests in the affairs of pensioners,” he said.
We’ll Defend PDP’s Mandate Secured During The Election In Rivers -Wike
Rivers State governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, says the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the State will defend the mandate that was been given to all of its candidates in the 2023 general election.
The governor noted that soon the various election tribunals will commence sitting where the mandate will be challenged, but the PDP will stand in defence of its candidates to ensure that the mandate is not stolen.
Governor Wike gave the assurance when he spoke at a luncheon organised to celebrate the PDP candidates who won their election and have been presented with their Certificates of Return by the Independent National Electoral Commission.
Those honoured with the luncheon at the Banquet Hall of Government House in Port Harcourt on Wednesday were the Governor-elect, Sir Siminialayi Fubara, Deputy Governor-elect, Prof. Ngozi Odu and other elected Representatives of Rivers State to the National and Rivers State House of Assembly.
Governor Wike pointed to the fierce political battle that was experienced during the general election and that if not for God, the victory that PDP is celebrating today would have eluded it.
The Rivers State governor told those who have been elected to the National Assembly to support every cause that promotes national unity, while placing the interest of the State paramount at all times.
He explained the importance of working in tandem with the State on any cause, whether it is suiting to them or not, but because it is expedient in advancing the interest of the State.
Governor Wike pointed to some Rivers leaders who went to Abuja and betrayed the interest of the state. He said they have become the greatest losers and fallen out of relevance in the State.
The governor also urged the elected representatives to trend with caution and never use their elevated positions to undermine or antagonise existing leadership structure in their various local government areas.
He told them not to abandon those who have contributed sundry efforts to ensure that their emergence at the polls was successful.
Governor Wike scolded Hon. Nwanaka Okpokiri, the member representing Ahoada West State constituency, for working against the success of the PDP in the last general election, but failed.
In his speech, Rivers State Chairman of PDP, Ambassador Desmond Akawor, said there is massive celebration across the State over the victory of the party in the last general election.
He noted as astute the leadership governor Wike provided in leading the party in a fierce electoral battle that has produced youngest governor-elect in Nigeria, Sir Siminalayi Fubara.
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