From Romanus Ugwu, and Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja
The National Assembly has reassured that it will submit the Electoral Act Amendment Bill to President Muhammadu Buhari for his assent before the end of February.
Chairman, Senate Committee on Independent National Electoral Committee (INEC), Kabiru Gaya, disclosed this when he spoke at a forum of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja.
“We are doing the Electoral Act, we have virtually completed work. What we are supposed to do at this stage is to bring it to the floor of the Senate for consideration and also the floor of the House of Reps for consideration. We are doing a joint hearing made up the Senate and the House, so that we can fast track work and also reduce the issue of having so many differences in the bill.
“If we are working together with the house, it means the bill will be one. The House bill and the Senate bill will be one. There will be no need to go for concurrence. I believe Nigerians will be happy with the Electoral Act 2021, which hopefully before the end of this month, will leave the chambers of national assembly to Mr. President for his assent. As we have promised that within the first quarter of 2021 the bill be signed, we hope and pray that it will be signed and it will enhance democratic progress in the country,” he said.
Gaya said that the committee was doing its best to ensure an electoral act that would guarantee free, fair and credible elections in the country.
“Whatever we need to do to improve the elections, the quality of our elections, we will continue to do that. I wish to thank the leadership of the Senate and the Speaker of House of Representatives for encouraging us to make sure that we fast track work on this issue of Electoral Act. People must have free, fair and credible elections in Nigeria and therefore we have to amend the Electoral Act, the law that will allow us achieve success in election; free, fair and credible,” he said.
No room for independent candidacy
Gaya also said the electoral act amendment bill cannot accommodate independent candidacy. He said the provision cannot be considered as part of the bill because it had no constitutional backing. There is, however, a separate bill proposing such a constitutional amendment.
The House of Representatives had in 2020 proposed the piece of legislation that gives legal backing for individuals not sponsored by any political party to contest for elective offices.
Gaya said unless the constitution is amended, the electoral act cannot adopt provisions for independent candidacy.
“A lot of views have been expressed in the report on the electoral act amendment bill. Some are talking about the independent candidacy of which we say we cannot do that. This is because the independent candidacy is still not in the constitution and the electoral act is inferior to the Constitution so we cannot have another law which supersedes the constitution.”
The 1999 constitution currently allows candidates nominated by political parties to contest in elections.
For that to change, both chambers of the national assembly alongside the 36 state houses of assembly must adopt the constitutional amendment bill seeking to alter the provision.
Assures on Diaspora voting
Gaya, however, assured that Nigerians in the Diaspora would be able to vote from their countries of residence during elections, once the constitution was amended.
“The issue has been discussed. We certainly don’t have problems with the people in Diaspora voting for the president or governors they want or whichever position. I know it is also a constitutional issue but we may have to amend the Constitution to ensure that.’’
Gaya added that some groups had sponsored a bill for constitutional amendment to accommodate Diaspora voting.
“We are waiting; Nigerians should wait for the National Assembly to deliberate on that. And when the issue of amendment of the Constitution comes up, that issue I know will be inserted in the amendment, but it has to be approved. And you know that approving constitutional amendment is not an easy thing, the two houses have to agree, the Senate and the House of Assembly have to agree,’’ he said.
Gaya, however, added that State Houses of Assembly and governors would have to be involved for the process to go through.
Registration: APC cautions against infighting
The All Progressives Congress (APC) Publicity Sub-Committee of the Contact and Mobilisation Committee, has expressed the worry over the spate of infighting in its ongoing membership registration and revalidation exercise.
In a statement by its Secretary, Osita Okechukwu, the Governor Yahaya Bello-led committee urged all Nigerians to register to own and transform the APC into a truly progressive political party.
The committee further noted that the registration and revalidation exercise embarked upon by the Governor Mai Mala Buni-led Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) provided Nigerians the opportunity to belong to the party.
“We call on all Nigerians, especially youths and women to register and own the APC. Mr President had laid the foundation for promotion of the doctrine of internal democracy and people’s ownership of the APC during his revalidation at Daura, when he gave life oxygen to Section 7(viii) of the APC’s Constitution, which states inter-alia, “To promote and uphold the practice of internal democracy at all levels of The Party’s organisation.”
PDP knocks APC over forced registration
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), yesterday, berated the All Progressives Congress (APC) for allegedly compelling civil servants in Kano to register as members of the ruling party.
The PDP in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, said the alleged forced registration amounts to political terrorism.
“One can only pity APC leaders over the crushing public apathy against their fraudulent membership registration exercise, for which their Kano State Chairman, Abdulahi Abbas, out of frustration, threatened civil servants and other innocent Nigerians in the state to join their dying party or lose all benefits and opportunities from the state government. It is appalling that after being exposed in their scheme of hiding under their duplicitous membership revalidation and re-registration exercise to inflate their membership register with fictitious figures, the APC leaders are now shamelessly resorting to harassing innocent civil servants and their families to register in the party, against their will.
“The fact that the APC has been reduced to a situation where it is rather forcing and coercing Nigerians in their supposed strongholds of Kano, Kaduna and Katsina state, who ordinarily should be trooping out en-masse to register, only goes to show that the APC is already dead in their consciousness, having betrayed them in the last six years. Nigerians should therefore disregard any membership figures that are eventually released by the APC as that would only be a product of inflated numbers made up of fictitious names and forced registration.”
More importantly, our party condemns the threat issued by the APC as completely unconstitutional, subversive and a criminal act of political banditry.
“The APC leaders also need be made aware that such threats constitute a provocative assault on the constitutionally guaranteed rights of the citizens and this is capable of triggering a serious social unrest with the propensity of derailing our nation’s democracy. The PDP, after due considerations, calls on the national leadership of the APC to call the Kano Chapter to order as Nigerians are not ready to stomach the littlest of victimisation against any citizens over their manifest refusal to register as members of APC.”