From Fred Itua, Ndubuisi Orji and Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Senate and the House of Representatives, are expected to commence fresh work on the Electoral Act Amendment Bill, following its rejection by President Muhammadu Buhari last December.
Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, while welcoming lawmakers from their annual Christmas break said the vacation afforded senators the opportunity to consult widely with their constituents and counterparts in the House of Representatives on the subject.
Similarly, Speaker, House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, said the House would re-introduce the Electoral Act Amendment Bill today and address all the concerns raised about it, pass and send it back to President Muhammadu Buhari for his assent.
Daily Sun learnt that the new bill may be passed immediately. Lawan also confirmed this to State House correspondents after he met with President Buhari.
“By the grace of God, tomorrow (today), both chambers will pass the bill. And I hope that before the end of the week, the bill could be brought back to Mr. President for his assent. But one thing I’m sure, by the grace of God, is (that) we are passing the bill, the Electoral Act Amendment Bill 2010, tomorrow (today), the 19th (of January) in both chambers, and we are happy that at the end of the day, we have been able to narrow down our differences and arrived at the very patriotic resolution that our country must have a new electoral law that will guide the 2023 general elections in the country, and Nigeria would have everything to benefit from this law.
“And for us in the ninth assembly, the Electoral Act amendment bill is one of our major legislative agenda that we wanted to deal with. And to the glory of God Almighty Allah, by tomorrow (today), we will be able to pass that bill for Mr. president to assent to it. I hope that the cleaning process will not take more than a day. But if it does, then it has to be early next week. But I’m very optimistic that there is not much to clean because normally when we pass a bill like this, it goes to the legislative drafting unit of the National Assembly. So, what you have in the National Assembly, as passed, is not the final document that comes to the president. And I know that many people were saying there were so many flaws in the bill that was brought to Mr. President. Maybe, what they had was the bill passed in the Senate or in the House not the one that was cleaned up, the final document that was cleaned up, because even us, we didn’t have that document, we signed it off but I appreciate the efforts of all Nigerians in taking interest in what we do, and even participating by way of looking for what is right and what is not when we pass our bills or in terms of legislative activities, generally.”
He said the lawmakers have resolved to look at the possibility of opening up the mode of primaries to include direct, indirect and even consensus modes.
“And it’s up to political parties to decide which option is okay for them, and at what time, but I’m sure that all the options will be used by political parties, in different occasions or whatever.”
Gbajabiamila, while reiterating the commitment of the House to give the country a new electoral law before the 2023 polls, said besides direct primaries, the proposed electoral law contained other provisions that would benefit the country.
“We have to choose between sticking to our guns regarding the provision to mandate direct primary elections for political parties or reworking that provision to save the rest of the bill.”
He, however, said the objective of the House in making direct primaries mandatory for nomination for political parties was to strengthen the country’s democracy.
“I remain convinced that the proposal for direct primary elections is valuable for building accountability in our political system. But we must not allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good. Therefore, the House will reintroduce the amendment tomorrow (today). And we will work quickly to address the mitigating concerns, pass the bill and send it back to His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari for assent.”
Buhari had cited the removal of indirect primaries from the 2010 Electoral Amendment Act by the National Assembly as reason for vetoing the Amendment Bill sent by the National Assembly.
He also complained about the humongous cost of conducting direct primaries by political parties and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Meanwhile, Lawan has bemoaned the state of affairs in the country saying Nigeria was caught between the devil and deep blue sea.
He lamented that funding of the 2022 budget is predicated on significant borrowing.
“Our country is caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. We have to construct and provide infrastructure, in all parts of our country because infrastructure is needed for our nation to develop. However, we do not generate enough revenues to fund the provision of such infrastructure. Until more revenues are generated, the country has to borrow and also resort to other sources of funding our infrastructural development.
“We cannot continue to borrow endlessly. It is imperative that we need to improve on the revenue to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ratio. At about eight per cent revenue to GDP ratio, our country is basically at 50 per cent of what is required of the revenue to GDP of 15 per cent for it to support any significant economic development.
“The senate will develop a strategy of engagement with revenue generating agencies on how to make them achieve their targets and generate more revenues in 2022. The Senate will ensure that we boost their revenue generating drive with a view to reducing borrowing for development of our much needed infrastructure. This is a major challenge for our development and we need to treat as such.”
On insecurity, he said: “The security situation in our country is still dire. We must remain focused and determined to work with Executive arm of government, and also continue to support our armed forces and security agencies. We must continue to prioritise the Security and welfare of our citizens as enshrined in your constitution nor despair. I urge us not to be discouraged by the situation. We should make this year as the year for the final securing of our nation from the numerous security challenges.”