From Fred Itua, Abuja
Senate President, Bukola Saraki, yesterday, disclosed that the nation’s upper legislative chamber will come up with a new and more comprehensive electoral amendment law before the end of 2016.
Saraki said this during a one-day retreat of the Senate Committee on Electoral Matters and also hinted that Nigerians living abroad may be accommodated in new electoral amendments.
The Senate President further stated that lawmakers may review the role of security agencies in the conduct of elections as part of the ways of checking their excesses.
He frowned at the recent cases of inconclusive elections held in various parts of the country.
“For so long now, our citizens in the Daspora have demanded inclusion in the democratic process; a right afforded in many other countries to citizens, irrespective of location and this current government agrees with them. “This is similar to the now germane issue of the voting opportunity of IDPs and people living in severely challenged hard to reach areas either due to security or other unforeseen challenges.”
On the role of security agencies in elections, he said: “It will be important to take another look at the role of our security personnel from the Police, to the Department of State Security (DSS) and the Military. This is especially so in the light of certain revelations to the effect that the previous government had signed into law, an amendment to the Electoral Act empowering the military to be used during elections for a variety of reasons.
“It should be borne in mind that the Electoral (Amendment) Act, 2015 had, in fact, made far-reaching amendments on the role of the police before and during elections especially the issue of holding of rallies and meetings by political parties (section 94) and the role and operational deployment of the Armed Forces during elections (section 29).
“These provisions were designed as an attempt to ensure the democratic character of free and fair elections.”
On his part, his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu called for early and direct primaries by political parties to make the nation’s electoral process more credible and deepen her democracy.
The Deputy Senate Preisdent said late conduct of primaries by political parties owing mainly to constitutional restrictions posed serious challenges to the electoral system, while the parties’ penchant for indirect primaries had undermined internal democracy in the political parties.
He said: “In the United States of America (USA), presidential primaries for presidential candidates start about twelve months to the election, culminating in the convention, which is usually a celebration of an already known candidate of the party.
“In Ghana, although neither the Constitution nor the Electoral Act gives any specific period for the conduct of presidential and parliamentary primaries, individual parties have provisions in their respective constitutions for early primaries.
“For example, Article 11 (2)(b) of the NPP Constitution provides that “parliamentary candidates shall be elected at least twelve (12) months before the National General Election” while Article 12 provides that the party’s primary election for the nomina