Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Nigeria: Representatives and the moves towards credible elections in 2015

KOLAWOLE DANIEL writes on the move by the House of Representatives to amend the Electoral Act, No. 6, 2010 which seeks to ensure a level-playing field for all participants in the electoral process ahead of 2015 elections. ON  July 3 the House of Representatives, set the machinery in motion to amend the Electoral Act, No. 6, 2010 which seeks to ensure a level-playing field for all participants in the electoral, process ahead of 2015 elections. The bill equally sought to ensure “a more transparent process of conducting elections in Nigeria.” The bill was sponsored by Honourables Daniel Reyenieju, Sabo Nakudu, Emmanuel Jime, Usman Kumo, Abimbola Daramola and Eddie Mbadiwe.  While leading the debate on the bill, Honourable Reyenieju stated that the 2010 Electoral Act needed to be amended to encourage more participation from Nigerians in electoral process. There are 28 sections that were proposed for amendment in the principal act (Electoral Act, 2010) by the lawmakers to the House.

Speaking on the proposed amendment, Honourable Reyenieju explained that, ‘‘this set of amendments will seek to ensure a level-playing field for all. The parliament has a responsibility to do this, especially now that we have the 2015 elections coming up a few months away. There are many areas in the Act that require attention and that is what this Bill intends to address.” Mostly, a new sub-section (b) proposed to the extant Section 29(1) of the Principal Act seeks to give more powers to the Independent National Electoral Commission  (INEC) to be the authority to request for the deployment of security personnel for election monitoring. The explanatory note to the bill indicated that, the new provision also seeks to ensure that the commission is responsible for requesting and deploying relevant security personnel necessary for elections or registration of voters; assigning them in the manner determined by the commission in collaboration with the relevant security agencies, with the condition that the deployment of the Nigerian Armed Forces shall only be for the purpose of securing the distribution and delivery of election materials.”

Also in the new amendment to the electoral Act, aside proposing new Section 9, the House introduced another amendment to Section 31 of the existing law to limit the time in which political parties will submit the list of their candidates to INEC after primaries to 60 days. In addition, the courts can now disqualify candidates after their names have been submitted to INEC, whenever it is discovered that information filed in their court affidavits are false. The new sub-section 7(A) in the new amendment provides for the “disqualification of candidates presented to the commission by political parties, whose information is false.”  The House is also proposing that, when a candidate who wins the primaries dies or withdraws from an election, “he/she shall only be substituted with the candidate who scored the second highest votes during the primaries.”More so, the sub-section 90 in the proposed amendment also seeks to empower INEC to limit the money and assets that political parties can acquire through contributions. The amendment also intend empower INEC to demand information regarding the sources of funds of political parties. 

Accordingly, the proposed amendment seeks to forfeit such monies and assets obtained in contravention of Section 221 of the Constitution (1999) or the existing Act to the Federal Republic of Nigeria.” Also, Section 100 of the principal act of the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill, 2014 is expect to be amended by inserting a new subsection (1A) “without prejudice to subsection (1) of this section, the commission shall, within the time appointed  for political campaigns, cause to be conducted a presidential campaign debate for contestants to the offices of the president/vice president and a gubernatorial campaign debate for contestants of the offices of the governor/deputy governor”.
Campaign debate for the contestants as indicated by the proposed amendment, stated that, “the commission (INEC) shall appoint a Presidential Debate Committee comprising the following: “The chairman who shall be a person of repute and who shall not be a card carrying member of any political party;

“A representative each from a political party with not less than 10 per cent of elected members in either House of the National Assembly and which has a candidate at the said presidential election;
“Three representatives of the Civil Society Organisation actively involved in election monitoring and election campaigns, one representative of each of the Television networks; two representatives of the print media, two representatives of the Radio networks; two representatives of the Nigeria Union Journalists, NUJ”. In his contribution to the bill, Honourable  Aliyu Madaki stressed that the importance of the Bill included ensuring free and fair elections as well as growth of democracy.
On his part, the Chairman, House Committee on Electoral Matters, Honourable  Jerry Man we noted that, “it is our responsibility to ensure that we sanitise the electoral process by amending the Act to give an enabling environment for all to take part”.

However, the Speaker, Honourable Aminu Tambuwal, on reading the mood of the House toward debate on the Bill deferred further debate on it till July 8. A portion of the bill that has to do with the deployment of security personnel, including the Armed Forces, to monitor the polls raised dust in the House.  To this end, the July 8 date set for the continuation of debate on the general principles of the Bill witnessed yet another rowdy session over the legality or otherwise of the president to deploy military during elections. Though despite the controversy generated by the legality or otherwise of the power of the  president to deploy military during elections, the bill passed through second reading.

Trouble, however, started before the passage of the Bill, when the House Deputy Leader, Honourable Leo Ogor and the Chairman, House Committee on Rules and Business, Honourable Albert Sam-Tsokwa, while supporting the Bill, maintained that the powers of the President to deploy military were by the 1999 Constitution (as amended) as well as Section 8 of the Armed Forces Act.
But, the Minority Leader of the House, Honourable Femi Gbajabiamila, rejected the position of the duo and this led to a rowdy session in the House. This even led to a situation where both Honourable Ogor and Gbajabiamila looked into each others eye and exchange harsh words.

Source:  Nigerian Tribune

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