Two weeks after President Muhammadu rejected the third version of the Electoral Amendment bill, the National Assembly yesterday adopted the fourth version of the bill.
In the latest version, the Senate and the House of the Representatives joint committee on Electoral Matters made some adjustments in line with observations raised by President Buhari in the rejected third version of the bill.
Giving update on the outcome of the proposed amendment to electoral bill at a joint press briefing in Abuja, the chairman of the joint committee, Senator Suleiman Nazif (Bauchi North), said the lawmakers effected certain amendments on affected sections and deleting one.
He disclosed that National Assembly was now on the same page with the executive and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on issues of clauses in the bill.
President Buhari had, in refusing to assent to the third version of the amendment bill, listed about 14 contentious areas that must be addressed by the federal lawmakers for the 2010 Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill 2018 to see the light of the day.
The president’s observations led to the 4th version of the bill, which was adopted by the joint committee of the National Assembly yesterday.
The affected sections as announced by the chairman of the joint committee are 9 (1A), 9(B5), 18 (1-4), 19(4), 30(1), 31(1), 31(7), 36(3), 44(3-4), 67(a-d), 87(2), 87(14) and 1124.
While section 9 (1A) deals with voters registers in electronic format and manual or hard copy format, section 18 (14) deals with process of replacement of voters card by INEC on demand by voters, which states that it must not be done less than 30 days before election.
Section 36 (3) of the adopted bill makes provision for constitutional way out of the issue bordering on sudden death of candidate of a political party in the course of election as it happened in the Kogi gubernatorial election in 2016.
The section states: “If after the commencement of poll and before the announcement of the final result and declaration of a winner, the leading candidate dies, (a), the commission shall, being satisfied of the fact of the death, suspend the election for a period not exceeding 21 days.
“(b) The political party whose candidate died may, if it intends to continue to participate in the election, conduct a fresh primary within 7 days of the death of its candidate and submit a new candidate to replace the dead candidate
“(c) Subject to paragraphs (a) and (b), the commission shall continue with the election, announce the final result and declare a winner”.
Senator Nazif however added that section 34 (2-4), which deals with added laws on omission of party logo on ballot papers, was deleted.
He explained that at no time was provision for usage of card reader deleted in any of the versions of the electoral bills.
According to him, the adopted 4th electoral bill is a harmonised version of the 2nd and 3rd one.
The committee chairman noted that the fourth version of the amendment bill will strengthen INEC to ensure free and fair elections in 2019.
Nazif expressed optimism that the fourth amendment bill haS addressed all controversies raised by the Executive which led to Buhari’s decision to withhold assent thrice.
He said the joint committee came up with additional Amendments based on the draft submitted by the Executive arm.
He added that the first electoral amendment bill, which addressed the issue of sequence of elections also made provision for card reader as well as the powers of the National Assembly to legislate for local government councils, which the president declined assent.
He also said that the second electoral amendment bill, which was concluded on June 26, 2018, addressed all issues raised by the executive.
The chairman explained that part of the issues raised by the executive was the sequence of elections, which the National Assembly had resolved to delete in the second amendment.
“I want you to know that the National Assembly, INEC and the Executive are on the same page,” Nazif said, maintaining that the third electoral amendment bill had the card reader but Mr. President withheld assent on July 26, 2018, which coincided with the day both chambers embarked on annual recess.
He observed that the “third bill supposed to be an addendum to the second one which had 41 amendments,” adding that the “third bill had 14 clauses and 15 citations aimed at strengthening the second amendment.
He said, “What we wanted in the third bill was to strengthen the second one which was to make INEC work easier, hence it did not include the card reader.
“What the Executive wanted is the merger of the second and third ones. So, we want to strengthen INEC and make sure the 2019 elections are free and fair. We have come up with the fourth version”.
It would be recalled that the first version of the bill forwarded to President Buhari in February this year by the federal lawmakers was rejected as a result of introduction of new sequence of election provided for in section 25(1) of the bill.
The president outrightly vetoed the second version forwarded to him in June after removal of the new sequence of election provisions.
We Have Uncovered Plan To Attack NASS Next Week – CUPP
Meanwhile, opposition political parties under the auspices of Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) alleged yesterday that it has uncovered plans by the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led federal government to attack the leadership of National Assembly (NASS) next week.
In a statement signed its spokesperson, Ikenga Ugochinyere, CUPP warned that such a plot, if actualised, will endanger the nation’s democracy and push it closer to the edge of the cliff in preparation to finally push it over for total destruction.
The coalition also alleged that the APC is poised to file a suit on controversial circumstances seeking for an ex-parte application directing that one third of the Senators/House members can demand to open either chambers of the National Assembly.
It stated that the coalition have been informed that the plot also includes the Police inviting the leadership of the National Assembly just before the controversial ruling and their subsequent detention, with a black market injunction from a Magistrate Court, thereby paving way for the unlawful and violent change of the leadership of the Senate and House of Representatives.
Ugochinyere said some of the security agencies will also provide security cover for the coup, with a section of the media coopted to churn out news and justification for such evil plots.
The statement reads in part: ‘’This kind of desperation by the outgoing APC and Presidency can only be likened to the last kicks of a dying horse which usually gives it the hope that it will salvage the head which is already off.
‘’The ship of the APC is fast sinking and is obviously beyond redemption. Nigerians are daily convinced that the APC was a mistake made in 2015 and are also resolved that they are a mistake to be corrected in 2019.
‘’It is worrisome that the party entrusted by Nigerians to provide leadership, growth and development for the country could in one plot compromise the judiciary, the legislature, the police, the Department of State Services, the media and indeed all institutions of our democracy.’’
The CUPP spokesman called on Nigerians and all lovers of democracy globally to watch out for the unfolding plot to truncate the nation’s democracy.
It’s A Ruse To Prevent Parliament From Reconvening, Says APC
But in a swift reaction, the APC denied CUPP’s allegations of a planned attack on National Assembly leaders on their resumption from recess next week.
Spokesman of the party, Yekini Nabena, in a statement he issued last night noted that the allegations are a “last-ditch attempt” to prevent the National Assembly from reconvening next week.
“Such crude practices are rejected templates of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) which the so-called ‘Coalition’ represents and definitely alien to the progressive APC-led administration”, Nabena stated.
Specifically, the APC said it considered the new “rounds of falsehood by the sponsored Coalition as a last-ditch attempt by the outgoing and minority National Assembly leadership of the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki; his Deputy, Ike Ekweremadu and Speaker, House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara to prevent the reconvening of the National Assembly and continue a minority-rule in an APC-dominated federal legislature.
“We are in a democracy and are governed by laws. A few cannot hold the legislative arm of government to ransom through their selfish political games. The National Assembly must be reconvened immediately to attend to crucial and pending legislative business. The majority must be allowed to lead”, Nabena added.
…Raises The Alarm Over Plan To Compromise Card Readers
Also, ahead the September 22 governorship election in Osun State, the APC has raised the alarm over alleged plan to compromise INEC’s electronic card reading machine.
Addressing journalists in Osogbo, yesterday, the chairman of the state chapter of the party, Prince Adegboyega Famoodun, said some criminals have perfected plan to tamper with the card reader and hence altar the ability of the electronic device to identify ownership of the Permanent Voters Cards (PVC).
The party alleged that the manipulation would ensure that several people can use the PVC without the card reader uploading the photograph to identify who owns it.
According to Famoodun, the rigging technique had been used successfully during the last Osun West Senatorial by-election, which resulted in the PDP having more votes than it would have had legitimately.
Famoodun alleged that Youth Corps members who are in charge of operating the device are the ones to be used to carry out the criminal deal, adding that the rigging technique was executed at a critical time during the accreditation process.
He therefore urged INEC to allow party agents scrutinise the verification process in order to confirm the PVC holder’s image on the card reader.
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