The two bills passed by the National Assembly – Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) and the Electoral Act Amendment Bill 2021 are facing criticism from Nigerians.
There were three most important issues in the legislative agenda when the 9th Assembly was inaugurated on 11 June 2019.
The agenda was prioritised based on the yearnings of Nigerians. Among some of the critical aspects of the 9th Senate’s legislative agenda was the much talked about Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), 2010 Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill and the Amendment of the 1999 Constitution.
While unveiling the agenda, the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan specifically, disclosed that they are working on a National Assembly that works for the people.”
On the first day of July, 2021, the PIB was passed but not without drama and a call for a division.
While considering the bill clause-by- clause, a drama ensued when Sen Ahmed Babba- Kaita called for an amendment on page 240 of the 542 page document to reduce the proposed five per cent of the actual annual operating expenditure of the preceding financial year in the upstream petroleum operations for the host communities.
President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua who first introduced the PIB proposed 10 per cent for the host communities. When the Buhari’s administration was introducing the bill in the 8th Assembly, five per cent was proposed for the host communities.
Introducing the bill in the 9th assembly, the Buhari’s administration reduced the percentage for the host communities to 2.5 per cent. The committee in their efforts, based on submission made by Nigerians, increase the percentage for the host communities to five per cent.
But before the passage, the Minister of State for Petroleum, Timipre Sylva and the Group Managing Director (GMD) of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, Mele Kyari were admitted into the red chamber and the story changed. Three per cent have been harmonised for the host communities.
On the passage of the contentious electoral act, clause 52 (3) – electronic transmission of elections results was the big issue at the Senate. As usual, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) was not only invited, the clause provided that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) must seek for their nod and that of the National Assembly before transmitting election results electronically.
Nigeria’s electoral umpire’s Independent is at risk if the Senate version eventually gets to the President for his assent.
INEC’s functions as contained in Section 15, Part 1 of the Third Schedule of the 1999 Constitution (As Amended) and Section 2 of the Electoral Act 2010 (As Amended) should not be tempered with. Such functions gives the commission power as an independent body to prepare and conduct elections.
Section 78 of the Constitution provides that “The registration of voters and the conduct of elections shall be subject to the direction and supervision of the Independent National Electoral Commission”.
In the third schedule, part 1,F, S.15, INEC has power to organise, undertake and supervise all elections.
With the constitution empowering INEC to issue guidelines on when and how elections should take place, it will amount to gagging the commission if a different agency – NCC and the National Assembly determine where and when electronic transmission of results should take place.
The Nigeria constitution provides that INEC’s operation shall not be subjected to the direction of anybody or authority and it was named Independent National Electoral Commission for that purpose to be achieved. Through it’s relevant departments, INEC has been preparing and executing elections including taking security risk assessment and the commission has started clearly it has the capacity to conduct and transmit election results electronically.
The draconian laws been churn out my the country’s lawmakers are being scrutinized by Nigerians with some people saying that voting in the National Assembly should be done to protect the weak rather than showing numerical strength.
Decrying what happened at the floor of the Senate concerning the two bills, the Senator representing Bayelsa Central Senatorial District, Seriake Dickson saying that in a diverse country like Nigeria, relying on the views of the majority without considering the affected communities can’t build the nation.
“Justice and protection of the weak and the few is what build a nation. That should inform our political leaders. Relying on number without justice, it is inimical to nation building,” Dickson added.
Dickson called on President Muhammadu Buhari not to sign the bills until more consultation and considerations are made.