- Shrugs off Buhari’s criticism of N’Assembly
James Emejo in Abuja
The House of Representatives Wednesday said that it will soon reintroduce the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill seeking to re-order the sequence of the general elections separately, after President Muhammadu Buhari declined his assent to the amendment bill presented to him earlier, citing major constitutional flaws.
This came as a Bill for an Act to Amend the Provisions of the Electoral Act passed the second reading in the House, to improve the electoral process and other related matters.
The bill that passed the second reading was sponsored by Hon. Aishatu Jibril Dukku, Hon. Ahmed Babba Kaita and Hon. Eucharia Azodo.
Addressing reporters at the weekly media briefing, spokesman of the House, Hon. Abdulrasaq Namdas, said the election sequence bill had been separated from the original amendment bill, which was rejected by the president and will now be processed and sent back for his assent as a standalone bill.
He explained that the bill that passed second reading Wednesday was not the same as the previous one that was rejected by Buhari, as the provision altering the sequence of the election had been removed from it.
According to him, “You are already aware that today the Electoral Act passed the second reading. This Act is not the same as the previous one because the one that consists of the order of elections has been removed – it will come differently. It will come at a later date.”
But during the debate Wednesday on the bill sponsored by Dukku and others, some members had raised objections to certain clauses in the legislation, especially provisions pertaining to the use of card readers, diaspora voting, and arbitration during the conduct of an election.
While some members wanted the bill stepped down to iron out grey areas, others said that it should pass the second reading as any differences could be ironed out at the public hearing on the bill or at the committee level.
However, both the Speaker of the House, Hon. Yakubu Dogara and Chairman, Rules and Business, Hon. Emmanuel Oker-jev, wondered why some members, including Hon. Nicholas Ossai (PDP, Delta), Hon. Diri Douye (PDP, Bayelsa) and Hon. Nnenna Elendu-Ukeje (PDP, Abia) objected to its passage for second reading when the House had conducted deliberations on the Electoral Act in the past and even transmitted same to the president for his assent.
Had the president not raised objections to the bill, it would have been passed by now, Dogara and Oker-jev contended.
Dogara, nonetheless, said passing the bill through the second reading would not prevent members from clearing any imperfections in the Electoral Act.
Following the guidance provided by Oker-jev, who explained that having subjected the bill to a public hearing before, it would be needless to schedule another on it. Dogara, after a voice vote which passed the bill through the second reading, referred it to the Committee of the Whole for further legislative attention.
Also, the House, in reaction to Buhari’s criticism of the National Assembly, said Wednesday that the president was entitled to his opinion.
Buhari while receiving some of his political supporters on Tuesday had accused some lawmakers of doing nothing, despite spending a decade in the legislature.
“As for the president’s remarks, we believe the president can hold an opinion with regards to individual members of the National Assembly; in fact, a lot of citizens in our constituencies have been doing just that.
“Some members of the National Assembly have been replaced by their constituencies as a result of such opinions.
“However, we want to believe that the president was not questioning the role of the National Assembly as an institution of democracy because that may be a worrying sign that our democracy may be imperilled. But we believe that he was not referring to that,” he said.
Namdas further clarified suggestions that the legislature was unduly causing economic distortions with the perennial delays in the budget’s passage.
He said: “The 2017 budget was meant to run for 12 months; I want to tell you that we’ve not short-changed anybody.
“If we had passed this budget early enough, I can tell you that even the performance of the 2017 budget was not at the level we are at the moment and therefore, people forget that the budget is a law – an appropriation law.
“Even the 2018 budget that was passed by the National Assembly, we stated clearly that it should run for 12 months.
“So even if we had passed the budget earlier than now, it cannot take effect until we amend that aspect of the 12 calendar months.
“But I can tell you that we are not doing it to create any delays. The budget cycle is for 12 months and you can make your plans and your plans can work effectively within this period.”