The President of the Senate, Dr Ahmad Lawan, has expressed hope that the National Assembly will pass the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill on Wednesday (today) and present it to the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), for assent this week.
Lawan disclosed this in an interview with State House correspondents on Monday after a meeting with the President at the Aso Rock Villa, Abuja.
He, however, said that if the “cleaning process” took more than a day to complete, then it would be represented to Buhari early next week.
He said, “By the grace of God, tomorrow both chambers, the Senate and the House of Representatives, will pass the bill. And I hope that by the end of the week, the bill could be brought back to Mr President for his assent.
“I hope that but one thing I’m sure by the grace of God is we are passing the bill, the Electoral Act Amendment Bill 2010, tomorrow, Wednesday in both chambers, and we are happy that at the end of the day, we have been able to narrow down our differences and arrive at the very patriotic resolution that our country must have a new electoral law that will guide the 2023 general elections in the country, and Nigeria would have everything to benefit from this law.
“And for us in the 9th Assembly, the Electoral Act Amendment Bill is one of the primary legislative agenda that we wanted to deal with in the 9th National Assembly, and to the glory of God Almighty Allah by tomorrow (Wednesday), we will be able to pass that bill for Mr President to consent to it.
“I hope that the cleaning process will not take more than a day. But if it does, then it has to be early next week. But I’m very optimistic that there is not much to clean up because normally, when we pass a bill like this, it goes to the legislative drafting unit of the National Assembly.”
Earlier, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, specifically said on Tuesday that the electoral bill, from which the President withdrew assent, would be reworked and passed on Wednesday, and subsequently resent to the President.
“I remain convinced that the proposal for direct primary elections is valuable for building accountability in our political system. But we must not allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good.
“Therefore, the House will reintroduce the amendment this tomorrow (Wednesday). And we will work quickly to address the mitigating concerns, pass the bill and send it back to His Excellency President Muhammadu Buhari for assent,” Gbajabiamila said.
Buhari had vetoed the electoral bill over the restriction of political parties to direct primary, insisting on the direct, indirect and consensus options.
Both the Senate and the House of Representatives had suspended action on the bill till resumption on Tuesday, after the Christmas and New Year break.
Gbajabiamila, in his opening address, restated the benefits of restricting political parties to direct primary while criticising the parties for lacking comprehensive membership registers.
According to him, a strict direct primary option would have forced the parties to have a documented register.
He partly said, “Unfortunately, that bill did not receive presidential assent, and it is unlikely that it will in its current form. Now, we have to choose between sticking to our guns regarding the provision to mandate direct primary elections for political parties or reworking that provision to save the rest of the bill.
“Now let it be clear to all that our only objective in introducing that provision was to strengthen the foundations of our democracy so that it works for all of our nation’s people. The process by which political parties nominate candidates for election is essential, perhaps even just as important as the general election itself.
“A primary nomination process that deprives the majority of party members of the opportunity to choose who represents them in the general elections is susceptible to bad outcomes and ought to be fixed.”
The Speaker noted the argument by some Nigerians that political parties do not have proper registers of their members, which was a reason to reject the direct primary option.
“Nonetheless, it is disappointing that the failure of political parties to adequately document their membership is being used to not give the Nigerian people the power to fully participate in our nation’s politics,” said Gbajabiamila.
Gbajabiamila also decried the errors said to have been discovered in the bill, noting that the version transmitted to the President was different that the one being scrutinised by the public.
The Speaker said he had, however, set up a technical committee to review the legislation which is expected to report back by Thursday.
Gbajabiamila subsequently called for an executive (closed-door) session which lasted about 20 minutes.
The Senate, however, held its executive session before plenary.
Emerging from the session, Lawan said, “The Senate postponed discussions on the consideration and response of Mr President on the Electoral Act 2010 (Amendment) Bill to enable us to consult with our counterparts in the House of Representatives and consult our constituents.”
Electoral Amendment bill: INEC to release 2023 polls timetable after Buhari’s assent, says INEC
In a related development, INEC has said the passage of the contentious Electoral Act Amendment Bill will determine its preparation for the 2023 polls.
Yakubu bared his mind in Abuja during the first quarterly meeting of INEC with political parties in 2022.
According to him, the commission is looking forward to the speedy passage of the bill.
He said that the commission would release the timetable for 2023 elections immediately the President signs the bill.
“On the Electoral Amendment Bill currently before the National Assembly, the commission is encouraged by the Senate President’s assurance to give priority attention to the bill when the National Assembly reconvenes from its recess today, and the commitment by the President to assent to the Bill as soon as the issue of mode of primaries by political parties is resolved.
“We look forward to a speedy passage of the bill, which is crucial to our preparations for future elections. As soon as it is signed into law, the commission will quickly release the timetable and schedule of activities for the 2023 general elections based on the new law”, Yakubu said.
The INEC chairman said 2022 would be a very busy year for the commission and the political parties, with the 2023 general election just 396 days away, adding that all the critical preparations must be concluded this year.
On the Continuous Voter Registration, Yakubu said that as at Monday January 17 a total of 8,260,076 eligible Nigerians commenced the online pre-registration, completed the registration physically or applied for transfer to new voting locations, replacement of their Permanent Voters’ Cards or updated their voter information records as required by law.
Responding on behalf of the political parties, the National Chairman of the Inter Party Advisory Council, Yabagi Sani, said the successes recorded in the last Anambra State governorship elections and the deployment of technologies aided the success of the election.