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Sponsorship conflict stalls Electoral Offences Bill in House of Reps

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A Bill seeking establishment of a commission, as well as a tribunal charged with the responsibility of investigating and prosecuting electoral offenders, was on Wednesday stepped down in the House of Representatives, following protest by a member, Hon. John Dyegh .

Listed on the order paper for its second reading debate as A Bill for an Act to establish the National Electoral Offences Commission, and the Electoral Offences Tribunal, to provide the legal framework for investigation and prosecution of electoral offences, it was a consolidation of four proposals from other members.

Drama started just when the Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila yielded floor to Majority Leader of the House, Alhassan Doguwa, who was listed alongside Aishatu Dukku, Francis Charles Uduyok and Kingsley Chinda as sponsors, to move motion for the second reading of the Bill, but the lawmaker curiously appeared not to be aware he was party to the bill. “When you bring this kind of bill, you have to let me know”, he had stated.

This was followed immediately with the protest by Dyegh, who recalled that he sponsored a bill on the same subject matter during the 8th assembly, but that President Muhammadu Buhari returned same owing to some observations which were not addressed before the assembly ended.

He argued that in the current assembly, the bill was reintroduced and subsequently referred to the committee of the whole, but that during its consideration at the committee, it was stepped down at a level, expressing surprise that a similar bill, consolidated was on the floor.

In his intervention, Deputy Speaker Idris Wase explained that a bill may be stepped down, possibly when the sponsor was not on the floor for its consideration when slated, or where there are issues with its content, insisting that it could not have been deliberately stepped down.

Responding to questions on the mixup later, spokesman of the House, Benjamin Kalu said “there will always be human error”, noting that he was not sure it was a deliberate attempt to shut out anybody. “Definitely there be a mistake somewhere on why his bill was not brought in”, he said.

Speaker Gbajabiamila who deferred debate on the bill to next Tuesday, has directed that the Rules and Business Committee investigate to confirm what happened to Dyegh’s bill, with a possibility of making same part of the consolidated bill.

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