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Veto electoral bill if Buhari refuses to sign, Adegboruwa tells National Assembly

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A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, has asked the National Assembly to veto the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill if the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), refuses to sign.

In a statement, the Lagos-based lawyer said the absence of Buhari should not affect the passage of the bill into law.

This is as the 30-day period within which the President is expected to assent or withhold his approval to the bill ends today. The bill was transmitted to the President on November 19, 2021 after both chambers passed it.

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He said, “On November 13, 2021, the National Assembly forwarded the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill to the President for his assent. The President did not assent before he traveled to Turkey, thus truncating the reforms encapsulated in that historic Bill.

“There are many innovative provisions in the Bill that make it attractive as a tool to oil our democratic experiment, especially the issues of electronic transmission of election results and direct primaries for the political parties.

“From the events monitored on the floor of the National Assembly and indeed the public hearings conducted, it is clear that Nigerians prefer that results of elections be transmitted electronically by INEC in order to avoid the recurring decimal of manipulation and rigging.

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“In the same vein, direct primaries for the choice of candidates of political parties will eliminate the hydra-headed issues of godfatherism and the imposition of candidates.

“Under and by virtue of section 58 (5) of the 1999 Constitution, where the President withholds his assent and a Bill is again passed by each House by two-thirds majority, the Bill shall become law and the assent of the President shall not be required.

“I urge the National Assembly, in the national interest, to invoke its constitutional powers to pass the Electoral Bill and save our democracy from imminent collapse. As the elected representatives of the people, our legislators should act in the interest of their respective constituencies.

“Democracy is about the people, so it is essential that politicians who made promises of electoral reforms while canvassing for votes should honour their vows to the people, when they get into office.

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“Nigerians expect the National Assembly to shake off the toga of being a rubber stamp entity and use this golden opportunity to assert their autonomy.

“This matter is important and pressing enough to warrant the suspension of the current recess of the National Assembly for the purpose of passing the Bill and in that wise, override presidential assent. Nothing is too much to give to salvage our hard-earned democracy.”

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Kidnapped Plateau monarch freed, troops arrest two suspects

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A traditional ruler in Plateau State, Da Gyang Balak, who was kidnapped by gunmen, has been rescued by troops of .

had reported that Balak, who is the paramount ruler of Vwang District in the Jos South Local Government Area of the state, was abducted on Sunday while driving home close to the National Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies, Kuru.

It was learnt that the kidnapped monarch was freed on Monday night.

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The Military Information Officer of Major Ishaku Takwa, confirmed the release of the traditional ruler in a statement on Tuesday.

Takwa said, “Immediately the incident was reported, the Commander, Operation Safe Haven, Major General Ibrahim Ali, placed the troops of Sector 6 deployed in Riyom on red alert to go on hot trail of the perpetrators.

“Consequently, the troops, in conjunction with other security agencies, vigilance groups and hunters, conducted clearance operation in the mountainous region of Sabon Gida Kanal, Gero and Dahol general areas. Two suspects were arrested at an abandoned building during the operation.

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“This development led to the release of the paramount ruler by his abductors. He has been reunited with his family.”

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We’ll forward amended Electoral Act bill to Buhari this week – Lawan

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Eniola Akinkuotu, Friday Olokor and Leke Baiyewu

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.

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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.

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“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.

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“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.

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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.”

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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.

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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:

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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.

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“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.

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