As the House of Representatives resumes from a 3-month recess, Speaker Yakubu Dogara on Wednesday vowed that members would expeditiously reconsider and pass the Electoral Act amendment bill, earlier vetoed by President Muhammadu Buhari, as well as the INEC supplementary budget.
In an address to mark the resumption from recess, Dogara wondered why the new Electoral Act amendment bill, designed to guarantee free, fair and transparent elections in Nigeria, through innovations such as the Smart Card Reader and electronic transmission of results, would be frustrated.
The Speaker, therefore, warned that any further attempt to frustrate the passing into law of the amended Electoral Act bill would validate fears that some forces are intent on exploiting the loopholes in the old electoral law to manipulate the 2019 general elections, which he added, would be vehemently resisted.
“As we settle down to business, let me reiterate that the INEC Supplementary budget bill and the Electoral Act amendment bill, which was unfortunately vetoed by Mr President, must be expeditiously considered and passed.
“The new Electoral Act amendment bill has provisions that are designed to guarantee free, fair and transparent elections in Nigeria. It entrenches the Smart Card Reader and electronic transmission of results, among others.
“Any further attempt to frustrate the passing into law of the bill, would fuel the fears that some, including our international partners, have about forces who intend to manipulate the forthcoming elections by exploiting identified loopholes in the current Electoral Act,” the Speaker said.
He commended the Joint Committee on Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for the patriotism, sacrifice and commitment it put into the INEC Supplementary Budget for the 2019 general elections, saying it was “the irreducible first step to be taken before the matter goes to the Appropriations Committee for further legislative action as stipulated by our Rules.”
The Speaker also condemned what he called “the rudest assault ever on the National Assembly on 7th August 2018, by masked personnel of the Department of State Services (DSS),” and expressed gratitude to vigilant lawmakers, civil society groups and Nigerians who confronted the invaders at great personal risks.
He also thanked Vice President Yemi Osinbajo for “taking swift disciplinary actions against the perpetrators of these seditious and subversive action.”
He further used the opportunity to reiterate the resolve of members of the House to devote themselves to their legislative duties despite the incoming 2019 general elections, adding that the leadership was aware of the impunity that characterised the just-concluded primary elections across political parties.
The Speaker assured that if passed into law, Section 87(9) of the amended Electoral Act would tackle such impunity and mischief by ensuring that, in making their choice of candidates for elective office, political parties do not stray beyond the confines of the Electoral Act.
“This case, in my view is a clear example of the mischief sought to be tackled by section 87(9) of the Electoral Act, 2010 as amended. While it is true that the courts will not interfere in the internal affairs of a political party nor its choice of candidate, the section seeks to curb the impunity with which political parties hitherto acted without regard to the democratic norms,” he stated.
He, however, appealed to the lawmakers to be individually and collectively committed to the success of the 8th Assembly, as well as the peaceful conduct of the 2019 general elections, despite party affiliations.