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NASS says Electoral bill report would be ready for consideration February 9th

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NASS says Electoral bill report would be ready for consideration February 9th


**committee says it will adopt final documents at the weekend


Hope rises for a new electoral system in Nigeria as the National Assembly has given the assurance that it would pass the Electoral Law upon resumption for plenary byFebruary 9, 2021.

This was coming just as the Joint Committee on INEC and Electoral Matters are billed to adopt a final document this weekend, for onward presentation to both chambers for consideration and approval.Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege; Chairman of the panel, Senator Kabiru Gaya; co-chairman and his counterpart from the House of Representatives, Hon. Aishatu Dukku, stated this at the presentation of the draft report in Abuja.

They assured that the National Assembly would pass the anticipated bill before the end of the first quarter of 2021.In his remarks, Omo-Agege – also a member of the committee – said though the process under the Eighth National Assembly was fraught with mutual suspicions and bitterness, electoral reform for the Ninth National Assembly remains a priority in its legislative agenda.The bill, according to him, would cure specific  mischief plaguing our  elections and electoral processes when passed into law.He applauded the cooperation of stakeholders for putting all hands on deck, with a view to having a new electoral legal framework ahead of the 2023 general election.

According to him, if this level of cooperation was in place in the Eighth National Assembly, the bill would have been assented to by President Muhammadu Buhari.He said, “The cooperation that we have witnessed in this Joint Committee of the Ninth Assembly is unprecedented. I am sure if we had this in the Eighth Senate there is no way we would have gone into the 2019 elections without an approved amended Electoral Act.”Let me also acknowledge that, but for the cooperation of INEC and the office of the Attorney General of the Federation, this feat would not have been possible. I recall the challenges that we faced then. As most of you know, I was very instrumental in drafting most of those provisions that we dealt with in the Eighth Senate. If we had the benefit of the cooperation of INEC at the outset like we are having right now and also cooperation of the AGF, I am sure we would have cleared this long ago. So I want to thank all of you for all you have done to get us to this very stage.”I want to emphasise that the work you are doing here, you may not really appreciate it because as members of the National Assembly, we deal with so many areas of the law but to some of us, this is the most important. “Because the moment you are able to sanitise the electoral system, every other thing will fall in place. That is why I am so thrilled and the moment we clear this during the retreat this weekend, we will have an easy sail during plenary in both chambers.”Because those who ordinarily will raise issues and have some of these provisions buried, participated in this exercise. So, I don’t see how they can come to the floor to do otherwise”.He expressed delight at some of the provisions of the proposed law, especially the mandatory use of card readers for the conduct of local government elections.He, however, explained that this does not take away the independence of State Independent Electoral Commissions (SIECs) but to ensure that elections at the council levels are sanitised and conducted in line with global best practices. SIECs, he added, would still conduct council polls.”One of the most important provisions to me is the Second Schedule of the Constitution dealing with local government elections, which hitherto had never been within the remit of INEC. But we believe that we need to have the system sanitised by also mandating the application of the Electoral Act to the conduct of local government elections. We all know based on the law, INEC is the only body authorised to maintain a voters register. And there is no way you are going to be conducting elections without a voters register. So the State Independent Electoral Commissions are already resorting to INEC for the use of the voters register. So what we are just saying is that in addition to that, also use the Electoral Act and request the card readers from INEC in the conduct of local government elections. And that does not in any way take away their independence. We know under Section 7, it is their remit clearly but here we are saying we are only dealing with procedure not the substantive law. Even under Second Schedule, they also can make their laws to the extent that it is not inconsistent with the laws passed by the National Assembly. So, this is very critical. If nothing else, what you have done is very critical and the entire country will be grateful for the work you have done.”In addition to that is the issue of the card reader. It was always your (INEC) intervention. It has worked but before now, we have not given it legal framework. With this right now, that issue is going to be settled for good”, he added.In their separate remarks, Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmoud Yakubu; Executive Director, Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC), Clement Nwankwo applauded the technical committee for working round the clock to produce the draft report.
They noted that the development is expected to lay the foundation for significant development in the country’s electoral system.The bill seeks to repeal the Electoral Act, 2010, and provide a more stable and progressive legal framework for elections in Nigeria.Specifically, it alters several provisions relating to establishment of polling units, issue of ballot paper, limitation of election expenses, conduct and postponement of elections in an emergency, oath of neutrality by election officers, among other provisions.High point of the event was the presentation of the draft report by the technical panel to the joint committee.

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Legislature

National Food reserve Agency Bill scales through amidst opposition at senate

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National Food reserve Agency Bill scales through amidst opposition at senate

The Senate, on Wednesday, passed a bill seeking to establish the National Food Reserve Agency for Food security despite disagreement over its powers by senators.

Before the bill was passed, senators engaged in a heated debate over the powers of the National Assembly to legislate on the establishment of the agency. 
However, the Bill saw the light of day when the President ruled in its favor..

The bill was passed after the Red Chamber considered the report of its committee on Agriculture and Rural Development.

The Chairman of the committee, Senator Senator Abdullahi Adamu, in his presentation, said, when established, it is expected to implement the overall National Food Reserve Policy to ensure a reliable supply of designated commodities in the country
He said with the existence of the agency, emergency food crises will be taken care of especially during the period of pandemic.

“There will also be a reduction in post-harvest losses as silos, warehouses, equipment, ancillary facilities and other suitable storage facilities will be installed and maintained,” he said.

Senator Ajibola Basiru (APC, Osun) had raised a constitutional matter that the National Assembly did not have the power to legislate on the establishment of the food reserve agency, citing section 4 of the 1999 constitution to back up his argument.

But Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi (Niger), Ibrahim Gobir (Sokoto) and Adamu Aliero (Kebbi) countered Bashiru’s submission, arguing that the federal parliament is constitutionally empowered to legislate on matter of security and welfare of the people.

They said the agency was needed owing to the acute insecurity across the country, which has had effect on food production.

Senator James Manager (Rivers) said though there is need for the agency due to the situation in the country, sentiments cannot counter effectively the constitutional matter raised by Ajibola Basiru. 

He asked his colleagues to step down the 
the consideration of the report to another legislative day.

But Senate President Ahmad Lawan disagreed and ruled that the Red Chamber should go ahead with the legislation.

Lawan said: “From a constitutional point of order our colleague raised that we don’t have such power, I think the National Assembly has such powers. I think the emergency in this country requires that we do everything possible to rescue, protect the lives and property of the people of this country.

“I believe we should go ahead to do our legislation.

“If anyone outside feels that the legislation is wrong, that person can go to the court so that the legislation is nullified and that is one thing with the practice of democracy.

“But I believe that Nigerians at the moment need this kind of legislation.”

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Legislature

N7.5B secret withdrawals: Senate Summons Finance Minister, AGF

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N7.5B secret withdrawals: Senate Summons Finance Minister, AGF

Senate Committee on Public Accounts has summoned the Minister of Finance, Ahmed Zainab and Accountant General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris over secret withdrawals of N7.5 billion from the 2 percent National Automotive Design and Development Council Levy Account domiciled with Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
The report indicated that first N3.8 billion was withdrawn in two installments of N2.8 billion in 2005 and N1 billion in 2006.
This was containwd in the report of the Auditor-General of the Federation, which is being considered by the Senate committee, chaired by Senator Matthew Urhoghide.
The second N3.7 billion, the report said, was withdrawn between March – December 2000 in three separate payments of N725 million, N1 billion and N2 billion.
When the Committee asked the Director General of National Automotive Design and Development Council
Jelani Aliyu about the withdrawal, he said the money was withdrawn without the knowledge of the agency.
He said the Agency has been writing to the Accountant General and Ministry of Finance on the need to refund the money but there was no response.
Apparently piqued by the development, Senate Committee on Public Accounts resolved to summon the Minister of Finance and Accountant General of the Federation to give explanation on the fund.
The query reads,”A total sum of N3,836,000,000.00 (Three billion, eight hundred and thirty-six million naira) was irregularly withdrawn from the 2% National Automotive Council Levy Account with the Central Bank of Nigeria, Abuja in 2 installments of N2,800,000,000 (in 2005) and N1,036,000,000.00 (in 2006) by the Accountant-General of the Federation and the Federal Ministry of Finance as car loan to be granted for the Security Personnel Car Purchase Scheme Loan.
“The transaction was carried out by the Presidency in collaboration with the Bank of Industry, the Federal Ministry of Finance and the Accountant-General of the Federation without the involvement of NAC, the account owner.
“However the principal and the accrued interest from the fictitious loan have not been paid back nor are records available on the beneficiaries, agreement documents, moratorium, duration of the loan, the yearly interest rates accruable and how the fund will be paid back by the beneficiary.
“The Director General has been requested to intensify correspondence with the Honourable Minister of Finance, Accountant-General of the Federation and the Presidency to recover the fund (‘loan’).”
On the 3.7 billion, the report said the sum was “irregularly withdrawn from the 2% National Automotive Council Levy Account with the Central Bank of Nigeria between March-December 2000 in 3 separate payments of N725,000,000; N1,000,000,000 and N2,000,000,000 as ‘loan’ to NAFCON vide the Accountant General of the Federation internal memo to the Permanent Secretary, Budget Office of the Federation Ref No: DD/(R&F)22.Vol. 1158 of 27/5/2003.
“The ‘Loan’ Principal and the accumulated interest are yet to be paid since the year 2000.”

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Legislature

Senate Urges NEMA to Provide Relief Materials to Benue Windstorm Victims

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Senate Urges NEMA to Provide Relief Materials to Benue Windstorm Victims

The Senate on Wednesday urged the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) to as a matter of urgency mobilize resources and rehabilitation materials for various communities in Benue state recently affected by a devastating windstorm.

The disaster had destroyed hundreds of buildings, leaving many residents injured and homeless.

The upper legislative chamber also urged relevant government agencies to support the rebuilding of all the affected public buildings.

It further urged relevant government agencies to go to Benue south senatorial district to sensitize the people on measures to protect themselves and their properties.

The resolutions were sequel to the adoption of motion, sponsored by Senator Abba Moro (Benue South).

Moving the motion, Moro expressed sadness at the extent of destruction inflicted on lives, public and private properties by a windstorm which swept through Ogbadibo and Okpokwu communities in Benue.

He lamented that the windstorm brought down blocks of classrooms in some schools, churches, police station and many other buildings were affected.

Moro said, ”On April 8 2021 about ten communities in Benue state were badly hit by natural disaster. A devastating windstorm which left scores of people injured, hundreds of them homeless and wanton destruction of properties, valuables and several means of livelihood worth millions of Naira.

”Recall that on May 12, 2020 I drew the attention of the Senate in a motion over a devastating rain, windstorm disaster that swept through Ai-Famu, a community in Owukpa, Ogbadibo LGA of Benue State, wherein over 150 buildings including St. Michael The Archangel Catholic Church’s building were blown up by the storm. Worried that almost one year after the disaster, the ordeal has repeated itself in a worse and more devastating manner.”

He added that the situation needs to be addressed to provide succor to the affected communities and persons.

In his contribution, Senator Micheal Nnachi called for urgent action to safeguard the lives and properties of citizens.

He said, ”Climate change is a serious issue in every country in the world, this motion has caused a lot of havoc in his senatorial district. Today people are under the sun, under the next rain which we may not predict. Something urgent should be done to protect the lives of these people.”

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