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Emmanuel Ogala
March 26, 2010 04:41AM
By passing the Constitution review bills through third reading on Thursday, the Senate has concluded its part in the constitution amendment for electoral reform process.

Although the Senate concluded voting on the bills on Wednesday, it could not expressly pass the bills because of some typographical errors and an omission of section 109 (g).

Document: Constitution Review Senate Draft
On Thursday, these were corrected and the omitted section brought up and deleted. The Senate then voted on other affected sections and passed the draft amended Constitution.

Advancement on the amendment of the Constitution to create conducive legislation for electoral reform now relies on the ability of the House of Representatives to pass their version of the draft amendment. According to the schedule of the House of Representatives, they will commence the final stage of debate on the bills when they return from Easter vacation next month.

Priority changes
The highlights of the sections affected by these amendments made so far by the Senate include the provision for independent candidates to liberalise the political space, as provided in sections 65, 106, 117 and 131 of the draft amended Constitution.

Raising the educational qualification for elected officials at the federal and state levels to at least tertiary level and the attainment of relevant certificates.

Providing for a longer time frame between the election and take-off of term of office (not earlier than 150 days and not later than 90 days), for the various elective offices in the country, as provided in sections 76, 116, 132 and 178 of the draft amended Constitution.

Provision of administrative and financial independence for INEC by insulating it from the control of the President and funding it directly as a first line charge on the Consolidated Revenue Fund, as provided in sections 121 and 160 of the draft amended Constitution.

Ensuring that a person whose election was annulled and also wins a consequent re-run election does not serve more than the constitutionally prescribed term of office for the office in question, as indicated in sections 135 and 180 of the draft amended Constitution.

The insulation of Chairman and members of the Independent National Electoral Commission from partisanship and undue political influence, as contained in section 156 of the draft amended Constitution.

Two clauses were inserted into section 228 of the Constitution to enable the National Assembly make laws that will regulate internal democracies in political parties.

Also, everyday a governor or president whose election was annulled but wins the re-run election spent before the re-run election will now count in the four-year term stipulated by the Constitution.

Sections 68 (g) and 109 (g) prohibiting federal and state lawmakers from changing political parties after elections were deleted.

Section 137 (i) barring people indicted for embezzlement or fraud by tribunals or enquiry commissions was also deleted.

What's next?
Whenever the House of Representatives finish with their version of the draft Constitution amendment, both versions will be harmonised, and later sent down to the various state Houses of Assembly for their consensus.

Thereafter, the National Assembly will compile a clean copy of the draft amended Constitution that will be sent to the President for signing into law.

In the case the President refuses to sign the amendments, after 30 days the draft amended Constitution will be returned to the National Assembly and then passed into law by two-third majority of the national lawmakers.