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CONSTITUTION REVIEW: FAULTY MACHINE FORCES REPS TO DEFER VOTING TILL APRIL 20

By NBF NEWS
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More facts emerged on Thursday on why the House of Representatives deferred voting on the proposed amendments to the 1999 Constitution till April 20.

One of the reasons is the malfunctioning electronic voting machine installed in the chambers.

The Chairman of the House Committee on Rules and Business, Mr. Ita Enang, who spoke on the review of the constitution in Abuja, explained further that another reason was the need for lawmakers to consult with their constituencies before voting on the over 60 amendments recommended by its Ad Hoc Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution.

Enang explained that efforts to reactivate the machine and configure the data cards of all members had been in process but was yet to be completed.

He added that engineers working on the system had reported that they needed time beyond the normal Friday – Monday period when the House does not sit to do a thorough job.

'We have considered the fact that the alteration of the constitution is a serious issue and we must have our votes recorded.

'This is for future reference; it is appropriate for Nigerians to know how each of the 360 members voted on the items proposed for amendment.

'The engineers will use the period of the Easter break to test each of the 360 seats, to ensure that the vote of one member will not eventually be recorded for another,' he said.

The lawmaker stated further that decisions on how to vote would also be easier after the members had consulted with their constituencies.

Incidentally, the House proceeded on Easter break on Wednesday, to reconvene on April 20.

On the timetable for the 2011 general elections, Enang hinted that the House might adopt the proposal to have the poll in January in line with one of the timetables recently released by the Independent National Electoral Commission.

INEC released a two-option timeable (January 2010 and April 2010), pending the outcome of the review of the constitution and the Electoral Act 2006 by the National Assembly.

The January 2010 timetable is in line with the proposed amendment to have elections conducted four months before the inauguration of a new government.

According to Enang, the House has been speeding up the review of the constitution and the Electoral Act.

He stated, 'That is even why we are considering the report on the constitution first.

'All the six or seven bills dealing with amendments have been consolidated into one; we shall decide on resumption later this month which aspects of the constitution are to be moved to the Electoral Act.

'If they are captured in the Electoral Act, then we may not nee to have them in the constitution.'

The Senate considered and completed voting on its 38 proposed amendments to the constitution last week but the House has continued to delay its own.

The Senate's report is waiting for harmonisation by the House after the latter would have conducted its own voting.

The harmonised document will later be sent to the 36 state Houses of Assembly for concurrence by a two-thirds majority.

Enang, who also gave an update on the number of bills introduced in the House since June 2007, said that 383 bills had passed first reading.

He added that 303 of the bills were sponsored by members, while 64 came from the Executive.

Out of the number, he said 19 were passed between January and March 2010.

'Bills from the House to Senate were 54; bills from the Senate for concurrence, 17; number of bills read the second time and pending in committees, 106,' he explained.

The House has passed 40 resolutions and considered eight petitions since January this year.