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Controversial Amendment Bill Passes Second Reading In the Senate

Source: EMMA UCHE - thewillnigeria.com
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ABUJA, Nov 11, (THEWILL) - The controversial new electoral act amendment bill scaled the crucial second reading on the floor of the Senate today, thus setting the stage for its eventual passage into law.

The bill was thereafter referred to Senate Committee on Electoral Matters for committee work and public hearing.

The highpoint of the bill is that chairmen and vice chairmen of standing committees of both chambers would become members of the National Executive Committees (NEC) of their respective political parties. Also the vexed issues of making political appointees like Ministers, Commissioners, Special Advisers among others automatic delegates at party conventions and congresses for the purposes of nominations was consign to the dustbin if the bill eventually becomes law.

It states: “No political appointee at any level shall be a voting delegate at the convention or congress of any political party for the purpose of nomination of candidates for any election, except where such a political appointee is also an elected officer of a political party.”

In the same vein the new bill bares political parties from substituting names of candidates whose names have been submitted except in the case of death or withdrawal by the candidate.

Leading debate on the bill Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, who with 43 others sponsored the bill, said the bill seeks to amend Section 87 of the of the Principal Act to strengthen internal democracy by ensuring that the National Executive Committee (NEC) of a political party is the highest decision making body of the party and including in its membership presiding officers of the National Assembly, Chairmen and Deputy Chairmen of standing Committees in the senate, Chairmen and Deputy Chairmen of Standing Committees in the House of Representatives.

“The rationale here is to ensure robust discussion on party issues by a larger number of party members and to avoid a situation where a very few party members sit to decide the faith and affairs of a political party. Another fundamental issue that this bill seeks to achieve is the removal of electoral officers, presiding officers etc, as respondents in an election petition and making the commission itself the only respondent.

“The Commission is expected to defend its officer and not the officer defending himself/herself in the course of his/her responsibility to the Commission. Paragraph 51(1) of the first schedule which this bill seeks to amend provides for the joining of an officer as a respondent in an election petition where the action of the officer is complained of,” he said.

The bill scaled through without any opposing voice.

Meanwhile, the Senate yesterday adopted the report of its Committee on Establishment and Public Service on the inauguration of the President and Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Venue, Procession and other activities relating to inauguration bill 2010.

The highpoint was the provision that at the inauguration of the President and the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the swearing-in ceremony shall be organized and executed by the National Assembly.

Specifically, the report provided that the inauguration shall take place in the Arcade of the National Assembly and that the Clerk to the National Assembly shall head the Secretariats and shall draw officers from the three arms of government to service in the secretariat.