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Reps Adopt Report On Constitution; Introduce New Amendments

Source: SAINT MUGAGA - thewillnigeria.com
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ABUJA, Nov 04, (THEWILL) - The House of Representatives today adopted the Conference Committee Report on the first alteration to the 2010 Constitution. The Senate had earlier adopted the report.

With House concurrence, the harmonised copy of the altered constitution will now be formally transmitted to the 36 state assemblies for the concurrence of at least 24 of the legislative houses for the amendments to take effect.

One of the new amendments in the adopted report is for petition arising from governorship elections to be determined by the Supreme instead of the Appeal Court as obtained in the current constitution.

The amendment also provides for new time-lines for the conduct of the National Assembly, state Houses of Assembly, presidential and governorship elections by INEC.

Titled a “Bill for an Act to alter the provisions of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 and the constitution (First alteration) Act No. 5, 2010”, it was passed by both the Senate and House on the October 27, 2010.

267 members voted for the new amendments to be adopted with only one member voting against the report. The process was conducted by Deputy Speaker, Honourable Bayero Nafada.

There was however disagreements at the beginning with members kicking against the inclusion of section 6 that deals with the initiation and termination of gubernatorial election petitions.

The House had to go into a closed-door session to iron out their differences before they came back to adopt the report.

The disagreements started when the former Leader of the House, Hon. Abdul Ningi demanded that the areas of differences between the versions of the bill passed by both houses be read out by the Chairman of the Conference Committee, Hon. Aminu Waziri Tambuwal.

Tambuwal promptly listed out the areas but an observation by Hon. Halims Agoda (PDP, Delta) that allowing governorship election cases to start at the tribunal and end at the Supreme Court would affect the timely dispensation of justice.

He was however, countered by the Minority Leader, Hon. Mohammed Ali Ndume (ANPP, Borno), who argued that the amendment was to make room for proper adjudication. At this point, several members offered to speak on the report resulting in lack of orderliness.

The Deputy Speaker insisted on going ahead with the adoption and invited Tambuwal to move the motion, which was seconded by Hon. Garba Shehu Matazu (PDP, Katsina). But when the Deputy Speaker put the question, he withheld ruling as he could not decipher whether the ayes or nays were in the majority.

He consequently called for an executive session where all the differences were sorted out. After 30 minutes, the House re-opened and the voting was conducted peacefully and orderly.

Meanwhile, the House has introduced a fresh amendment to the 2010 Electoral Act separate from the one dropped by the Senate on October 20, 2010. Sponsor of the new bill, Hon. C.I.D. Maduabum (PDP, Anambra) had explained that his proposed amendment to the 2010 Electoral Act was to address some abnormalities in the existing Act for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to properly conduct the elections. He said, there are some provisions in the existing bill which contradicts constitutional provisions on elections.

Chairman of the House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Hon. Eseme Eyiboh at a media briefing explained that the fresh amendment was not a plot to smuggle the amendments that were rejected by the Senate. However, Chairman of the House committee on Electoral Matters, Hon. Musa Adar confirmed that the version rejected by the Senate was ‘technically dead’ although his committee was still looking into it since the House that mandated it has not ruled otherwise. He said the report would be submitted as soon as it was ready.

The sections thrown out by the Senate were sections 25, 87 and 134. The most contentious of the proposed amendments was the one seeking to include ministers, advisers and other aides of the president as automatic delegates to the party’s convention.

While the rejected amendment was sponsored by the executive, the fresh one is a private member bill. The House is expected to pass the fresh amendment to the Senate for concurrence when work is completed on it. Speaking at a joint briefing with Eyiboh, Hon. Adar denied media reports that the Electoral Act amendment, which was rejected by the Senate, was being prepared to be re-introduced it in the House. “We did not know where the reports come from, we have never admitted that we accept all the sections that were requested to be amended by the President and the bill is technically dead but as a committee we are bound to submit report to the House notwithstanding the fact that it is already dead.”