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2010 ELECTORAL ACT: AGAIN PRESIDENCY LOBBIES SENATE

By NBF News
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The Presidency through the leadership of the Senate has commenced another move towards the amendment of the 2010 Electoral Act to take care of Notice of Election with a view to revisiting Section 87. This is apparently to accommodate political appointees as automatic delegates to national convention of political parties.

The move Daily Sun authoritatively gathered followed a meeting between Vice President Namadi Sambo and the leadership of the Senate on Monday last week during which the Presidency expressed its reservation over the Senate's rejection of its Bill that sought to amend Section 87 of the Electoral Act 2010.

It was gathered that the Presidency pointedly told the Senate leadership that it was disappointing to note that the same Senate which was expecting the executive arm of government to assist and support its members in so many ways did not deem it fit to give due consideration to the Bill proposed by President Goodluck Jonathan before they overwhelmingly rejected it.

Daily Sun further gathered that the Monday meeting which was coordinated by the Special Adviser to the President on National Assembly Matters, Senator Mohammed Abba-Aji equally resolved that the Senate leadership should do a draft of the amendment in order to make it look as if it was being sponsored from within under the cover of the Senate Committee on Constitution Review chaired by the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu.

Accordingly, the Senate leadership which has commenced lobbying Senators to accept the new proposal which is proving hard to sell has gone ahead and assigned the drafting of the amendment to the Deputy Senate Leader, Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba, who is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN).

Again, the Standing Rules of the Senate is proving to be a major stumbling block for the smooth flow and actualization of the proposed amendment which the Senate leadership is finding difficult to sell with ease.

For instance, Section 91 of the Senate Standing Rules states: 'If it appears to the President of the Senate from the notice of the terms proposed to be embodied in a Bill not being a government measure that the proposals are intended to affect or benefit some particular person, association or corporate body then:

(i) Before allowing such a bill to be read the first time the President of the Senate shall satisfy himself that in addition to the notice already presented under Rule 77 (Notice regarding bills), additional notice of the Bill has been given by advertising a statement of its general nature and objects in the Official Gazette and in one newspaper circulating in Nigeria.'

It was gathered that already majority of the Senators are of the view that that the proposed law is self-serving and thus may pitch them against the public, particularly against the backdrop that INEC and Nigerians did not canvass for such an alteration.

Daily Sun gathered that the main crux of the amendment being proposed is to ensure the alteration of Section 87 of the Electoral Act in order to pave way for political appointees to become automatic delegates at party convention since INEC has not requested for any amendment with regards to Notice of Election.

Section 30 of the Electoral Act 2010 states:
(1) The Commission shall, not later than 90 days before the day appointed for holding of an election under this Act, publish a notice in each State of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory -

(a) Stating the date of the election; and appointing the place at which nomination papers are to be delivered.

(2) The notice shall be published in each constituency in respect of which an election is to be held.

(3) In the case of a by-election, the Commission shall, not later than 14 days before the date appointed for the election, publish a notice stating the date of the election.

31. (1) Every political party shall not later than 60 days before the date appointed for a general election under the provisions of this Act, submit to the Commission in the prescribed forms the list of the candidates the party proposes to sponsor at the elections.

(2) The list or information submitted by each candidate shall be accompanied by an Affidavit sworn to by the candidate at the High Court of a state, indicating that he has fulfilled all the constitutional requirements for election into that office.'

It was also gathered that the Presidency expressed its discomfort with the arrangement in which nomination shall be taking place at the state levels and thus wanted a review to make the convention of political party for the purpose of electing a presidential flagbearer to hold at a central location.

As part of the bait for the Senators to accept the proposed amendment, the Presidency has equally suggested the inclusion of a new Section to make Senators become automatic members of their parties National Executive Committees in order to have a greater say in the affairs of their parties.

This enticement is only attractive to members of the Peoples Democratic Party as senators of the ANPP, ACN, APGA and PPA are members of their parties' NEC.

In spite of the promises and baits proposed by the Presidency to the Senate leadership to ensure that the proposed amendment scales through, the David Mark-led Senate has some hurdles to scale if it must carry out the amendments.

For instance, Section 90 of the Senate Standing Rules makes it difficult for the re-introduction of a Bill that has be rejected by the Senate during the same Section.

Section 90 of the Senate Rules states:  'More than one Bill of the same subject matter may be introduced, but when the second reading of a Bill has been agreed to or negatived, the question shall not be proposed for the second reading of another Bill of the same subject matter during the same session. On the order of the day relating to such a Bill being read the President of the Senate shall direct that the Bill be withdrawn.'

However, the Senate had on several occasions suspended their rules to take care of certain matters of national interest which were usually overlooked by majority of the Senators.

Daily Sun, however, gathered that the case might not be same like before as many of the Senators are believed not to be comfortable with the proposal from the Presidency which is being pushed but with so much difficulty.

It was, however, gathered that for Section 90 of the Senate Standing Order to be accomplished, Section 45 of the same Rules has to be complied with as some Senators are determined to raise point of Order for the enforcement of the Senate Rules.

Section 45 of the Senate Rules states inter alia: '(1) No rule shall be suspended except by a vote of two thirds of the Senate.

(2)     When a motion to suspend the Rule has been submitted to the Senate, it shall be in order, before the final vote is taken thereon, to debate the proposition to be voted upon for twenty minutes, one half of such time to be given to debate in opposition to such proposition; and the rights of debate shall be allowed whenever the previous question has been ordered on any proposition on which there has been no debate.'