NEC Membership: Stakeholders Boo NASS; Critics Are Ignorant - Mark


ABUJA, Nov 29, (THEWILL) - Senate President, David Mark today spurned critics of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill describing them as quite ignorant of the real issues as stakeholders opposed to the proposed electoral amendment that would see federal lawmakers become automatic members of their respective party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) booed and jeered at a hearing.

Mark also warned that the National Assembly would not succumb to emotions but rather to superior argument in deciding the bill the highly contentious bill.

But swiftly, the National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo, responded and advised that the laws enacted by the National Assembly must be ones that would survive the test of time adding that any laws made internally would not last.

Declaring the one-day public hearing on the contentious bill open in National Assembly, Mark said the fact remains that the occasion smacks of all that is democratic adding that there is nothing self serving in the Electoral Act amendment bill.

However, he said that any Act that stems from the public hearing afterwards would outlive; “all of us’, and as such there is nothing self serving in the bill which has received flaks from politicians and informed members of the Nigerian public. The bill contrary to reports he said does not amount to asking for automatic ticket for the 2011 general election, though according to him it will be desirable for the electorate to re-elect their lawmakers as it would put them in proper stead because of the experiences of the serving legislators.

“This bill does not amount to asking for automatic ticket, most criticisms are done out of ignorance and share mischief. We have not made up our minds on what will be in the bill. Some people just want their voices to be heard. This particular bill, yes has generated a lot of heat but our desire is to have a robust NEC, robust political parties with entrenched internal democracy. We want to discourage a situation where a few people will seat there and take decision that could affect the majority.

“I have heard and read several newspaper reports suggesting that the National Assembly is under pressure as a result of the criticisms trailing this bill and as a result we are now resorting to organizing public hearing on it. This is nonsense. There is nothing so special about the bill; it is being subjected to the standard lawmaking procedures like every other bill. It is even unfortunate that the section that is talking about membership of NEC is singled out for questioning, to the extent that if care is not taking, some people could change the name of the bill to ‘NEC Bill. It is wrong perception,” he said.Senator Mark who left afterwards painted a picture of a fait-accompli situation, suggesting very strongly that the public hearing was merely window dressing just to fulfill all legislative righteousness. That is to say that the lawmakers may have made up their minds on the bill irrespective of what the people’s view are or whether the President will assent to the bill or not.

Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo who was quite equivocal and made spirited attempt to explain that any seeming fears of the lawmakers as per true representation of all stakeholders in the party, told the hearing that members of the National Assembly owe Nigerians a duty to make laws that would survive the test of time.

“If they make laws that are not internal it will not last,” he said.

He explained that NEC of the PDP lacks the capacity and is not competent to change the constitution of the party and as a result the party relies on the party’s convention to do so.

“When we crafted our constitution, we were aware that as the largest party in Africa, the NEC will be gargantuan and as such we could not accommodate every major stakeholder. NEC comprises of 84 elected members, from the Executive we have the President and the Governors, and in the National Assembly we have three members from each of the geo-political zones and all the presiding officers. We want to strike a balance in our NEC in such a way that the elected members of NEC would not be swallowed. It could be difficult under such situations for decision making process”, he said.

Photo: Protesters at the public hearing.

In the same vein, Chairman of Conference of PDP State Chairmen, Dr. Agbo Emmanuel, told the gathering that the conference is vehemently opposed to the section of the bill and demanded that it be expunged.

He nonetheless said that he is aware that with the overwhelming majority of his party members in the National Assembly, they could decide to override an eventual Presidential veto in the circumstance.

In his presentation, Mr. Maxi Okwu, Chairman of Citizens Popular Party (CNPP) who represented the Forum of chairmen of 16 political parties urged the lawmakers to allow parties to handle their internal affairs.

According to him, widening the membership of NEC of parties should be left to the discretion of the parties.

“The mode of conduct of candidates should be left to the various political parties to decide, as was the case before the recent changes to the Electoral Act. Any party that is desirous of a change can set up internal mechanism to do so,’’ he said.

Representative of INEC Chairman, Alhaji Nuhu Yakubu, said that the commission was only concerned about areas that have to do with conduct of elections arguing that section 8 (b) of the proposed amendment which deals with joining INEC as respondent in electoral disputes would be overbearing on the commission’s fund as it would commit resources to court cases.

Members of the public and other stakeholders had mobilized to the venue of the hearing to boo and jeer at the promoters of the amendment largely described as over-regulation of the parties during the question and answer session.

The hearing was characterized by booing and jeering of proponents of the bill by members of the public mostly women who mobilized to the venue of the event. The deputy speaker, Hon. Usman Bayero Nafada, who is also Chairman of the House Committee on Constitution Review, had to intervene before normalcy returned to the hearing.

The Deputy Speaker told participants and the audience that the situation was almost turning into a war zone “but we are expected to only listen and allow stakeholders to make their submission after which we can study and work on that submission.”

Every other stakeholder at the hearing with the exception of the lawmakers opposed the bill.