By Ben Agande & Inalegwu Shaibu
ABUJA—THE Senate, yesterday, threw out the proposed amendment to the Electoral Act, 2010, to extend the time line for the 2011 elections as requested by the Independent National Electoral Commission, prompting fears that the conduct of the 2011elections could be in jeopardy.
The decision by the Senate was ostensibly in reaction to the amendment proposed by President Goodluck Jonathan that Section 87 of the 2010 be amended to allow political parties set out who would be delegates at its conventions.
This prompted fears that political appointees would be used to frustrate other aspirants out of the forthcoming conventions of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
Despite appeals from the Senate President, David Mark and the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, to discourage senators from ‘throwing the baby with the bath water’ senators were resolute in their opposition to the second reading of the Bill.
But Senate spokesman and chairman of the Senate Committee on Media and Information, Senator Ayogu Eze said there was no cause for alarm as the Senate would do everything to ensure that the elections were not only held but they are credible, free and fair.
There were early indications that the amendments would run into troubled waters as soon as the Senate leader, Senator Teslim Floarin, finished the lead debate on the proposed amendments as the senators labeled the proposed amendment, especially section 87 which sought to vest the parties with the choice of who constitute its delegate as ‘toxic.’
While defending the Bill, Senator Folarin said the amendment sought to streamline the procedures for the conduct of primary election by political parties and affording INEC “more flexibility in determining the dates for the conduct of elections in the country.”
The three amendments that were being sought by the executive were for sections 25, 87 and 134. Section 25 (1) of the principal Act was to be amended by replacing it with a new section which provides for elections at both the federal and state levels to be held on dates and in a sequence to be determined by the Independent National E lectoral Commission while a new sub_section 25 (3) was introduced to provide for the elections in the case of 2011 to be held not later than April 30, 2011.
As soon as the Senate leader finished his lead contribution, Senator Kabiru Gaya said the amendment being sought by the executive would amount to “killing all the work we have done for years that Nigerians had been happy with.”
He said: “Mr. President we have worked tirelessly on this bill and Nigerians commended the National Assembly, particularly the Senate, for a job well done for bringing a desired process when we amend the Electoral Act. Mr. President this bill is entirely killing all the work we have done for years that Nigerians had been happy with. The problem in the past years was that we did not have internal democracies in the parties and that was why we had to go through all these.
“The late President set up an electoral reform committee headed by Uwais and they came up with a recommendation. Now for us to consider this bill is entirely bringing the whole process backwards. I suggest that we should not waste time on this bill. We should just throw this bill out and ensure that it is dead before arrival.”
Senator Victor Ndoma_Egba expressed surprise that the proposal for the amendment came at all adding, “we should just refer it to the Committee on amendment so that it can marry the two provisions.”
For Senator Kanti Bello who is the Deputy Director General of the Ibrahim Babangida Campaign Organization, there was no need for the amendment in the first place because the Act which is to be amended had not even been tried.
At this point, there was agitation from the senators that there was no need for further debate on the bill as the overwhelming belief was that there was no need for the bill. Attempts by the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu to intervene to persuade his colleagues to consider the bill was greeted with shouts of no, no, no.
He, however, warned that “this bill is already gazetted. We have powers under the Constitution and