By Inalegwu Shaibu
THE Senate will today hold a public hearing on the controversial Electoral Act which seeks to grant automatic members of national executive council of political parties to legislators, despite out cries from members of the public against the bill regarded by many as self-serving.
Section 87 sub section 12 of the bill which is an amendment being sought to the 2010 Electoral Act, if passed into law, stipulates that ‘there shall be, in all political parties, a National Executive Committee, NEC, which shall be the highest decision making body of the party.
The section further provides for the identities of those that shall be members of every party’s NEC.
The Senate’s version holds that every chairman and deputy chairman of standing committees shall be members of their parties’ NEC, besides the leadership of the National Assembly who are currently members of their various parties’ NEC.
But with over 55 standing committees in the senate and 85 in the House of Representatives, over 250 members of the National Assembly will be in NEC of the ruling People’s Democratic Party, PDP.
Observers believe that this provision will make the speaker of the House of Representatives and the Senate President the most powerful party members in PDP, ahead of the governors who currently hold sway with a population slightly above 30 members.
This stems from the huge voting rights which the principal officers of the National Assembly will control during parties’ primaries, thereby making the lawmakers a determining factor in the keenly contested presidential ticket in PDP ahead of the 2011 elections.
It will be recalled that the bill was reintroduced after a failed attempt by the National Assembly to amend the 2010 Electoral Act.
Despite opposition from the public, Senate President, David Mark, was confident that the bill will deepen Nigeria’s democracy, stressing that the bill is not self-serving.
Mark is of the view that the bill will deepen internal democracies in political parties, a fact he stressed has been lacking in all the political parties at the moment.
Calls on Nigerians to attend hearing
He said “those who have views to express must come to do so when there is public hearing and I encourage people to come and attend public hearing, whether they are big men or small men, it is important that they should come and express their views when the public hearing is on.
“I noticed that the issue of National Assembly members being members of NEC of various political parties has been in the front burner. People are saying it is self-serving. If you say it is self serving, does that mean the moment this sixth National Assembly is over, that Bill or Act will die. If that Bill is passed, it will survive all of us. Does that mean it is self serving?
“I encourage all Nigerians to come if there is a public hearing and if there is a superior argument, the Committee will listen. But to say it is self serving for heaven sake does not even come in. This is a Bill, if passed as an Act, will survive all of us here.”