Act allows President, govs, NASS members, others to participate in party conventions, congresses 

Reject moves to shorten timeline for submission of candidates’ names to INEC 

By Levinus Nwabughiogu

Abuja—The House of Representatives yesterday concurred with the Senate in amendeding section 84 (8) of the Electoral Act and passed same to allow statutory delegates participate in their political parties’ congresses and conventions.

The statutory delegates included the President, Governors, national assembly members, state assembly members,  local government chairman and the councilors.

The amendment was sequel to the consideration of a bill, titled “A Bill for an Act to amend the Electoral Act No 13, 2022; and for Related Matters (HB. 1984), sponsored by the Chairman, Committee on Rules and Business,  Abubakar Hassan Fulata, at an emergency plenary called exclusively for the purpose of passing the bill into law.

The bill was given accelerated passage as it was introduced, read for the second time, considered at the committee of the whole, later read for the third time and passed into law at the session presided over by the deputy speaker, Ahmed Idris Wase.

Giving the synopsis of the bill, the House leader, Ado Doguwa, said:   “We are here to address an issue that involves our legislative process. It is a matter that we consider fundamental. It is very critical in our journey to nationhood. 

”We feel it is necessary this House convened this afternoon (yesterday) to consider this important amendment. We have discussed among ourselves and upon the commitment we have made to ourselves, I urge our colleagues to move in the same direction to cure this particular injury in the body of our legal frame. It is nothing other than a simple insertion in Section 84 (8)”.

It will be recalled that the Senate went through the same process on Tuesday.

Briefing journalists at the end of the plenary, spokesman of the House, Benjamin Kalu, said the move failed because it was not in the interest of democracy.

He said: “Recently, a coalition of political parties approached INEC, in view of what they considered the current realities to shorten the expected time for submitting the list of candidates by the various political parties. Their proposal is for it to go from 180 days to 150 days.

“For me, that was a wrong move. Wrong in the sense that we are talking about a piece of legislation that was just recently assented to by Mr. President, the same President who wrote back to the house on issues of adjusting one or two sections of that law. 

”One would have expected the coalition of these political parties to have the National Assembly as their first port of call on issues arising from the electoral act increasing or reducing the number of days, the right port ought to have been lobbying the National Assembly because at this point, INEC does not have the power to amend the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“The said number of days was not borne out of the regulation of INEC but a law passed by the parliament.

“Somewhere, members of these various political parties including my own party, the APC and PDP, strong opposition and majority parties, one way or the other made this objective of producing the number of days to appear before the order paper of the Senate today. And some how, the House also, through supplementary order had it on their paper for consideration but lucky enough, it went through the first reading and did not see the light of day.

“Members of the national assembly said no. Why did we say no, the  answer to that is found in the reason the making of that law, the legislative intention for chosing 180 days. It was not just chosen at random. There was a reason. To give sufficient time for INEC to prepare and also for the political parties to deal with all the issues associated with the process of primaries which the law recognizes as a pre-election issue. You will recall that often times, pre-election matters flood the corridors of the courts, suffocating all other judicial functions and this law seeks to cure that mischief and issues arising from political primaries will be dealt with sufficiently within the space of time. I think it was a good law. 

And that was why the members of the House of Representatives refused to bend on this particular provision. So, this is me announcing to Nigerians that we have returned to status quo. Section 29 of the electoral act remains as it is. 180 days remains as it is. It is healthier for our democracy, for the 2023 elections.”

“The second issue was the provision of section 84(8) of the electoral act with regards to the conduct of primaries, those who were supposed to participate in the primaries as delegates. As you know, the Constitution recognises a set of people as statutory or automatic delegates and most constitutions of the parties recognize that. People like Mr. President, former governors, NASS members etc. Through judicial interactions, we have found out there is a missing link in 84(8) if left to be as it is. 

It will disinfranchise people who ordinarily should be automatic delegates. That’s why in the wisdom of the house, there was a little restructuring towards the end of that particular subsection 8 and we decided to add to statutory delegates already prescribed in the constitution of the party. So, that was what the house did today. Section 84(8) has been amended to accommodate more people who would have been disinfranchised.

Kalu also hinted of postponing the resumption date of May 24 to enable members further particular in the primaries of their parties.

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