Electoral Bill: National Assembly To Delete Direct Primaries

 House of Representatives Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila yesterday spoke of how the National National Assembly plans to resolve the logjam over the Electoral Act Amendment Bill.

He hinted that lawmakers may drop the controversial clause from the Bill before passing it into law when they reconvene next month.

According to him, legislators could resort to the option, if they failed to muster the two-thirds majority votes needed to override President Muhammadu Buhari’s veto on the Bill.

Gbajabiamila listed the two options while fielding questions from reporters after commissioning some projects in his Surulere I Constituency in Lagos.

On December 20, President Muhammadu Buhari returned the Bill to the National Assembly, citing concerns about the inclusion of direct primary for political parties as reasons for declining assent.

The President’s decision led to crisis between the Presidency and the National Assembly which threatened to override the President.

Some critics have asked the lawmakers to override the Presidents.

Acknowledging the calls from concerned stakeholders, Gbajabiamila said: “If you followed the history of the amendment of the direct and indirect primary bill, I initiated that amendment bill for a good reason and it is for people to participate in elections. These are the people you see around when you campaign every four years come rain, come shine.

Read Also: Make National Assembly amend electoral Bill or override Buhari, Delta govt tells Nigerians

“For me, it does not make sense that these people do not have a voice in who represents them. It is part of being used and I didn’t like that.

“Most of us are reformers and one of the ways to reform the system is to make more accountable and to make the people have a voice in who represents them as opposed to a few people sitting in the four corners of a wall and writing results.

“That is what the amendment was all about. Again, there is a process.

“The President has in his wisdom – and I believe he did it with all good intention based on advice that he got, he weighed everything carefully. You know the President has always been a man who, because of his popularity, enjoyed direct primaries, he liked it.

“But, I guess maybe times are different; he listened to people that he has employed to advise him and it appears that they advised him against the amendment.

“So, there is a process, we’ll return to the house and determine if those reasons sit well with the National Assembly, in which case we will at that point consider removing that clause and passing the bill so that we do not throw away the baby with the bath water.

“But then, it is not a decision for me to make; it is a decision for the entire National Assembly. If they determine that the reasons are not good enough, then there is a process as prescribed by the Constitution. Which way the pendulum is going to swing? I have no idea until that time.

“I cannot read the minds of members. We need two-thirds to be able to override the veto.

There is a reason why the Constitution prescribes two-thirds. Veto is not something you easily override. If they can muster enough, if they believe that it is in the best interest of Nigeria, then that is what we will do, otherwise, we will take out the clause and pass the bill as it is, so that we have a law and what Nigerians deserve is a credible electoral law and process and they must get it.”

Backing the 20 per cent police pay rise recently announced by the Presidency, the Speaker noted there was no provision for its implementation in the 2022 budget passed and transmitted by the lawmakers to the President for assent.

Gbajabiamila called for an extra-budgetary provision since the new salary structure will take effect from next month.

The legislators transmitted the 2022 budget to President Buhari for assent alongside a letter dated December 24.

Gbajabiamila said: “I believe at the time when the increase was done – and I give kudos to the President for that, it’s been a long time coming and well deserved for the police; They are out there doing everything they can to keep us safe. No amount of money will be too much for policemen.

“At the time that decision was made, I believe we had gone way into the budget. We were almost at the tail end of the budget. So, I believe that a supplementary budget will be brought that will accommodate that increase.

“It will be brought and it will be accommodated. There is no point in announcing an increase without any money to pay for it. I believe that the president will do that.”

The projects inaugurated are: the Obele Mini Stadium on Dosunmu Road; Adedoyin Road, Ojikutu; Ishola Road by Randle; Rasaq Balogun Mini Stadium; Razaq Balogun Road and Adeniran Ogunsanya, Surulere, Lagos.

Gbajabiamila said of the projects: “What is my job as a legislator? It is to represent the people; both those who voted me in and those that did not. That’s what we’ve been striving to do over the years, even before I became speaker, from my first year in office. That’s all I’ve been doing.

“You said 137 roads, but if you count from when I was first elected to the House of Representatives, it goes way beyond that. We give God all the glory for what we have been able to do. We made promises and we delivered.”

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