Empowering INEC Through Electoral Act For Credible Election In 2015
Empowering the electoral body in Nigeria, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and improving the electoral process was given much attention in the National Assembly in the first week of July.
The 2015 General Elections are just few months away and the legislature is in a race to amend sections in the electoral act to ensure a credible, free and fair election.
Last month federal lawmakers in the upper chamber, after a clause by clause vote, approved several amendments to the Electoral Act.
Concluding the process during the week, the Senate passed the amendments to the 2010 Electoral Act.
The Electoral Act
The Electoral Act 2010, as amended, provides for tenure of Office of Secretary of the INEC.
The amendment also specified that the Chairman and members of the Area Council Election Appeal Tribunal should be appointed by the Chief Judge of the Abuja High Court.
Presenting the report at plenary, Senate Leader, Victor Ndoma-Egba, said the amendment became necessary for improved management of the electoral system in Nigeria.
The Bill also provides 500,000 Naira penalty or 12 months imprisonment or both for any polling officer, political party or party agent who conspires to falsify election results.
The Bill also empowers INEC to determine the procedure for voting at an election, thereby removing the previous prohibition of electronic voting.
The Senate however rejected the proposal for INEC to conduct all elections on the same day, as the committee noted that the commission lacked the capacity to manage large scale elections in a single day.
Federal Lawmakers also voted against the proposal to make presidential debates mandatory before an election, arguing that election debates should not be made a constitutional matter.
House Of Reps Defer Passage Of Bill
A debate on a bill sponsored by a federal lawmaker from Delta State, Daniel Reyenieju, commenced on the floor of the House towards the amendment of several sections of the ‘Electoral Act 2010’ to make it more precise and encourage more participation from Nigerians.
The 28-section bill seeks among other things to increase the days available for the electorate to report damage or loss of voters’ card to the electoral body from 30 to 45 days to curb disenfranchisement.
But the Speaker, Aminu Tambuwal, deferred further debate on the bill till the second week of July to allow for wider participation. This was even as he deferred the passage of a bill for an Act to authorise the issuance of 271 billion Naira being the budget of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) administration.
The bill caused a rowdy session on the floor of the House, as members insisted they must peruse details of the budget to allow insight into the proposed expenditure of the FCT before its passage.
The House also considered a bill for an Act to establish the constituencies’ development fund and a bill for an Act to amend the Defence Industries Corporation of Nigeria to adequately equip the defence corporations in view of the security challenges in the northeast.
Both bills passed second reading on the floor of the House.
The House also adopted a harmonised report by both legislative chambers on a bill for an Act to repeal the Prisons Act, 2004, a motion for which a lawmaker, Umar Bature, raised at plenary and was unanimously endorsed in a voice vote.
Also up for discussion was the need to ensure even development of all constituencies in the federation through the establishment of a Constituencies’ Development Fund.
Sponsor of the bill, Ben Nwankwo, argued that with 70 per cent of Nigerians reside in the rural area and that the bill would ensure good governance reaches the crucial areas, a submission that generated a debate.
Implementation Of Ogoniland Oil Spill Recommendation
Outside plenary, the Committee on Environment met with the Shell Petroleum and Ministries, Departments and Agencies supervising the petroleum industry to find out why the 2011 United Nations Environment Programm – UNEP report and recommendations on Ogoniland oil spill have not been implemented 4 years after it was submitted to the president.
There were allegations that the Federal Government was frustrating the release of funds for the implementation of the UN report, allegations backed by the submission from the Ogoni Restoration Project Manager for the Shell Petroleum Development company (SPDC) Mr. Augustin Igbuku, that their contribution to the $1 billion Ogoni restoration fund was hampered by the lack of governance structure and legal framework for Hydrocarbon Pollution Restoration Project, HYPREP, the ad hoc intervention agency set up by the government.
There was also a disagreement between the department of petroleum resources, DPR and the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency, NOSDRA over the level of implementation.
While the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, Danladi Kifasi and Dr. Musa Zagi, the General Manager, health, safety and environment in DPR said the Federal Government is working seriously on the implementation of the UNEP report the Director General of NOSDRA, Mr Peter Idabor, said not much has been done in terms of the implementation.