The Senate has passed through second reading a bill to establish the National Religious Harmony Commission.
The proposed legislation seeks to establish the commission to serve as an intervention to promote religious tolerance, peace, and harmony in Nigeria.
The sponsor of the bill Senator Sadiq Umar explained that having realized the sensitive role religion plays in national security, peace, and harmony, it is important to promote inter-religious harmony and understanding because of the country’s history of religious intolerance.
He said the bill seeks to create an enabling environment for the peaceful coexistence of different religious beliefs within Nigeria as well as provide a forum for public enlightenment and dialogue.
The lawmaker noted that doing so would limit controversy and confrontation over allegations of discrimination based on religious identities to check the insidious effects of religious bigotry, profiling, stereotyping, violence, discrimination, extremism and hate speech.
According to him, the Commission would, among others, ensure the protection of the right to religious freedom, assist victims of religious discrimination or violations, and investigate cases of religious extremism and hate speeches.
It will also detect and curtail early warning signals of acts capable of triggering religious tension in the country.
Ahead of the March 26th National Convention of the All Progressives Congress (APC), the party’s governors have said they will back whoever President Muhammadu Buhari supports.
The governors came up with this resolution on Wednesday after a meeting with President Buhari at the State House in Abuja.
Led by the chairman of the interim committee of the party and Governor of Yobe State, Mai Mala Buni, the governors said they have straightened out decisions ahead of the March 26 convention.
Chairman of Progressive Governors’ Forum (PGF) and Governor of Kebbi State, Atiku Bagudu, told State House correspondents that Buhari had last month indicated that he is in favour of the consensus mode for selecting candidates for the party’s national positions.
According to Bagudu, this is why the governors will support any process that leads to a consensus.
President Buhari in January 2022 refused to assent to the Electoral Act Amendment Bill after the National Assembly presented it to him, stating that he will only sign when adjustments have been made to have the bill include consensus candidacy and indirect primary options to the mode of selecting a candidate for an election.
This was as against the initial direct primary which was stipulated as the only option to conduct primaries by political parties.
Following this, the National Assembly passed a harmonized version of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill.
The reworked version showed an agreement between the Senate and House of Representatives with regards to the amendment to Clause 84 of the bill.
The re-amended act now includes the direct, indirect, and consensus primary modes of nominating candidates by political parties for elections.
Former National Secretary of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) Change (CPC), Buba Galadima, believes President Muhammadu Buhari will not sign the amended electoral bill which currently awaits his assent.
Galadima, who was a guest on Channels Television’s Politics Today on Wednesday, said Nigerians and the National Assembly should not be deceived into believing that what will be assented to is in the citizen’s best interest. According to the elder statesman, if Buhari “signs any electoral bill with reservations, it means he has not signed the electoral bill”.
“This bill before Buhari contains the views of the representatives of the people; he has no choice,” Galadima said during the current affairs show.
The former spokesman for the presidential campaign council of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), said Buhari proved him right by not signing the bill when it was earlier sent. He added that the only reason the president is now willing to sign the bill is that the press and civil society organizations are mounting pressure on him. Be that as it may, Galadima believes that the presidency is playing some tricks.
“They are doing a kind of 419, he will sign the bill and send a list of things he doesn’t like which will secretly be passed for him and we are in it. There will be no change even if he signs because what he gives us with the right hand, he will take from us with the left,” he said.
“For you, he has assented to the amended 2010 Electoral Act but in the real sense of it, he will take whatever gains the people had put into the electoral act.”
Galadima’s comments come a few hours after the signing of the re-worked Electoral Act Amendment Bill scheduled for Wednesday was moved to Friday, February 25. A source close to the Presidency, who had earlier indicated that the President would assent to the bill on Wednesday, confirmed the new date to Channels Television. According to the source, the new date will be honoured by the President.
On January 25, lawmakers in the Senate and House of Representatives chambers of the National Assembly passed the harmonised version of the bill. The harmonised version was received by President Buhari a week later, as confirmed by his Senior Special Assistant on NASS Matters (Senate), Senator Babajide Omoworare.
He withheld his assent to the bill in November 2021, citing the cost of conducting direct primary elections, security challenges, and possible manipulation of electoral processes by political players as part of the reasons for his decision.
But the President gave some conditions to give his assent – an action that prompted the lawmakers to re-work the bill, leading to the emergence of two versions in the green and red chambers. The House had re-amended the bill to include the direct and indirect primary options while the Senate re-adjusted it to include the direct, indirect, and consensus modes of selecting political parties’ candidates.
Both chambers later passed the harmonised version – the final agreed version of the amendment to Clause 84 which included the direct, indirect, and consensus primary modes. Amid an outcry from critics, who raised concerns about the delayed signing over fears that the President might reject the bill again, a presidential aide, Femi Adesina, said his principal’s action was within the requirements of the law.
He stated that it would only be appropriate to say President Buhari has acted against the law if he exceeds the 30-day window provided by the Constitution to take a decision on the bill.
The National Assembly has re-amended the Electoral Act Amendment Bill on Wednesday and approved both direct and indirect primaries.
Both chambers made the re-amendment in separate plenary sessions. In the Senate, the lawmakers also added the consensus clause for the nomination of candidates by political parties for elective positions.
In a statement, the upper chamber equally noted that “a political party that adopts the direct primaries procedure shall ensure that all aspirants are given equal opportunity of being voted for by members of the party”.
On Clause 84(4), it read that “a political party that adopts the system of indirect primaries for the choice of its candidate shall adopt the procedure outlined below; (a) In the case of nominations to the position of Presidential candidate, a political party shall, (i) hold special conventions in each of the 36 states of the federation and FCT, where delegates shall vote for each of the aspirants at designated centers in each State Capital on specified dates.”
But at the House of Representatives, the legislators removed the consensus option.
They had gone into a closed-door session after which the chamber became rowdy. The reason for this was, however, not known as the lawmakers gathered in clusters.
Wednesday’s move is the latest in the series of events that have trailed President Muhammadu Buhari’s decline of assent to the bill.
In December, President Buhari had written to the National Assembly, informing them of his decision to decline assent to the Electoral Act Amendment Bill.
In the letter, the Nigerian leader had cited the direct primaries clause as a major reason for his decision.
He explained that while the inclusion of the clause is anti-democratic, it is also expensive to execute.
“In addition to increased costs identified above, conducting and monitoring primary elections across 8,809 wards will pose huge security challenges as the security agencies will also be overstretched, direct primaries will be open to participation from all and sundry and such large turn-out without effective security coordination will also engender intimidation and disruptions, thereby raising credibility issues for the outcomes of such elections,” the Nigerian leader added.
“The amendment as proposed is a violation of the underlying spirit of democracy which is characterized by freedom of choices.”
According to him, since membership of political parties is voluntary, and millions of Nigerians are not card-carrying members of any party, the emphasis should be on enabling citizens to vote for the candidates of their choice during elections.
The President’s action caused ripples across the political space. Some High-profile personalities and the leading opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) had faulted the development.
In a statement, the PDP accused the All Progressives Congress (APC) of plotting to rig the 2023 elections, describing Buhari’s action as a “script to put Nigerians under perpetual bondage”.
“Having been rejected for its failures and having also self-decimated its structure across the country, the APC has completely lost the capacity and goodwill for an electoral contest and as such, seeks every means to subvert any process that can guarantee credible elections in 2023,” the party explained.
Aside from political parties, civil society organisations had also raised concerns about some “errors” in the bill just as several governors including Abdullahi Sule had dismissed claims that they were against the direct primaries clause.
The Nasarawa State leader told Channels Television Sunday Politics that the governors are not against direct primaries.
“It is not that the state governors are against direct. All we said was that why don’t you leave the options,” he said.
“The Electoral Act is far more than just direct or indirect. There are so many important things there, why are we boxing ourselves with either direct or indirect?”
The House of Representatives has rescinded its decision on the compulsory direct primaries clause in the Electoral Act Amendment Bill.
The lawmakers reversed the move during a plenary session on Wednesday and instead, adopted the direct and indirect primaries. It also expunged the consensus option.
During the plenary, the lawmakers had gone into a closed-door session after which the chamber became rowdy. But the reason for the rowdiness was unclear as they were seen in different groups conferring.
Earlier in the day, the Senate had towed the same line, recommending both direct and indirect primaries.
The lawmaker’s move is coming weeks after President Muhammadu Buhari had declined assent to the Electoral Act Amendment Bill, citing the compulsory direct primaries clause.
In a letter to the National Assembly, the Nigerian leader had faulted the move, saying it is expensive and also against the spirit of democracy.
“The amendment to the sequence of the elections in section 25 of the Principal Act may infringe upon the constitutionally guaranteed discretion of the Independent National Electoral Commission to organize, undertake and supervise all elections provided in section 15 (a) of the third schedule of the constitution,” Buhari said in a letter to the lawmakers.
“The amendment to Section (138) of the Principal Act to delete two crucial grounds upon which an election may be challenged by candidates unduly limits the rights of candidates in elections to a free and fair electoral review process and the amendments to section 152 (3)-(5) of the Principal Act, may raise constitutional issues over the competence of the National Assembly to legislate over Local Government elections.”
Buhari’s move had triggered reactions from several quarters including the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) which accused the All Progressives Congress (APC) of plotting to rig the 2023 elections.
The Senate spokesman, Ajibola Basiru, has faulted claims that the National Assembly did a poor job with the Electoral Act Amendment Bill
He made the comment during a town hall meeting organised by a civil society body, Yiaga Africa, on Sunday.
President Muhammadu Buhari had declined assent to the bill citing the direct primaries clause which he said goes against the “spirit of democracy” while some civil society organisations had also faulted the bill.
But the Senate spokesman said claims of errors in the bill are incorrect.
“It is very important to set this in context. I find some of the issues discussed here interesting — they are taking issues of legislation to be pedestrian work,” he said during the programme aired on Channels Television.
“I want to also say that it is not correct that the National Assembly has done shoddy work on the electoral bill and I take that with seriousness to say that out of 185 sections of the bill, we have a problem with one section.
“Taking the issue of cross-referencing to the level of the National Assembly doing a shoddy job, we don’t have any business being there if the bill is not worthy of consideration.”
Before now, several reactions have trailed President Buhari’s move. Governors and other lawmakers have also voiced their concerns about the development.
For the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the President’s decline of assent is a setback to the country’s democracy.
“It is apparent that the APC and the Buhari Presidency were never committed to the amendment of the Electoral Act to ensure credible elections and as such, triggered the controversy of the mode of primaries by political parties as a camouflage to scuttle the entire amendment bill, including provisions for electronic transmission of results among others,” the party said late December.
The Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) has said that President Muhamadu Buhari missed a priceless opportunity when he declined assent to the Electoral Act Amendment Bill 2021.
In a statement by its director, Idayat Hassan, the CDD expressed shock at the president’s decision, saying “Nigerians had all expected that President Buhari would write his name in gold as the President who bequeathed an improved electoral framework on the country”.
With the next general election being just fourteen months away, the CDD called on the National Assembly to immediately toe two immediate options which are either to veto the President and pass the Electoral Act Amendment Bill 2021 into an act of the National Assembly or remove the provisions on direct primaries as raised by the President and immediately re-present the bill to the President for his assent.
“We must not allow a single provision truncate the goodness in the proposed electoral bill,” the group stressed.
According to the CDD, “Nigeria is in dire need of a new and robust framework for the conduct of elections. The reform in the Electoral Bill 2021 will improve the quality of elections thereby imbuing citizens trust in our democracy.
“The National Assembly as the true representative of the people must not allow the huge human and financial resources that went into the Electoral Bill 2021 – from drafting to readings at the floor, the public hearing, the committee works, the retreat, the conference committee et al to go to waste”.
The CDD urged the National Assembly to act with immediacy to save Nigeria’s elections and her democracy.
The National Assembly on Tuesday read President Muhammadu Buhari’s letter in which he declined assent to the Electoral Act Amendment Bill.
The letter was read at both the Senate and House of Representatives plenary session, a day after reports emerged that Buhari had declined assent to the bill.
Before the letter was read, the Senate had gone into a closed-door session to discuss the content of the document.
After the session, Senator Lawan read the letter in which President Buhari explained the reasons for his action.
In the letter, Buhari cited the direct primaries clause as the reason for his decision.
He argued that the clause throws up several challenges one of which is the cost of conducting direct primaries. According to him, direct primaries will increase the Federal Government’s financial burdens because they are expensive to conduct.
Aside from the cost implication, the Nigerian leader explained that direct primaries will stifle smaller parties and also raise security concerns since there would be a large turnout of voters in such a mode of election.
Buhari added that political parties should decide the best way to pick their candidates for elections, noting that his stance was based on a careful review and consultations.
According to him, the move will also lead to more litigations by party members.
The President’s move ends the debate over the reason for the delay in signing the Electoral Act Amendment Bill.
Critics and high-profile Nigerians had before now speculated over the possible reasons for Buhari’s delay in assenting to the bill.
While some believe it was the direct primaries clause, other like Governor Nyesom Wike claimed it was due to the electronic transmission of results.
Despite the debates generated before Tuesday’s reading of the letter at the National Assembly, presidential aide Garba Shehu had maintained that his principal does not need to explain his stance to the public following the expiration of the 30-day period during which Buhari was expected to sign the bill.
“And as I said, it would be disrespectful of the National Assembly, for me at this time, to say this is the content of the president’s communication, assuming that the communication has been sent to them,” he said on Sunday.
“So as I said, allow them to resume, I believe that the president will not act in breach of the Constitution. No, he will do what is right.
“The constitution says the president must sign within 30 days, the constitution did not say that there should be the disclosure of that decision within 30 days to the public when the disclosure to the National Assembly has been made.”
The House of Representatives is seeking the compulsory establishment of creches in all public and private workplaces in the country.
This, according to the House, is to assist breastfeeding/nursing mothers, especially those observing exclusive breastfeeding, to perform their official duties and care for their babies at the same time.
A bill seeking to establish the creches passed second reading on the floor of the House in Abuja on Thursday.
The bill passed the second reading in a unanimous voice vote and was sponsored by a lawmaker from Edo State, Rep. Sergius Ose-Ogun.
The long title of the bill reads, “A Bill for an Act to Amend the Labour Act, Cap. L1, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 to make Provision for Establishment of Creches in every Public or Private (Health, Educational, Industrial or Commercial, Etc.) Workplace for employees who are Breastfeeding/Nursing Mothers; and for Related Matters (HB. 1438).”
The World Health Organisation and the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) both recommend that nursing mothers should feed their infants exclusively on breast milk for the first six months.
WHO states the advantages of exclusive breastfeeding thus: “Breast milk is the ideal food for infants. It is safe, clean, and contains antibodies that help protect against many common childhood illnesses.
“Breast milk provides all the energy and nutrients that the infant needs for the first months of life, and it continues to provide up to half or more of a child’s nutritional needs during the second half of the first year, and up to one third during the second year of life.
“Breastfed children perform better on intelligence tests, are less likely to be overweight or obese, and less prone to diabetes later in life.
“Women who breastfeed also have a reduced risk of breast and ovarian cancers.”
A bill to regulate the broadcast profession in Nigeria has scaled second reading in the House of Representatives.
The bill, sponsored by Representative Olaifa Aremu, seeks to establish a broadcasting practitioners’ council charged with the responsibility of formal admission, certification, and registration of persons seeking to become broadcasters.
The council shall also be responsible for regulating and controlling the conduct of the practice of broadcast journalism, as well as to conduct examinations in the profession and award certificates or diplomas to successful candidates.
According to the bill, a person shall be qualified to practice as a broadcaster or be identified as a broadcaster only if he or she has acquired or attained the prescribed academic or standard of training set by the council and he has been so certified and registered to practice as a broadcaster by the Council, or if prior to the commencement of the Act, he has acquired requisite practical knowledge, training or experience in a recognized academic institution or broadcasting station or organisation which shall entitle the Council upon verification to certify him as a broadcaster and register him to continue to practice as such.
Having tabled it at the floor of the House of Reps, the bill will now be subjected to a public hearing.
President Muhammadu Buhari has signed into law two important bills passed by the National Assembly thereby making them become part of the Laws of the Federation.
The Climate Change Act owes its origin to a bill sponsored by a member of the House of Representatives, Sam Onuigbo, and provides for, among other things, the mainstreaming of climate change actions and the establishment of a National Council on Climate Change.
It also paves the way for environmental and economic accounting and a push for a net-zero emission deadline plan in the country.
The Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (Amendment) Act amends the AMCON Act No.4, 2010.
It provides for the extension of the tenor of the Resolution Cost Fund and grants access to the Special Tribunal established by the Banks and other Financial Institutions Act 2020, which confers on the corporation the power “to take possession, manage, foreclose or sell, transfer, assign or otherwise deal with the asset or property used as security for eligible bank assets and related matters.’’
This, in effect, will help AMCON make recoveries and for debtors to fulfil their commitments to banks.
The president’s assent to the bills on Wednesday comes just before he received the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken at the State House in Abuja.
Blinken arrived at the presidential complex in a motorcade on Thursday and is expected to have a meeting with Buhari in his office.
The Nigerian leader and US top diplomat are also expected to discuss security issues facing Nigeria especially terrorism in the northern region.
Blinken will, after the meeting, head to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo’s office to sign some agreements between the US and Nigeria and also hold a joint press conference with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, before leaving the State House.
The US diplomat is on a three-nation tour of Africa and had first visited Kenya where he called for a ceasefire in Ethiopia’s troubled region.
While in Nigeria, the US Secretary of State is expected to broadly address the COVID-19 pandemic and build back to a more inclusive global economy, combating the climate crisis, revitalizing democracies, and advancing peace and security.
The Katsina State House of Assembly has on Wednesday passed the Child Protection Bill which has been pending since 2003.
Sponsored by the State House of Assembly Special Committee on Child Protection Bill 2020, the executive bill was forwarded to the house by the executive governor of the state, Aminu Masari on March 3.
After intensive deliberations on the bill, a seven-member special committee was set up to study the bill and submit its report to the house.
The bill seeks to provide adequate care and protection of the children especially in the areas of providing basic education, protection against sexual harassment by the teachers in schools, adequate care for the less privileged, reduce the menace of drug abuse, underaged marriage, same-sex marriage, and other social vices rocking the society.
Similarly, the bill also provides enough avenues for the children to be safeguarded in order to have a just and equitable environment.
The Chairman of the committee and member representing Kaita Constituency, Honourable Musa Nuhu Gafia told Channels Television that all misconceptions attached to the bill have been taken care of as the committee had hitherto engaged in wider consultations with the religious, traditional and community leaders, Law experts, NGOs among others.
He observed that the passage of the bill will portend a better future for children especially of the less privileged citizens in the state.
This comes a year after the Children’s Parliament in Katsina appealed to the state government to assent into law, the Child Protection Bill in order to tackle issues of child abuse, rape and other related vices against children in the state.
The forum also pleaded the state government to take proactive measures in respect of the rising rape cases in the state and insecurity in some parts of the state so that Children can peacefully live, grow and achieve their full potentials.