The Chairman of the House Committee on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Aishatu Dukku has informed lawmakers that the electoral body will extend the continuous voters’ registration exercise.
She stated this on Wednesday while reporting back to the House after being directed last week by the Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, to interact with the electoral umpire over the need to extend the exercise.
The Speaker’s directive followed a motion on the need for INEC to extend the exercise and not disenfranchise willing Nigerians.
On Monday, INEC said it will give effect to the ruling of the Federal High Court in Abuja on the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR).
INEC’s National Commissioner and Chairman of Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, said this during an appearance on Channels Television’s Politics Today.
Although he did not specifically state whether or not the electoral umpire would go ahead with its initial plan to stop the exercise, the INEC official said the commission would continue to obey the orders of the court.
The House of Representatives has mandated its committee on Army to invite the Chief of Army Staff Lt Gen Faruk Yahaya to provide details of the total number of personnel trained and recruited by the Nigerian Army in the past five years.
This resolution was reached after the consideration of a motion by Honourable Sergius Ogun on the need to ascertain the current numerical strength of the Nigerian army.
The House acknowledged that the Nigerian Army and the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria have been overstretched by the fight against insecurity in some parts of the country which poses a threat to the peace and unity of Nigeria.
Meanwhile, the House is urging to police to fish out the perpetrators of the Owo massacre and bring them to book.
The House further observed a minute of silence in honour of the victims
The House of Representatives is asking the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to extend the voters’ registration deadline by 60 days and deploy additional staff and registration machines across the country.
This follows a Motion by representative Benjamin Kalu on Wednesday.
The House is concerned that there have been reports of a shortage of manpower and machines across the country which may result in unrest if Nigerians are not captured.
Lawmakers however rejected an amendment calling for decentralisation of the registration process to include social centres and religious centres.
Their appeal comes a few days after the Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room (Situation Room), a coalition of Civil Society Organisations, has called on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), to extend the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) exercise.
The current CVR exercise is scheduled to end on June 30.
But the CSOs believe “citizens have now intensified their efforts in registering for their Permanent Voter’s Card (PVC).
“There have also been several appeals by Nigerians to INEC to extend the registration exercise to enable them to register to obtain a PVC. Situation Room has received reports of large crowds at the INEC offices across the country.
“There were lots of complaints while the pre-registrations were open on the online voters’ portal, that confirmed scheduling was not observed by officers at many INEC offices leading to people being treated as walk-in registrants and asked to queue to supply the same details already provided online.
“While we note some registrants wait for last minute to meet deadlines for registration, it is also worthy to note that there have been several complaints of inadequate manpower and equipment in INEC offices, thus making it difficult to have a seamless registration process. This has led to delays and restiveness of citizens waiting to register in long queues.”
The House of Representatives is likely to commence the process of overriding President Muhammadu Buhari on the amended Electoral Act.
This followed a deliberation on Wednesday by the lawmakers during a plenary in the lower chamber of the National Assembly, on the inability of statutory delegates to participate in the various exercise of the respective political parties.
A member of the House, Ben Ipkapa, had asked the lawmakers to gather signatures and override the President on the amendment made to the Electoral Act.
The Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, in his response, told Ipkapa that the matter could be brought on notice during plenary and would be considered.
Lawmakers in the Senate and House of Representatives chambers of the National Assembly had amended the Electoral Act, 2022 in May to allow statutory delegates to participate and vote in the conventions, congresses, or meetings of political parties.
Statutory delegates include the President, Vice President, members of the National Assembly, governors and their deputies, members of the State Houses of Assembly, chairmen of councils, councillors, and national working committee of political parties, amongst others.
The amended Electoral Act was later transmitted to President Buhari on May 13, but no communication has been received from the President regarding the proposed legislation as of the time of this report.
According to the Constitution, the President has 30 days to decide whether to sign or withhold assent to a bill passed by the National Assembly.
Besides the debate over statutory delegates, Gbajabiamila had questioned the primaries of political parties held across the country when the House resumed plenary on Tuesday.
He was concerned that about 178 serving members of the house failed to secure the ticket of their various parties to return to the green chamber of the National Assembly.
According to the speaker, many members lost because of the process of primaries, using the delegate system which is what the House fought for by making direct primaries compulsory in the Electoral Act which the President has yet to sign.
Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, has questioned the primaries of political parties held across the country.
He was concerned that about 178 serving members of the house failed to secure the ticket of their various parties to return to the green chamber of the National Assembly.
Gbajabiamila made the remarks on Tuesday in his opening remarks to the lawmaker at the resumption of plenary after over one month of recess.
According to him, many members lost because of the process of primaries, using the delegate system which is what the House fought for by making direct primaries compulsory in the Electoral Act which the President has yet to sign.
That clause of the Electoral Act had to be expunged, allowing political parties to decide their mode of primaries to select their candidates for various elections.
Controversial Direct Primary
President Muhammadu Buhari signed the Electoral Act Amendment Bill into law on February 25, amid outcry over his delayed assent to the legislation.
He assented to the Act barely a week before the expiration of the window he had to take a decision on the legislation, as required by the Nigerian Constitution.
This followed unsuccessful attempts to amend the nation’s electoral laws during the 8th National Assembly led by former Senate President Bukola Saraki and former Speaker Yakubu Dogara.
But lawmakers in the 9th National Assembly successfully amended the act, although they also had an initial setback over the decision to make the direct mode of primary compulsory for political parties in 2021.
President Buhari had, however, withheld his assent, 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.
Thereafter, the House re-amended the law 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 a harmonised version on January 25 – the final agreed version of the amendment to Clause 84 which included the direct, indirect, and consensus primary modes.
While giving a breakdown of the total 132 votes garnered, Funkekeme said Elumelu got 80 votes by way of affirmation, 17 by buying, and 35 by other means.
In his remarks, an elated Elumelu attributed his victory to God and his family members for supporting him strongly for the past few months.
He also appreciated Governor Ifeanyi Okowa for the roles he played in his emergence as the Aniocha/Oshimili constituency candidate.
“I feel very happy; I thank the Almighty God, only Him has done this. Most importantly, I thank my family, they have given me all the support. For few months, they have lost me because of this election. I give them thanks; I thank my mother for being a wonderful mother,” he said.
“I thank my brothers – Peter, Tony, all of them. Most importantly, I thank my governor, the Ekwueme of the universe. My federal constituency will always stand by you; whatever you ask us to do, we will do.
“Thank you so much for providing the enabling environment for me to come out victorious. Most importantly, let me thank the hierarchy of PDP in Abuja led by the National Chairman, Dr Iyorchia Ayu, for allowing transparency in all the processes that has happened today.”
The Minority Caucus in the House of Representatives has asked President Muhammadu Buhari to sign the one-item amendment to the Electoral Act 2022.
The bill was transmitted to him by the National Assembly for assent last week so as to avert an imminent political crisis in the country.
The Caucus notes with grave concern that Mr. President’s delay in signing the single amendment to Section 84 (8) to the Electoral Act 2022 has thrown the nation into serious confusion and constitutes a huge threat to our democracy and the smooth conduct of the 2023 general elections.
In a statement by the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Ndudi Elumelu, the Caucus urged the President that any further delay in signing the amendment to the Electoral Act to give political parties a sense of direction in the conduct of primaries for the election of candidates for the 2023 general elections has the capacity to derail “our entire democratic process and destabilize our dear nation”.
“As representatives of the people, the Minority Caucus urges Mr. President to avert an imminent political crisis that has the capacity of exacerbating the security situation in the country by immediately signing the Amendment to the Electoral Act 2022 and leaving a legacy of a credible electoral process to the nation.
“Our caucus calls on all Nigerians, the Civil Society, the International Community and all lovers of democracy to prevail on President Buhari to immediately sign the amendment to the Electoral Act 2022 and save our nation from an avoidable crisis, the statement added.
The House of Representatives has amended the Electoral Act, 2022, to allow statutory delegates participate and vote in the conventions, congresses, or meetings of political parties.
Sponsored by Abubakar Fulata, the ‘Bill for an Act to Amend the Electoral Act, No. 13, 2022; and for Related Matters’ was passed a day after lawmakers in the Senate approved a similar amendment to the law.
Those identified as statutory delegates include the President, Vice President, members of the National Assembly, governors and their deputies, members of the State Houses of Assembly, chairmen of councils, councillors, and national working committee of political parties, among others.
Its passage followed a speedy consideration of the bill which scaled first, second, and third readings on Wednesday during an emergency plenary at the lower chamber of the National Assembly in Abuja.
The proceedings began with an executive session for some housekeeping with the Deputy Speaker of the House, Idris Wase, presiding as Mr Femi Gbajabiamila was absent.
About half an hour later, the plenary resumed while the bill was speedily passed through the first and second readings.
But there was a rowdy moment when the motion for consideration of the bill was put to vote and a majority of the lawmakers in attendance voted against it. The bill was eventually passed after some of the issues raised were cleared.
Meanwhile, the lawmakers have observed a minute of silence for civilians and soldiers killed by bandits on Monday in Takum, Taraba State.
They appealed to the Federal Government to address the manpower dearth in the military, as a way of intensifying the fight against criminals in the country.
The deputy speaker also directed relevant committees of the House to address the lingering strike by members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).
Outside the chamber, the Leader of the House, Ado Doguwa, gave details of the rejected amendment clause which generated an uproar among the lawmakers.
He also reacted to the judgement of the Court of Appeal that set aside the ruling of the Federal High Court in Abia which nullified Section84 (12) of the Electoral Act.
The House of Representatives has resolved the issues that led the Airlines Operators Association of Nigeria (AOAN) to threaten to shut down flight operations across the country.
At a meeting that lasted over three hours at the National Assembly on Monday, the House leadership, led by Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila secured the commitment of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to, in the interim, make available 6 million litres of JetA1 (aviation fuel) available to the aviation fuel marketers chosen by the AOAN.
As part of the resolutions, it was agreed that as a long-term solution, the airline operators must commence, as soon as possible, the process of securing a license for the importation of aviation fuel to avoid suspicion over the landing cost of the product and other associated logistic issues.
The Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority was also mandated to, as much as possible, grant waivers that do not touch on the security and safety of the country for importers of the products.
Stakeholders present at the meeting included the representatives of the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources, Ministry of Aviation, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), NNPC, Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Nigerian Airspace Management Authority (NAMA) as well as the AOAN, among others.
At the meeting which took off on a rocky note, Speaker Gbajabiamila had warned that it was incumbent on the Chief Executive of agencies of government and the private sector to honour the invitation of the House on issues of national importance.
This happened after the representative of the governor of CBN was asked to excuse himself from the meeting by the Speaker, who emphasised that the importance and sensitivity of the meeting required the presence of the CBN governor due to the importance of the issues at stake.
The CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele, who eventually walked into the meeting abput 15 minutes later, gave reasons why he had to be represented before his eventual arrival.
In his remarks, Speaker Gbajabiamila said the nation was at a crucial moment as the shutdown by the airline operators amounts to a potential shutting down of the country. “We cannot sit here and watch this happen.
“That is why the presence of the CBN governor is very important because his role is very critical to the resolution of this issue”
The Speaker recalled that certain resolutions that included the sale of aviation fuel at N500 per litre and the granting of aviation fuel import license to the operators was arrived at during the last meeting with the stakeholders while requesting an update on the implementation of the resolution.
The leadership of the House also inquired from the NNPC about the status of the 25,000 tons of ATK approved for the airlines as a palliative in addition to the availability of the product to the airlines for about three months.
Also, the leadership opined that functional refineries should be able to address some of the challenges being faced while asking for the status of the refineries undergoing renovation.
Responding, NNPC GMD, Mele Kyari assured that the three months supply of Jet A1 to the chosen marketers by the AOAN is assured while emphasizing that the price of the product cannot be guaranteed because it is globally market-driven.
“We will make appropriate allocations to the three marketers chosen by the operators and the other,” Kyari said.
On his part, the CBN governor, Emefiele also noted that though the apex bank has no control over the flow of the dollar, he however assured that no operator would be denied facilities by the banks as long as they are creditworthy.
While appreciating all the stakeholders for the efforts put in at resolving the issue at stake, the Speaker said, “Rounding up on a positive note, I appreciate the airline operators for being nationalistic in calling off the strike as I hope that the outcome of this meeting will usher in a lasting solution to these challenges of Jet A1 bearing in mind that there is a laissez-faire economy of demand and supply”.
The House of Representatives has passed a bill for an Act to proscribe ransom for kidnap victims.
The executive bills were speedily passed through the 1st, 2nd and 3rd reading after lawmakers convened an emergency session on Wednesday.
The first bill is to repeal the Terrorism (Prevention) Act, 2011 and Terrorism (Prevention) (Amendment) Act, 2013, and enact the Terrorism (Prohibition and Prevention) Bill, 2022 to provide for an effective, unified, and comprehensive legal, regulatory and institutional framework for the detection, prevention, prohibition, prosecution and punishment of acts of terrorism, terrorism financing, proliferation and financing of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in Nigeria.
The bill was passed last week by the Senate.
The second bill is for an Act to Repeal the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 (as amended) and Enact the Money Laundering (Prevention and Prohibition) Bill, 2022 to provide comprehensive legal and institutional framework for the prevention and prohibition of money laundering in Nigeria, establish the special control unit under the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The third is for an Act to provide a framework for the support, management, and protection of witnesses who provide information, evidence, or any other assistance to law enforcement agencies during inquiries, investigations, or prosecution.
The last bill is for an Act to Repeal the Public Complaints Commission Act, Cap. P37, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 and Enact the Public Complaints Commission Bill, 2022 for the establishment of the Public Complaints Commission.
It seeks to give the Commission wide powers to inquire into complaints by members of the public concerning the administrative actions of any public authority and companies or their officials and provide a legal framework for making public interest.
The Minority Caucus in the House of Representatives has felicitated Nigerians on the Workers’ Day celebration, seeking a speedy resolution of the industrial action embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).
In a statement issued on Sunday, the Minority Leader of the House, Hon. Ndudi Elumelu asked the Federal Government to urgently intervene and meet the demands of the Nigerian workers.
“The Caucus also urges the Federal Government and all stakeholders to urgently resolve the issues surrounding the lingering industrial action by lecturers in public universities in the country,” the statement partly read.
“The Minority Caucus further charges the Federal Government to initiate more worker-friendly policies for capacity building as well as incentives to further enhance the productivity of the Nigerian workers.
“On our part, our caucus assures that we will continue to initiate and give legislative backing to efforts tailored toward improving the welfare and productivity of the workers.”
The Caucus also lamented that Nigerian workers are observing the day in pain, agony, and despair given the suffocating working condition and general economic hardship occasioned by the insensitive, corrupt, and overtly inept All Progressives Congress (APC) administration.
The Minority Caucus insisted that given their long-standing patriotism, sacrifices, and dedication to the development of our nation in spite of the odds, Nigerian workers deserve a better welfare package.
Sunday’s statement followed the industrial action declared by ASUU on February 14. Following the expiration of the four-week warning strike on March 14, the university lecturers extended the action by two months. The situation has forced many Nigerian students to remain at home.
The union led by Professor Emmanuel Osodeke said it extended the strike to give the Federal Government and its agencies enough time to meet the lingering demands of the union.
The House of Representatives on Tuesday vowed not to rest on its oars in a bid to ensure accountability on the N2.6 trillion capital allowances granted to MTN by the Federal Ministry of Trade and Industry.
Chairman of the House Committee on Public Accounts, Oluwole Oke, stated this at the resumed investigative hearing into the audit queries on tax evasion issued by the office of the Auditor-General for the Federation (oAuGF).
He disclosed that the oAuGF report indicated that the documents relating to the N2.6 trillion capital allowances were allegedly forged.
While stressing that the committee invited MTN over tax evasion, Oke explained that the oAuGF, in its report, observed that the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) accorded value to the telecoms company while in some cases without certificates and evidence of capital allowance issued by Federal Ministry of Trade and Industry, reflecting the whole assets procured by the company.
“We have issues in this country where funds are not adequate for government to carry out policies and programmes, which is why we had to borrow even though there are massive revenue leakages,” he said.
“MTN has also made appearances where N2.6 trillion was seen as the taxable value for assets of the company and we asked as to where they exist and who verified them because they had already claimed value for them with the FIRS.”
The lawmaker maintained that Nigerians have the right to know the implications of MTN taking a certificate of N2.6 trillion to FIRS for tax waivers on the economy.
“The parliament simply wants to know whether it should sustain the query raised by the Auditor General or absolve the company of the allegations of tax evasion, as it would be wrong to accuse it of such if these records tally with the company’s submission,” he explained.
“The issue says that we should speak to facts and law. You’re here when we asked the Industry Ministry and they said both the local and foreign contents were the certificates they issued to you. However, the Auditor-General says such issuance appears to have been falsified which was the basis of its query to you.”
In her response, MTN’s General Manager, Mrs Yemisi Adeleye, explained that the company has submitted all relevant documents issued by the Federal Ministry of Trade and Industry reflecting the value of N2.6 trillion given to it.
While responding to questions on the 2016 inspection relating to the capital allowances granted to the company, Mrs Adebayo observed that the company made claims to the Federal Ministry of Trade and Industry at the end of the year prompting them to choose a location and inspect, as it was physically impossible for them to inspect thousands of assets across the country.
Hence, the Ministry, based on their selection using supporting documents granted the allowances.
She said what the company had in 2016 was the automated card record bearing Ins and Outs of the team leader, one Mr Ike.
When asked how many people were on the team with Ike who had the access card and inspected assets from the 29th of March to April 4th, she said she couldn’t remember the identities of the Ministry officials as the team members were not captured individually in the record.
She said what they presented to the FIRS was what their security team gave to them.
When asked again if the Ministry wrote the company informing it of the inspection date and the list of team members or just by words of mouth, Mrs Adebayo said that the Ministry formally communicated to that effect.
Also asked how many assets they inspected within the five days, she said she could not recall.
She argued that the most expensive of the company’s infrastructure were warehoused in their switches located in Ojota in Lagos, Port Harcourt, among other places.
While giving details on the claims made by the company for capital allowance, she disclosed that the sum of N18,967,410,769 was claimed in 2016.
She added that in 2017, a logbook was brought back reading Abuja switch with Ike and three others as inspection team members.
According to her, a total sum of N148 billion capital allowance was granted to the company, while N210 billion was approved in 2018 after the visit to the Ojota switch, as well as N190,629,586,000 in 2019 following a visit to the Port Harcourt switch.
When asked if all the assets procured by the company in 2019 were all located at the Port Harcourt switch, she responded in the negative.
She added that in 2020, the Ministry officials visited Abuja switch, another team visited Ojota switch, while another visited Port Harcourt and granted capital allowance worth N219,540,623,545.
When asked if she would agree to give out a value of N219 billion based on one inspection that visited just three locations out of over a thousand locations, she said the company only filed what was approved by the inspection team with the FIRS for consideration.
Oke, in his remarks, reiterated the lawmakers’ resolve to ascertain the patriotic and professional involvement of the Ministry officials, saying that they cannot fold their arms and watch when people whose salaries and allowances were appropriated to do a job failed to carry out their duties under the law.
To this end, the committee resolved that all the officials involved in the inspection from the Federal Ministry of Trade and Industry should be made to appear before it.
It also requested the tax records covering the periods under review from both MTN and FIRS for further legislative scrutiny.