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Senate disagrees with Buhari, turns down request to delete section 84(12) of Electoral Act

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The Senate on Wednesday turned down President Muhammadu Buhari’s request to amend the Electoral Act, 2022, which specifically asked for section 84(12) to be outrightly deleted from the act.
This followed the failure of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill to scale through second reading on the floor during plenary. 

The proposed law, “A bill for an Act to Amend the Electoral Act 2022” was overwhelmingly rejected during its second reading

Before a voice vote on the bill, for which the nays had it, several lawmakers spoke against going ahead to amend the Actt and urged that the Senate abide by a court ruling, which stopped the National Assembly from tampering with the electoral law.

President Buhari had, in a letter to the National Assembly last week, asked the federal lawmakers to amend the Act, by deleting Section 84 (12), which, according to him, constitutes a “defect” that is in conflict with extant Constitutional provisions.

The section required political appointees to resign their appointment before participating in primary elections.

A Federal High Court in Abuja on Monday barred President Buhari, the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and the Senate President from tampering with the Act.
The judge, Inyang Ekwo, in a ruling on an ex-parte application by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), said the Electoral Act had become a valid law and could not be amended without following the due process of law.
The Court maintained that the Electoral Act, having become a valid law could not be altered without following the due process of law.
But the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, on Tuesday, said the court ruling would not stop the National Assembly from amending the Electoral Act 2022.
He said the court ruling violated the provisions of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) on Separation of Powers
In the move to reject the bill Senator Adamu Aliero fired the first salvo for the bill to be stepped down after the Senate Leader, Yahaya Abdullahi, moved a motion for the bill to be read a second time. 
Aliero, who came under a point of Order, drew the attention of his colleagues to the provision of Rule 52(5) of of the Senate Standing Order. 
Order 52(5) provides that, “Reference shall not be made to any matter on which a judicial decision is pending, in such a way as might in the opinion of the President of the Senate prejudice the interest of parties thereto.”

He, therefore, advised the upper chamber to step down consideration of the bill pending the vacation of a court order delivered by the Federal High Court, Abuja, on Monday. 

According to the Lawmaker, going ahead with the amendment of the Act was in clear conflict with the sub judice rule in law which prevents the legislature from deliberating or considering any matter already before a court of competent jurisdiction. 

“Going ahead to consider the bill obviously will mean that we are disrespecting that order, and this is an institution of the Senate – the symbol of Nigeria’s Lawmaking body. 

“We should not be seen to be disobeying the court order. No matter how bad that court order is, we should respect it.

“So, I’m of the opinion that we should stop considering this bill pending the time the court set aside that order, and I think I’m speaking the opinion of my colleagues here”, Aliero said. 

The Senate President, while ruling on Aliero’s point of Order, insisted that the move by the upper chamber to amend the Electoral Act was in line with exercising its Constitutional duties amid following due process.

“To be specific to this particular request, for us in the Senate, it is to look at the request and follow our due process.
“Looking at the request does not mean granting the request. Members of the National Assembly are at liberty to review the request to see if the arguments by the Executive arm of government are convincing enough. 
“If the arguments are not convincing enough, the National Assembly can deny the request, and that is how it is. We have no incumbrance from that order.
“So, it is for Senators here to decide to vote for this amendment or vote against it.
“I think we are not breaching any law, in fact, we are trying to promote democracy because to do otherwise may mean that one day someone will go to court and say that the Senate of the National Assembly should not sit.
“I want to appeal to all of us, that we are on the right course and my ruling remains that we are going ahead to consider the proposal which the Leader of the Senate is leading the debate.

“At the end of the debate, we are going to vote, and the vote will decide the fate of the bill.
“I’m sure all of us know that whatever we do here is to protect democracy and the sanctity of the upper chamber”,  the Senate President said. 

The Senate Leader, was then given the floor to lead the debate on the Electoral Act Amendment bill.
Contributing to the debate, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe (Abia South), kicked against the deletion of Section 84(12) of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill as requested by President Buhari.
He said, “There are certain things that we see which we think we don’t even have to come here to debate.

“One of those things is the fact that in every democracy, all over the world, there are certain rules which we don’t need to be told about.
“One of those rules is the fact that you cannot be a referee and a player on the same field. It is either you’re a referee or a player.
“So, every other place in the world where democracy is practiced including Nigeria, we don’t need to be told that if we want to run for office, we have to resign. That is a sine qua non that we don’t even need to debate. 

“Yet here we are today in Nigeria, and people think they can sit in an office and contest an election and become candidates and continue to sit in that office until the date of election. 
“So, how would we continue to debase democracy in this way? 
“Mr. President, I think, a cursory look at this paper shows that this paper is dead on arrival. And I urge you my colleagues, to help us to continue to deepen democracy by insisting that this bill not be read a second time in any manner whatsoever.”
Smart Adeyemi (Kogi West), who was also opposed to the consideration of the bill said, “one of the hallmarks of democracy  is Justice, Fairness and Equity.

“Indeed, Mr. President, it is a settled matter in law that you cannot be a judge over you own case.
“In any election, where people have the added advantage of holding executive power, either by proxy or directly or by appointment, for such people to have access and compete with others who came from the street, I think is an unjust society.
“Therefore, Mr. President, I disagree with all the arguments on the need to consider a decision that has already been settled.”

A move by the Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege, to sway his colleagues was unsuccessful.
The bill, when eventually put to a voice vote for second reading by the Senate President after its consideration, received a resounding ‘nay’ from Senators in the majority across party lines

During the voice votes, a drama had ensued as Lawan after calling out for votes was shocked that the Ayes was a lonely voice for which he decided to repeat the call asking his colleagues whether they did not hear him.
After the repeated call for votes the Nays still had it overwhelmingly

The Senate leader Yahaya Abdullahi while leading the debate said, “Permit to lead the debate on this very important bill seeking to amend section 84(12). The bill was read first time on Tuesday

“You may recall that the bill was passed into law and assented to by the President and commander in chief on the 25th February 2022, however the president expressed reservation on section 84(12) which states as follows, No political appointee at any level shall be a voting delegate or be voted for at the Convention or Congress of any political party for the purpose of the nomination of candidates for any election in cases where it holds earlier than 30 days earlier to the national election.

“This provision has been interpreted by as being interpreted by the executive arm government as introducing qualification and disqualification criteria that are ultravires to the Constitution by way of disqualification of serving political office holders.
“It is my humble opinion that this proposed amendment be looked into by this distinguished senate which can come out with an objective position that will strengthen our electoral processes as well as our democratic disposition.

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Legislature

Kogi Assembly, CSO partner on HIV/AIDS anti-stigma legislation

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By Friday Idachaba, Lokoja

Kogi State House of Assembly has assured that the bill for a Law to provide for the prevention of HIV and AIDS Based Discrimination and stigmatization will be accorded smooth and accelerated passage for full implementation in the state.

Deputy Speaker of the Assembly Rt Hon. Comfort Nwuchiola Egwaba, disclosed this at a One-day Capacity Building And Media Round Table on the Proposed Anti-stigma Bill For HIV With Kogi State Assembly members.

She said that the partnership between the House and Initiative for Grassroots Advancement in Nigeria (INGRA), a Civil Society Organization (CSO,) had yielded fruits with the resounding support of members for the bill.

The meeting aimed at building capacity of Kogi State Assembly members and Media personalities on the issue of HIV stigma and discrimination among others, was organized by INGRA with support from AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) in Lokoja.

The Deputy Speaker said that the private member Bill before the House had had its first and second readings and was being primed for Public Hearing and Third Reading by the House Committees on Health and Judiciary.

Nwuchiola-Egwaba said, “We have done more than justice to the Bill. This bill will scale through and will see the light of day. We are not living any stone unturned. We are doing this for our people.”

Also speaking, sponsor of the Bill, Hon. Bin Ebaiya Shehu-Tijjani (APC-Lokoja I) thanked his colleagues for the fervour with which they rallied support round him for the Bill to scale through the legislative mills and urged them to sustain the tempo until it is finally assented to by the governor.

Chairman of the House Committee on Health, Ochidi Usman (APC-Idah) decried the spate of discrimination and stigmatization against people living with the virus saying that they did not bargain for it.

He described them as victims of circumstances as he thanked the sponsor of the Bill and pledged to stand by him to provide support for the Bill to have accelerated passage.

Speaking earlier, Mr Hamza Aliyu Executive Director of INGRA who described the bill as a “Policy Bill” said it was not just for HIV/AIDS alone but against every form of discrimination and stigmatization against affected persons in the state.

He hinted that available statistics showed that over 28,000 persons are living with the virus in the state adding that they could be more as many are not aware of their status and are quite unwilling to get tested for fear of discrimination and stigmatization.

Aliyu said the Bill had been passed in 16 states of the Federation and would only be fair for the Act to be domesticated in Kogi through the legislation to ensure that affected persons are not unnecessarily discriminated against.

Executive Secretary, Kogi State Agency for Control of AIDS (KOSACA), Dr Sheidu Yunusa, who explained some of the provisions of the law, the offences and punishment said stigmatization and discrimination had the potency to destroy all the efforts being made to end the HIV scourge.

Dr Yunusa gave examples of stigmatization and discrimination against Persons Living with HIV (PL-HIV) to include health care professionals refusing to provide care or services to an affected person, Refusing casual contact with someone living with HIV.

It also include among others, socially isolating a member of a community on account of HIV positive status, referring to people as HiVers or Positives, Unlawful disclosure of an affected person’s status.

Amb. Idris Ozovehe Muraina, Chairman, Kogi NGOs Network (KONGONET) said, “we should not see this law as draconian but an attempt to squelch discrimination against out affected brothers and sisters.”

Comrade Jimoh Audu, Kogi State Coordinator of Persons Living With HIV AIDS (PLWHA) commended INGRA and the House of Assembly for their determination to get the Bill passed.

“We appreciate the meeting of our leaders, we believe in you. All we are asking it to reduce to the barest minimum the issue of discrimination against us. The medical practitioners should be more professional in their conduct”, he said.

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Senate moves to probe 11, 856 abandoned projects across Nigeria

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***sets up ad-hoc panel

The Senate has pun in place an ad-panel to investigate the number of viable projects abandoned across Nigeria in all sectors.

The committee is also to recommend appropriate actions to be taken to reduce project abandonment in Nigeria and how most of the projects can be recovered.

The member Ad-hoc committee comprised Senators Lola Shiru (chairman), Jimoh Ibrahim, Mpigi Barinada, Abdullahi Yahaya, Victor Umeh and Isah Jibrin, members.

This came following the adoption of a motion on “Urgent need to look into the 11, 856 mega projects abandoned by the Federal Government” sponsored by Senator Jimoh Ibrahim (Ondo South).

The Senate noted that in 2011, President Goodluck Jonathan set up a Presidential committee on federal government- abandoned projects in Nigeria and the committee visited the 36 states in Nigeria and identified 11,866 projects abandoned by the Federal Government since Nigeria’s independence in 1960.
According to Senator Ibrahim, reports have it that about 63% of the entire projects since independence were abandoned, adding that the 63% of projects abandoned in Nigeria is worse than any country under comparison”.

“The abandonment of the project is of significant concern because of project costs which constitute a significant part of the GDP. While spending on a public project in the UK is now about one trillion British pounds Nigeria has no idea of the total amount spent on public projects either successful or unsuccessful since independence,

He observed, for instance that in the investigation carried out at the University of Cambridge doctorate in management science between 2018 and 2022, the value of the 38 projects investigated cost Nigeria over $40 billion”.

“What is now key to this investigation is the need to look inward at our infrastructural development as Foreign Direct investment declined from$8.8b in 2011 to $3.3 billion in 2019, and the current account balances in that year from $10.6 billion to 5-17 billion, while the population was growing around 5% about 86% of the citizen, were living under $2 between 2011 and 2019. Public debt increased from 17% of the GDP in 2011 to 29% in 2019.

According to him, government has the responsibility to set up a professional system that will deliver the critical value from major infrastructure development for its citizens, adding that for 66% of projects to be abandoned since 1960 is “nothing less than a calamity that reduces our pride as a ‘Giant of Africa’ if we are still one”.

He said three abandoned projects out of the 11,886 projects such as Ajaokuta Steel Company, where billion of dollars was spent without any production, Second Niger Bridge, etc are over 30% of the national debt.

In his contribution, Senator Orji Kalu (Abia North) said Nigeria cannot industrialize without steel production.

The former Abia governor said “we should face steel production. If we don’t face it, we are wasting our time. If you check our debt repayment, it is coming on this project.

“Why would Nigeria be suffering on what ought to have been done? We supposed to convert that our money and build these industries for debt repayment on them and save the interest we pay?

“We should appeal to President Bola Tinubu, may be 2026, 2027 budget we dedicate all these industries. They are our own. If we do not do it we will not move forward”, he said.

Senator Isah Jibrin said the abandoned projects should be properly profiled and the viable ones be sold to bring return on investment.

In his remarks, the Senate President Godswill Akpabio said Nigeria cannot be using over 90% of its resources to pay interest on loans.

The committee was given one month to report back to the Senate.

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Convert Oloibiri Shell Airstrip to Airforce Base, Senate tells Aviation Ministry, Airforce

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Senate has urged Ministry of Aviation, Nigeria Airforce to take possession and convert the abandoned Shell Airstrip at Oloibiri oil well in Bayelsa state to modern Airforce base.

This followed adoption of a motion on urgent need for transformation of the abandoned Shell Airstrip at Oloibiri Oil Well 1 in Ogbia Local Government Area of Bayelsa State to an Air Force Base.
The senator representing Bayelsa East SundayAgadaga (PDP) who sponsored the motion said Shell airstrip was constructed in 1958 following the first discovery of crude oil in 1956 at Oloibiri Oil well one.
According to him the airstrip, sitting on over 25 hecters of land has long been abandoned.
Agadaga said that the airstrip, while in effective operation, was a very valuable asset in the company’s oil exploration and exploitation activities in airlifting of personnel and equipment.
He said during the years of its functionality, heavy duty equipment, company workers, captains of Industry, top government functionaries and diplomats resorted to the route for easy access to the Niger Delta region.

He expressed regret that since the gradual decline of Shell’s operations in the area and final departure from Oloibiri oil field, the airstrip and the land where it operated has been abandoned and left desolate.

“The land itself appears to have been sentenced to perpetual condemnation as no agricultural activity which is the economic mainstay of the local dwellers can be carried out anymore due to the concretized topography of the soil.”

According to him, the abandoned airstrip poses environmental challenges and serious ecological complications to the Host Community as Shell has left the people in deprivation, squalor and lamentation after decades of operation.

He observed that upgrading the abandoned airstrip to an airforce base would bring renewed hope to the people, restore life to the area and attract the following benefits to the country:

“It will strengthen the security architecture of Nigeria as the creeks of Bayelsa up to Brass Island and the coast of the Atlantic Ocean in the gulf of guinea where the oil export terminal is located will be easily monitored and protected.”
Agadaga
said its evental upgrade would reduce the rate of oil theft and pipeline vandalism.

This, he said would enhance surveillance activities in the numerous oil producing communities that constitute hub of oil industry activities in Nigeria.

He said the airstrip ,if converted to an airforce base would attract more business opportunities in the area thereby creating additional jobs to boost economic growth of Nigeriaa and ease the cost of living of the people.

Senator representing Kogi East Isah Jibrin (APC) said he was neither in support or against the motion pointing out that the cost implications of converting the airstrip to an airforce base would be huge, adding that government may not be dispose to consider the cost involved.

He said government may decide to confine the project on a long term basis, saying that he do not see the urgency in converting the airstrip to an airforce base at this period.

Sen. Adams Oshiomole (APC-Edo) said the conversion of the airstrip to an airforce base holds great benefits for Nigerians and people of the region especially on quick intervention on insecurity issues.

Sen. Maidoki Garuba (PDP-Kebbi) said the conversion would help strengthen security of the nation, check crude oil theft and pipeline vandalism.

Sen.Victor Umeh (LP-Anambra) said there was need to preserve certain historical monuments like Oloibiri, adding that the conversion of the airstrip to an airforce base would make Oloibiri a national monument, given its contribution as the first oil well in Nigeria.

He said the conversion would also ensure further economic prosperity for the nation.

President of Senate, Godswill Akpabio said efforts should be made to preserve historical monuments, like the Oloibiri Shell airstrip via its conversion to an airforce base.

He also said the conversion to an airforce base would also ensure improved security in terms of emergency, given its closeness to the golf of guinea.

Akpabio expressed hope that the government would see the need for the reconstruction of the airstrip to an airforce base to forestall challenges in the event of any mishaps.

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