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The Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) met late Wednesday night to discuss the National Assembly’s recommitment to the Electoral Act Amendment Bill and challenged the House of Representatives to agree to the Senate’s specific amendments in order to make the job of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) much easier in the run-up to the next round of elections.

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The governors also announced plans to consult with the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress on the proposed increase in fuel prices, praising the Senate for swift passage of the bill and allowing multiple modes of primary elections, which they believe will allow INEC to prepare for the upcoming elections on time.

Simultaneously, the governors met in private with the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Abdulrasheed Bawa, and some EFCC officials to discuss the governors’ management of security votes, which lasted until the early hours of this morning.

Dr. Kayode Fayemi, Governor of Ekiti State and Chairman of the Governors’ Forum, briefed the press at 12:50 a.m. today, saying the senators were statesmen in their decision and thus wanted the House to concur with the Senate’s position for the ease of INEC’s job.

Fayemi hinted that the governors discussed, among other things, the planned increase in fuel prices, and stated that they would consult with the NLC and the TUC on how to deal with the consequences of the planned increase in fuel prices and resolve the matter peacefully.

The outcome of their discussions on the planned increase in fuel prices to between N300 and N350 per litre would be presented today at the National Economic Council (NEC) meeting, which will be presided over by Vice President Professor Yemi Osinbajo.

The governor of Ekiti also stated that the governors discussed the omicron variant of covid-19 and how to mitigate its effect, as well as seeking additional funding for the states.

He stated that the governors had received briefings from the World Health Organization and other organizations that would help the states.

The NGF chairman confirmed their meeting with the EFCC chairman, describing it as “routine discussions” after receiving briefings on the ease of doing business in the states.

The governors, on the other hand, deemed the meeting, called at the request of the NGF, to be so critical and sensitive that they dispatched all of their support personnel to the NGF secretariat before it began.

Willie Obiano of Anambra, Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano, Abdullahi Sule of Nasarawa, Gboyega Oyetola of Osun, and Seyi Makinde of Oyo were among the other governors in attendance.

There were ten deputy governors in attendance, as well as a representative from the World Bank.

Abdulrazaque Bello Barkindo, Head of Media and Public Affairs at the NGF Secretariat, stated in a statement issued over the weekend that the meeting was called at Fayemi’s request, “where pressing national concerns will be discussed.”

“Intervention programs, such as regular updates from the Nigeria Governors’ Forum SFTAS team and another on CARES, as well as a few presentations, will also be prominently featured.”

“The Governors are expected to hold a press conference following the meeting,” according to the statement.

After returning from its Christmas recess on Tuesday, the National Assembly moved quickly on Wednesday, keeping its promise to immediately revisit the Electoral Act Amendment Bill, 2021, which President Muhammadu Buhari refused to assent to last month.

In keeping with the mood of the country, on November 18, 2021, the National Assembly amended the proposed legislation passed by both chambers.

While both the Senate and the House amended Clause 84(2) to remove the contentious imposition of mandatory direct primaries on parties as a procedure for nominating candidates to run in elections, they disagreed on whether or not to include a consensus option.

For its part, the Senate relaxed the process and procedure to include direct, indirect, and consensus options, whereas the House of Representatives, which also amended Clause 84(2) in the bill, only approved direct and indirect primaries as a procedure for political parties to nominate candidates for various elective positions.

With these, the possibility of a consensus candidate, on which both chambers disagreed, meant the formation of a conference committee to reconcile both positions.

Several civil society organizations (CSOs) have already voiced their opposition to the Senate’s consensus option in the amended Electoral Bill.

CSOs, including Yiaga Africa, the International Press Centre, CISLAC, the Centre for Citizens with Disability, the Albino Foundation CLEEN Foundation, the Institute for Media and Society, and the Nigerian Women Trust Fund, stated in a joint statement that the consensus model was antithetical to democratic principles and would result in the subversion of popular will.

Senator Kabiru Gaya, Chairman of the Senate Committee on INEC, told journalists after the plenary that the bill would be sent to the president the following week.

As a result, the Senate also approved Clause 84(3), which states that “a political party that uses the direct primaries procedure shall ensure that all aspirants are given an equal opportunity to be voted for by members of the party and shall follow the procedure outlined below: (a) In the case of Presidential Primaries, all registered members of the party shall vote for aspirants of their choice at a designated center in each ward of the federation.”

It also states that “a similar procedure as in (a) above shall be adopted for Gubernatorial, Senatorial, Federal, and State Constituencies.”

“The aspirant with the highest number of votes at the end of voting shall be declared the winner of the political party’s Presidential primaries, and the aspirant’s name shall be forwarded to the Commission as the party’s candidate,” states subparagraph two (ii).

In response to a motion to recommit the bill to the Committee of the Whole, the amendment was proposed.

Yahaya Abdullahi, Senate Leader, sponsored the motion.

The Senate Leader stated in his presentation that President Muhammadu Buhari had stated his intention to withhold his assent on the Electoral Act No. 6 2010 (Repeal and Re-enactment) Bill, 2021.

Senator Abdullahi observed that the reasoning for withholding assent was similar to that of Clause 84.

In a letter to Senate President Ahmad Lawan dated December 13, 2021, President Buhari explained that his decision to withhold assent to the electoral bill was based on advice from relevant Ministries, Departments, and Agencies of government following a thorough review.

Signing the bill into law, according to the president, would have serious legal, financial, economic, and security consequences for the country, especially given Nigeria’s peculiarities.

He also said it would jeopardize citizens’ constitutionally protected right to participate in government.

Senator Abdullahi, on the other hand, stated that the motion to recommit the bill to the Committee, on the Whole, was motivated by the “need to address Mr. President C-in-observance C’s and make necessary amendment in accordance with Order 87(c) of the Senate Standing Orders, 2022 (as amended); and relying on Order 1(b) and 52(6) of the Senate Standing Orders, 2022 (as amended).”

Also read: Communique of Southern, Middle Belt Leaders Forum

As a result, the chamber reversed its previous decision on the affected Clause of the Bill and remanded it to the Committee of the Whole for further consideration and passage.

Following the passage of the bill, Senate President Ahmad Lawan stated that the red chamber would work with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to ensure free, fair, and credible elections.

As a result, Lawan urged the electoral umpire to use the proposed legislation, if passed, to give Nigerians an election to be proud of.

The House of Representatives did not include the Senate-adopted consensus option.

The amendments were made in response to Hon. Hassan Fulata, Chairman of the House Rules and Business Committee, who made a substantive motion for recommittal and reconsideration.

The lawmakers met behind closed doors before suspending their rules to work on the bill.

Following the reading of a letter from President Buhari requesting the passage of three bills, the Speaker, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, was seen discussing in hushed tones for about 15 minutes with his Deputy, Hon. Idris Wase, and some other lawmakers.

As the debate dragged on, the Speaker requested that the House go into executive session, -which the Majority Leader, Hon. Ado Doguwa, granted.

When the lawmakers reconvened about 25 minutes later, they were seen arguing about something completely unrelated to the issue.

Following the restoration of order, the presiding officer requested that Mr. Fulata move the motion for amendments to the Bill.

Fulata proposed the amendment, recalling that the National Assembly amended Section 87(2) of the Electoral Act, 2010, as Clause 84(2) of the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill, 2021, to read: “The procedure for nomination of Candidates by Political Parties for various elective positions shall be by direct primaries.” He stated that Section 84(2) of the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill, 2021 would be referred to the Committee of the Whole for reconsideration in accordance with Order 12, Rule 20 (1-3) of the House Standing Orders.

Gbajabiamila requested that the Committee of the Whole reconsider clause 84(2), which now states, “That a political party seeking to nominate candidates for election under this Act shall hold primaries for aspirants to all elective positions.”

Political parties will nominate candidates for a variety of elective positions through direct or indirect primaries, and the amendments were approved by a majority of legislators.”

In a point of order, Hon. Awaji-Inombek Abiante Dagomie (PDP, Rivers) stated that there were errors in other clauses of the bill that was returned to them and that lawmakers should take their time reviewing these clauses one by one so that members could provide input.

“In the case of presidential candidate nomination, a political party shall hold special conventions in each of the 36 states of the federation and FCT, where delegates shall vote for each of the aspirants at the designated centers on specified dates,” one of the clauses states.

In response to a question about why the House did not include the consensus option, House Spokesman Hon. Benjamin Kalu stated that the president never mentioned the consensus option in his official letter to the House, instead of specifying whether the nomination should be direct or indirect.

He explained that there was no provision in the House rules that permitted this, and that they couldn’t bring anything in that wasn’t in the President’s letter.

In response to lawmakers’ decision to reverse their previous decision to override the president’s veto, he explained that while the constitution empowered parliament to do so, it could only do so with a two-thirds majority vote.

The PDP congratulates the National Assembly.

Meanwhile, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has praised the leadership of the National Assembly for listening to Nigerians’ concerns and replacing the contentious clause requiring political parties to hold direct primaries with indirect primaries and consensus options.

As a result, the party urged the National Assembly’s two chambers to send the amended electoral bill to President Muhammadu Buhari within the next 48 hours.

It also urged the president to sign the bill into law immediately rather than waiting another 30 days.

This, according to the PDP, will allow INEC to begin planning for the general election in 2023.

CSOs Oppose the Senate Consensus Option

In a joint statement, civil society organizations urged the Senate to follow the House of Representatives lead and recognize direct and indirect primaries as procedures for candidate nomination.

In the past, a consensus has resulted in a slew of lawsuits in Nigeria’s electoral process.

 

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