The House of Representatives has kept mum on the amendment of the Electoral Act ahead of the 2023 general elections.
Some members of the House, who spoke to our correspondent, have expressed concern and suspicion over the delay. Most of them, however, declined to be quoted.
No fewer than two members of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, one of whom is a member of the committee have alleged frustration of the exercise.
The PUNCH had reported on May 16, 2021, that it was over two months that the House Committee on Electoral Matters presented the report on proposed amendments to the Electoral Act 2010 (Amendment) Bill, which the chamber has yet to consider.
Chairman of the committee, Aishatu Dukku, had on February 23, 2021, prayed the House to “receive the report of the Committee on Electoral Matters on a Bill for an Act to Repeal the Electoral Act, 2010 and Enact the Electoral Act, 2021 to Regulate the Conduct of Elections in Federal, States and Area Councils in the Federal Capital Territory; and for Related Matters.”
The lawmakers had unanimously approved the laying of the report.
Already, a coalition of non-governmental organisations, under the auspices of the Alliance of Civil Society Organisations for Expansion of Electoral and Democratic Space, has threatened to occupy the National Assembly complex the second time if the lawmakers further delay passage of the amendment bill.
ACCESS had earlier on May 19, 2021, stormed the main gate to the National Assembly to demand quick passage of the electoral bill.
ACCESS had held the protest rally under the codename, #OccupyNASStoday, at the National Assembly Complex and the Houses of Assembly across Nigeria to demand passage of the bill.
A petition by the CSOs, titled ‘Demand for Immediate Passage of Electoral Act 2021’, was signed by Ariyo-Dare Atoye – Spokesperson, Abuja; and Ayo Ademilua – Spokesperson, Lagos. It was addressed to President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan; and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila.
On Monday, ACCESS issued another press release titled ‘As Senate Resumes, Only Passage of the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill Can Renew Confidence in Constitutional Review Process,’ in which the coalition threatened another mass action.
“We, hereby, give notice that if both houses of the National Assembly – the Senate and the House of Representatives – continue their reluctance to the question of passage of the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill, we will be left with no choice than to activate #OccupyNASS2 to push our demands,” the statement partly read.
Chairman of the House Committee on Rules and Business, Abubakar Fulata, who was contacted on the telephone on Wednesday, declined to confirm when the report would be considered.
The committee is in charge of scheduling legislative activities and items such as bills and motions, especially for plenary. It is also in charge of gazettes, notices and the order paper.
When asked if consideration of the report would be slated for soon, Fulata said, “I don’t know, please. I don’t know.”
Efforts to get Dukku on Wednesday to speak on the delay proved abortive. Her lines indicated that they had been switched off.
Several calls made between April and May were not picked, while a text message seeking an update on the amendment process by the committee had not been replied to as of Wednesday when this follow-up story was filed.
On May 19, 2021, the Deputy Speaker, Ahmed Wase, had overruled a member from Imo State, Bede Eke, who asked why the chamber had yet to consider the report several months after it was laid.
Eke, a PDP, during the plenary, raised a point of order to demand consideration of the report on the Electoral Act 2010 (Amendment) Bill.
The lawmaker had said, “I want to draw your attention to the fact that this House made a promise to Nigerians, that by the first quarter of this year, we are going to consider the report that was laid by the Electoral Matters Committee.
“I have been inundated with so many calls from my constituents. In fact, as of this morning, they threatened to recall me if I don’t raise this matter on the floor of the House.
“I want to beg all of us. This is a responsible House. I know this House as a House that keeps to her promises. That promise we made to Nigerians, we should keep it. Since the report has been laid, let us consider that report so that we can pass it on to Mr President for him to assent to it.”
Wase, who presided over the session, in his ruling, faulted Eke.
The Deputy Speaker said, “I want you to go through the reports we have before the House; it is not the only report before us. Every report is important to the House for consideration and when you insinuate that we are not responsible, let me say we are a very responsible House and we shall keep our promise to Nigerians to give them the best.
“So, your point of order is out of order because there is nothing to justify what you are insinuating or what your constituents are thinking about. We are all concerned about good governance.”
Journalists had asked Chairman of the Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Benjamin Kalu, at a press conference a day after the report was laid, why the House had yet to consider the report two sittings after, despite that he as well as the Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, had repeatedly listed electoral reforms as one of the priority legislation of the lawmakers.
Kalu had said the then ongoing nationwide registration and revalidation exercise by the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress, had not allowed the House to consider the report.
The House’s spokesman had said the chamber would consider and pass the report on the Electoral Act Amendment Bill 2020 when members, who were in their constituencies to campaign for APC membership, returned to legislative duties. He had also noted that the electoral bill is one of the priority legislations of the parliament.
The exercise, which was extended three times, had ended April 21, 2021.