The Senate Presieent, Ahmad Lawan, has promised that the current Senate under his leadership will amend the Electoral Act.
He made this comment during an interview with journalists in Abuja on Monday.
He said the Senate will examine the flaws of the 2019 general elections as well as subsequent elections and proffer solutions for future elections.
“We are going to amend the Electoral Act. We have had the 2019 elections, reruns and by-elections like the one held on Saturday. We should be looking at where there are challenges and what we need to do to provide legislative interventions going forward. This is going to occupy our minds,” he said.
This comes after three attempts to amend the Act failed as President Muhammadu Buhari declined assent to the Electoral Amendment Bill three times. He cited drafting issues among other reasons for rejecting the bill.
Mr Buhari had first in March 2018 withheld assent to the bill with reasons that the proposed law would usurp the constitutional powers of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to decide on election matters, including fixing dates and election order.
However, after a second communication from the National Assembly, the president again in September 2018 declined to assent to the bill due to “some drafting issues” that remain unaddressed following the prior revisions to the Bill.
After the bill was passed the third time, Mr Buhari rejected it again in December 2018. This time, he said passing a new bill with elections close by could ‘create some uncertainty about the legislation to govern the process.’ By then, the general elections were less than three months away.
He also highlighted some parts of the bill that he said needed legislative action.
The ninth Senate has, however, reintroduced the bill. It has also scaled first and second reading.
The bill sponsored by Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege, and Abubakar Kyari (APC, Borno), seeks to, among others, resolve issues surrounding INEC’s introduction of modern technologies into the electoral process, particularly accreditation of voters.
It also seeks to mandate INEC to suspend an election in order to allow a political party that loses its candidate before or during an election to conduct a fresh primary to elect a replacement or new candidate; as well as grant agents of political parties the right to inspect original electoral materials before the commencement of election, define over-voting to include situations where “total votes cast also exceed total number of accredited voters.’’
Senate’s plan for 2020
Mr Lawan said the Senate will focus on ways to tackle insecurity across the country. All hands must be on deck to ensure we bring back a better security structure than before, he said.
“Presently, the story is not good. In so many areas, you have happenings that are destabilising. We will work with the executive and other tiers of government, state and local to change the way we approach the security.
“Obviously, the system has not been working effectively and efficiently and we have to do something. This time around, there should not be by-passing, we have to be forthright, we have to say it as it is and do things as it is required.”
The lawmaker also said the Senate is determined to pass the Petroleum Industry Bill before the end of 2020. He said until the bill is passed, Nigeria cannot attract investments into the oil and gas industry.
“In the last 10 years, there have not been any investments in the oil and gas sector in Nigeria. That is so important because we have lost so much and if we pass, and by the Grace of God we will, the enormous advantages will be in catapulting our economy to the level that Nigerians desire,” he said.
The Senate will also be occupied with the implementation of the 2020 budget, he said.
“We are going to continuously engage the MDAs in oversight functions. We want to introduce presentation of oversight reports in plenary so that not only committee members know what is happening in the sector they supervise but also the Senate will be able to know and where the entire Senate needs to take a position to support or improve performance, we will do so. We are going to engage the revenue-generating agencies continuously for the whole year.”
Mr Lawan said the 2020 budget will rely largely on the revenue that Nigeria is able to generate and collect and the first engagement with MDAs will hold in February.
When asked about the Senate’s position on Amotekun, he said he “cannot tell you the position of the Senate.”
“One thing is clear, all hands must be on deck, federal, states, local and even the citizens. Because wherever you see security improving, the citizens play their role very well. The onus lies largely on government.
“I believe we should engage with the security agencies in the Senate to find out why the deterioration in many parts of the country. We have had a series of engagements before but the escalation has made it mandatory that we have a definite position as a government.
“We just cannot play politics with this. Lives are at stake and definitely the Senate will take a very definite position on how security in this country should be. I believe personally, we should restructure the security architecture. The present system does not appear to give us the kind of outcome that we need.”