• PDP caucus decries excessive loans, says APC has sold Nigeria to China
• CSOs hail NASS over re-transmission of Electoral Bill to Buhari
• Enforce Freedom of Information Act to address democracy deficits, EU urges FG
Opposition federal lawmakers have asked President Muhammadu Buhari to assent to the reworked Electoral Act Amendment Bill 2022 without delay.
The lawmakers, under the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) National Assembly caucus, made the demand, yesterday, at their meeting with the leadership of the Board of Trustees (BoT) of the major opposition party.
Both chambers of the National Assembly had, on January 25, passed a reworked draft of the Act to include direct, indirect and consensus as options open to political parties to pick their candidates.
The reworked bill was in deference to the request of President Buhari that the parliament should not restrict political parties to direct primary as the only option to pick their candidates.
The caucus also berated the All Progressives Congress (APC) for setting up a 133-member campaign committee, inclusive of 16 serving governors for the forthcoming area councils election in FCT.
Leader of the caucus, who is also the Senate Minority Leader, Senator Enyinaya Abaribe, and his counterpart in the House of Representatives, Ndidi Elumelu, made this known to newsmen after their meeting with the PDP BoT.
Abaribe said: “We are asking President Buhari to sign the Electoral Act, which we have passed. We made sure that everything he complained about has been given to him.
“Now that we have bent backwards, no excuse or reason should be given again. Provisions of the bill are very critical for expected credibility of the 2023 general elections,” he said.
Elumelu alleged that some APC governors are again plotting to stop the President from assenting to the reworked bill. He, however, urged President Buhari not to yield to the request of the governors but sign the bill owing to its importance in strengthening the country’s electoral process.
He said: “We met them, they said they want direct primary. We said okay, if it will mean giving Nigerians a very sound electoral reform, we will accept it.
“They came back again and said, oh, we have rejected it, we now want indirect primary. We said we agree, but give Nigerians electoral reform. They came back again and said, we want consensus. We have added consensus to the amendment.
“Again, I am hearing that, among them, those APC governors, with their wuru-wuru, are still plotting for the president not to sign. Nigerians are tired of APC. We promise not to let the people down. That is why we are asking APC and President Buhari to sign the Electoral Act. Sign it, Nigerians want it signed. No more delay.”
On the FCT council polls, he said: “ It is disheartening that APC, for just a small council election, has turned it to a battle ground. Even those who could not win their polling units are in FCT for just council election instead of administering their states.”
As the PDP caucus were holding its meeting, the APC caucus also met but behind closed door. When their meeting ended, they failed to address the media, which is very unusual considering the national issues that are yet to be adressed.
Earlier at plenary, the notice of meeting was conveyed in two separate letters signed by the Senate Leader, Yahaya Abdullahi, and the Minority Leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe. The letters were read by the Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege, who presided over plenary.
Clerk to the National Assembly, Mr. Olatunde Amos Ojo, had on Monday, transmitted the authenticated copies of the Electoral Bill 2022 to President Buhari in accordance with the provisions of Section 58 (3) of the 1999 Constitution.
MEANWHILE, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have praised the National Assembly over re-transmission of the Electoral Bill to President Buhari. Executive Director, YIAGA Africa, Samson Itodo, on behalf of the CSOs, described the action as a welcome development.
He said: “The civil society community welcomes the news of the transmission of the Electoral Bill 2022 to the President for assent. The National Assembly deserves commendation for fast tracking the process of reworking the bill in line with popular demand and timelines set by citizens.
“We urge the President to show statesmanship by assenting to the bill within the next seven days to enable INEC issue notice of election for the 2023 elections.”
He further urged the President to act fast as it would demonstrate his sincerity to reform the nation’s electoral process.
“We urge the President to act fast. This is the moment for the President to demonstrate his commitment to electoral reform and credible elections. I hope he doesn’t waste this opportunity.
“The President should rise above partisan interest to defend the public interest by signing the electoral bill without further delay. An expedited assent will enhance the preparations for the 2023 elections,” he said.
HOWEVER, President Buhari, yesterday, met behind closed door with Senate President Ahmad Lawan, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja. This is the first meeting between the two leaders after the National Assembly sent the revised Electoral Bill to the President for assent on Monday.
AT plenary, the House of Representatives urged the Federal Government to save funds for future generations of Nigeria by increasing earnings and diversification of resources, and urgent population control.
The House also asked the government to focus more on non-oil sectors of the economy by adopting alternative sources of revenue to enable foreign inflow from oil earnings to go straight to the Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF) without affecting budget financing.
It further urged the Federal Government to secure approval from the National Assembly before tampering with the country’s savings and mandated the Committee on Legislative Compliance to ensure implementation.
These resolutions were sequel to the unanimous adoption at plenary of a motion sponsored by Chinedu Obidigwe from Anambra State.
Moving the motion, Obidigwe expressed worry that the Federal Government had spent over N1.8 trillion on debts servicing in the first five months of 2021, representing approximately 98 per cent of the total revenue generated within the period.
He said this calls into question where the country’s savings are, stressing that the Federal Government ought to make conscious and concerted efforts to secure the future of Nigerians.
THE European Union (EU) has also called on the Federal Government to enforce the Freedom of Information Act in all public institutions to reinforce legitimacy in governance by addressing sustainable development challenges and democracy deficits.
The organisation said it became necessary because of lack of access to public information.
The demand was made by the Representative of EU delegation to Nigeria and Head of Section, Democracy, Governance and Migration, Clement Boutillier, in Abuja, during a two-day workshop for FoI Desk Officers of public institutions organised by the International Press Centre, Media Right Agenda and the Freedom of Information Unit of the Federal Ministry of Justice.
The event with the theme: ‘Facilitating shared learning, experience sharing and best practice application in the implementation of the Freedom of Information Act, 2011’ was supported by the EU Support to Democratic Governance in Nigeria Project.
According to Boutillier, no democracy can function without full transparency and access to public information, adding that the quality of democratic processes is linked to the state of access to information, freedom of expression as well as media freedom and pluralism.
While stating that access to information was an essential tool in the fight against corruption by identifying and uncovering corrupt practices and enabling participation in the development of anti-corruption policy and law, he regretted that there were still FOl requests that go unaddressed and called for action to address the challenge.
Boutillier said: “We would like to take this opportunity to encourage the government to take measures to strengthen the efficient implementation of the FOl act. I would like once again to stress the importance of freedom of information act in fostering democracy and in promoting a culture of dialogue, and restate our commitment to supporting the safety and welfare of all individuals who rely on this act in the course of their duties.
“However, there are still Fol requests that go unaddressed and we must do all we can to address this challenge.
“Freedom of information and expression is a fundamental right enshrined in international law. Most recently, new technologies have imposed themselves as an extremely powerful medium for the preservation and strengthening of this right.
“Public, free, diverse and independent access to information are at the core of a pluralistic and open society, while increasing the free flow of government information.
“In turn, it guarantees that the government is better understood and reinforces its legitimacy by addressing sustainable development challenges and democracy deficits. Ultimately, FOl promotes government institutions that work for the people.”
Earlier in his keynote address, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, said the Ministry had continuously encouraged public institutions to comply with proactive disclosure obligations under Section 2 of the Act.