SENATORS, REPS SURRENDER
The National Assembly is set to backtrack from the legislative proposal in the two chambers that all Senators and more than half of the members of the House of Representatives become members of the National Executive Committees of the political parties following strong objection from governors.
NASS ready to dialogue with Governors
While guarding its constitutional duty of lawmaking, the two Houses were yesterday proclaiming their readiness to yield to a constructive engagement with the governors who, like many Nigerians have, vehemently opposed the proposal.
Governor Bukola Saraki of Kwara State, the outgoing Chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum, NGF had Monday raised the objection of governors to the proposed amendments which he said was a law that will not “impact positively on the country and its citizens.”
“As leaders, we should always see to it that the welfare and interest of the electorate are ahead of our own and that is why we (governors) will never support this constitutional aberration which comes in the name of Electoral Act Amendment,” Saraki had said during a courtesy call on the Governor of Niger State, Dr. Babangida Aliyu.
The proposed amendment to the Electoral Act (2010) in Section 87 aims to make all Committee Chairmen and their deputies in the National Assembly members of the NECs of their political parties.
It would practically mean that all Senators, who are all presently either chairmen or deputies of the Senate’s 54 Committees and more than half of the 360 members of the House of Representatives would be members of NEC. The House of Representatives has more than 70 committees.
The proposal has equally attracted vehement opposition from the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN which described it as selfish.
Several others had criticised the proposal as a move by the legislators to take over the running of parties by their numerical strength as the bill, if successful, would make governors irrelevant in the NEC.
Responding to the strong opposition of the governors as mouthed by Saraki on Monday, Senate spokesman, Senator Ayogu Eze, denied that the bill was already a law as he said the legislators were ready to receive the opinion of other Nigerians on the issue.
House spokesman, Rep. Eseme Eyiboh, speaking in the same vein said the proposal, which he claimed was originally framed to deepen democracy through positioning the representatives of the electorate in the NECs, could be reconsidered at the forthcoming public hearings.
He expressed the willingness of the House to go into a constructive engagement with the governors and all other stakeholders.
“This is a law that is still in the process of being made and the opinion of Nigerians are welcome because we are going to hold a public hearing on it and all the views will be taken on board and at the end of the day we will make a law that will reflect all the views of Nigerians,” Senator Eze told Vanguard yesterday.
“We represent them and we need to see that we are not making a law that is serving ourselves. You should also know that apart from one or two of these political parties, members of the National Assembly are members of the National Executive Committees of their parties. By the end of the day we will be guided by the views of Nigerians and the debate is indeed very healthy.”
Welcoming the notice of a meeting between a delegation of governors and the National Assembly leadership as given by Governor Saraki, Eyiboh said the meeting would be a “constructive engagement.
“That constructive engagement is indicative of the separation of powers and the recognition of the independence of the legislature and the legislature on its part too, we are not trying to assume the position of an all knowing institution but unfortunately, the thing is getting to the point it is getting now,” he said.
That meeting, Vanguard learnt, is to hold after the Sallah holidays.
While insisting that the NECs should be expanded in order to provide a forum for robust contribution which he said would “reduce conflict and reduce the matter of injustice,” he expressed the readiness of the legislature to subject the proposal to public debate from stakeholders.
“If it is on the issue of the number. It is, therefore, incumbent on all stakeholders to sit down and discuss and agree on what number should constitute the NEC instead of saying that you want to throw away the baby with the bath water.
We are open to constructive engagement and that is why we are talking about public hearing so that people will be able to bring in their opinion. You don’t bring in your opinion on the pages of newspapers. There is need for constructive engagement,” Rep. Eyiboh said yesterday.
“The end goal is to enrich the process of democracy by making sure that consultations, decisions and all that is broad based and it should be a true representation of not just government as we are, but also the people because the political parties is the vehicle which the people are using to leverage on governance,” he said.