Senate: Fresh Amendment to Take Three Weeks

2010-03-30
THISDAY Newspaper- Kunle Akogun

As the proposed amendment to the Electoral Act 2010 passed the first reading at the Senate yesterday, the upper legislative chamber has assured Nigerians that the fresh amendment to the amended 1999 Constitution and the electoral laws will not take long to complete.

Chairman, Senate Commit-tee on Information and Media, Senator Ayogu Eze, who briefed newsmen after yesterday’s plenary session, said the Senate would complete work on the amendment bill within two or three weeks, “as it would be tackled like an emergency situation”.

THISDAY had exclusively reported yesterday that major stakeholders in the process namely President Goodluck Jonathan, the state governors, National Assembly leaders and Speakers of the state houses of assembly had at a meeting on Tuesday night in Abuja approved the push by the Independent National Electo-ral Commission (INEC) to move the January polls to April, which would necessitate a reworking of the relevant laws.

Having all agreed to the idea, the rest is now a mere formality, the newspaper reported.

“It is going to be very short, may be two, three weeks,” Eze said when asked whether the fresh amendment would not drag on like the first amendment that took the National Assembly about three years to accomplish.

He said the situation the country finds itself now is “almost like a national emergency and that is why we are involving all stakeholders like state governors, speakers of the state Houses of Assembly and others on the need to fast track the process”.

Eze added that based on the consultations held with the stakeholders so far, the amendment process would take a maximum of one month, stressing that “it is going to be easy and we believe it is going to be done expeditiously.”

He said the sections of the Electoral Act to be affected in the amendment are those that concern the timing of election to give INEC more time to organise the voter registration and conduct credible elections.

Eze explained that the process for the fresh amendment would produce the second Amendment Act.

“We are doing it (the amendment) because there is unanimity of opinions that we need a document that will facilitate a credible election and since we represent the people we do not have any choice than go with them,” he said adding that “the National Assembly has been very responsive to the aspirations of Nigerians”.

On the controversy surrounding the legitimacy of the amended constitution because the president was not given the opportunity of assenting to it, the Senate spokesman said: “the Electoral Act 2010 that was signed (by the President) derived its authority from the First Amendment, so there is no argument again as to whether the president’s assent is required or not.”

He added that “it is on the basis of the fact that the amendment has unravelled that the Attorney-General didn’t go to court as he earlier threatened”.

Eze rejected accusations from some quarters that the delay by the National Assembly in passing the First Amendment Act and the Electoral Act that led to the current crisis, asking rhetorically, “was it the delay that led to the removal of the former INEC chairman?, was it the delay that led to the discarding of the old voter register?”

He said: “Rather than indulge in self blame, we should praise the National Assembly for doing a wonderful job, as this is the first time under a democratic setting that we would accomplish an amendment to the nation’s constitution.”

 

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