Jonathan Sends Uwais Report to National Assembly Unedited

THISDAY Newspaper-Chuks Okocha and Funso Muraina

Abuja — It emerged yesterday that Acting President Goodluck Jonathan has forwarded a copy of the report of the Justice Mohammed Uwais-led Electoral Reforms Committee to the National Assembly unedited.

What this means is that the Acting President has accepted the entire proposals of the panel as the government's recommendations.

President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua accepted some of the panel's recommendations and turned down others.

Also yesterday, Jonathan assured Nigerians once again on electoral reforms.

He told protesting members of the Save Nigeria Group (SNG) that he would ensure reforms ahead of the 2011 general election.

Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) Yayale Ahmed, who spoke when he received the SNG letter on behalf of Jonathan, also assured the protesters that he would ensure that the issues relating to the health of President Yar'Adua are handled in accordance with the constitution.

"It was because of the love the Acting President has for you that he directed that I should receive this letter on his behalf. On my honour, I shall ensure that I deliver this letter to him.

"But let me inform you that the Acting President believes strongly in a constitutional democracy and he has promised that your requests would be met. As part of this, he has sent to the National Assembly, the report of the Uwais Committee on Electoral Reforms unedited. He asked me to assure you that your demands would be met," Ahmed told the rally.

He said other demands of the group would be addressed through constitutional provisions as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution.

The Uwais committee had recommended among others the reform of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), independent candidacy, conclusion of electoral petitions before winners assume office and proportional representation of parties in government.

Under the proposed reforms of INEC, the commission's funding will be a first charge from the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the federation.

But the reorganisation of INEC and some other recommendations of the Uwais panel will require amendments of the relevant sections of the 1999 Constitution and Electoral Act 2006 before they can be implemented.

Among the recommendations of the Uwais panel turned down by Yar'Adua are those on the appointment of INEC Chairman through the recommendation of National Judicial Council (NJC) and the conclusion of all election petitions before winners are sworn in. On this, the Yar'Adua government had argued that it would be undemocratic to put a time-limit on the hearing of petitions by the tribunals.

Yar'Adua had forwarded eight bills to the National Assembly for passage, but some of them are in respect of recommendations requiring constitutional amendments.

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Some of the bills included those seeking expanded roles for the police before, during and after elections and the reintroduction of the Centre for Democratic Studies (CDS) as well as the one on the Political Parties Registration and Regulatory Commission.

For instance, "A Bill for an Act to further Amend the Police Act 1967 CAP P19 2004 LFN and for Matters Connected Therewith," the proposed law seeks to amend Section 4 of the Principal Act, which confers on the police the power to maintain law and order nationwide. Yar'Adua wants the section amended by inserting a new section 4(a), which spells out the duties of the police in times of elections.

Yar'Adua first sent an edited version of the Uwais report along with the bills, but when the National Assembly demanded a clean copy of the report, the President later forwarded a copy to them.


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