Big 3-way deal-Yar’adua gets INEC chairman. Governors get SIECs. MPs get automatic tickets

No Comments » March 25th, 2009 posted by // Categories: Nigeriawatch



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Big 3-way deal-Yar’adua gets INEC chairman. Governors get SIECs. MPs get automatic tickets

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Written by AbdulFattah Olajide & Muideen Olaniyi
Wednesday, 25 March 2009

President Umaru Yaradua

A big political deal involving three of the country’s most powerful institutions was sprung on the country yesterday when the Council of State approved the aspect of the Federal Government’s white paper on the report of the Justice Muhammed Lawal Uwais-led Electoral Reform Committee which allowed President Umaru Musa Yar’adua to retain the power to appoint the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).However, the Council bowed to the demand of the 36 state governors and reversed the aspect of the white paper that proposed to scrap State Independent Electoral Commissions (SIECs). Also yesterday, the ruling Peoples Democratic Party [PDP] offered its National Assembly members automatic tickets to contest the 2011 election. Ninety percent of National Assembly members are PDP members, and the Assembly must approve any constitutional changes to enshrine the proposed electoral reforms.The Federal Cabinet’s rejection of the Uwais panel’s recommendation that the INEC chairman should be appointed by the National Judicial Council (NJC) has been generating sharp criticisms from opposition political parties and civil society groups, which contend that INEC’s independence cannot be guaranteed if the president retains the power to appoint its chairman.

The government had rejected the Uwais panel’s recommendation on the appointment of the INEC chairman on the grounds that “the doctrine of separation of powers would be violated if the judiciary is asked to step in to perform executive functions.” However, state governors were known to have kicked against the white paper’s decision to scrap the SIECs, through which they control local government elections in their states.

Announcing the council’s resolutions after its meeting at the State House in Abuja, Governor Ikedi Ohakim of Imo State said over eighty percent of the recommendations in the government’s white paper were upheld by the council, comprising the president, vice president, all former presidents and heads of state, former chief justices of Nigeria, Senate President, Speaker of the House of Representatives, all the 36 state governors as well as the Attorney-General of the Federation.

The council’s meeting, which was not attended by three former heads of state – Generals Muhammadu Buhari, Ibrahim Babangida and Olusegun Obasanjo – also approved independent candidacy as recommended by the Uwais panel and upheld in the government’s white paper. Ohakim said the council directed all state governors to also reform their various SIECs in line with the Federal Gover-nment’s electoral reform policy.

He said, “On the electoral reform, council approved almost 80 per cent of the recommendations of the white paper. There was one other issue council deliberated extensively and that is of the State Independent Electoral Commission (SIEC) where council agreed that the SIEC would be visited with far reaching reforms by the state governments. The state governments have the mandate to go back to their states and recommend those far reaching reforms that will be visited.

“Council agreed on the establishment of a constituency delimitation commission, an Electoral Offences Commission and on the establishment of a Political Parties Registration and Regulatory Commission. Holistically, council looked at the unbundling of INEC to create efficiency. Council also agreed that the delimitation of constituencies will be undertaken by INEC as one of its functions.

“Council noted the recommendations for the use of electronic voting machines and council noted and discussed the issue of holding elections on a fixed date and then given a period of six months within which all electoral matters will be gotten rid off. Council rejected this recommendation because it will impinge on the fundamental human rights of the citizens to pursue their case to logical constitution and if election matters are not concluded before the date of the swearing in, unnecessary vacuum will be created and we have a lot of provisions in our existing laws to take care of this.

“Council also rejected the shifting of the burden of proof from the petitioners to INEC. Council agreed that he who is bringing a matter should be able to bring the burden of proof on that.

“On the white paper on electoral reform, after deliberations on the various comments on the white paper, council decided that the following bills be forwarded to the national assembly.

“Draft bill for an Act to amend the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, draft bill for an act to amend the Electoral Act 2006, draft bill for an Act to establish the Electoral Offences Commission, draft bill for an act to establish the Political Parties Registration and Regulatory Commission and draft bill for an act to establish the Centre for Democratic Studies.

“On the issue of the draft white paper reform of the Nigerian Police, council deliberated on the issue. The presentation shows that we require N1.281 trillion within the next five years and $150 million as intervention fund for the police. The issue of security must be treated very importantly if we must meet the vision 202020. Council agreed there is need for this intervention that the federal government, states, local governments and the private sector must collectively fund the police.

“Critical points were discussed. The issue of logistics, capacity building, image of police, provision of equipment for the police. Council decided that since this was not an issue to rush over, a 10-man committee headed by the Vice President has been constituted to review this white draft paper. The 10-man committee is made of the minister of police affairs, NSA, IG of Police, one governor each from the six geo-political zones. They are to review the workability of the plan, the mechanism for the intervention and mechanism for the reform of the police force and to review the white paper recommendation that the sum of N320 billion will be deducted from the federation account annually for intervention for the next five years to reform the Nigerian police and efficientise the system. And they are to present their report in the national Council of State meeting.

“We had one presidential appeal. The president appealed to the governors of the 36 states to look at the issues of condemned people in our cells which totaled about 826 persons in our prisons which include 15 females. Some of them have stayed condemned in the prisons for the past 20 years and that members should not shy away from their responsibilities and members accepted to go home and review the issue of these 826 condemned persons in our various cells across the country.”

Meanwhile, while the Council of State meeting was going on yesterday, the national leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) met with the party’s National Assembly members and said it was considering giving them automatic tickets to contest the 2011 elections on the platform of the party.

PDP’s National Chairman Prince Vincent Ogbu-lafor hosted the meeting at the party’s Wadata Plaza headquarters in Abuja, as part of consultations in preparation for the party’s forthcoming special national convention for constitutional amendment.

Ogbulafor said the party’s leaders were concerned at the rate at which experienced members of the National Assembly are being changed during every election. He said this trend will change during the next election.

He said, “This party’s National Working Committee (NWC) is not happy with the rate of turn-around of Honourable members and Senators and we, along with Mr. President, have agreed that as much as possible, during elections, for the experience you have gathered, for the exposure you have, for the trainings you have received and when it is time, we should tap your knowledge but suddenly you are changed. We also said that by the next election the tide will be a different one, coming from this National Working Committee”.

He said the NWC invited the lawmakers to brief them on arrangements for the Special National Convention which was earlier expected to be held on March 28 in line with earlier promise made that it would hold in the first quarter of this year.

Ogbulafor said the convention would now hold on April 20, 2009, a date believed to be considered after April 18 was turned down because of the wedding ceremony of Senate President David Mark’s daughter.  The chairman added that the convention was one of the recommendations of the Ekwueme Reconciliation Committee to amend some “undemocratic Articles” that were inserted into the party constitution during the 2006 national convention.

He said, “This is a democratic party and if there is anything undemocratic in our constitution we should remove it.” He pleaded with the lawmakers to support the proposed amendments of the party constitution. Ogbulafor announced that the draft copy of the amendment has already been circulated to all the organs of the party in line with the provisions of the constitution.

On the forthcoming governorship rerun election in Ekiti state, the PDP national chairman expressed concern of the party leadership over the rapid loss of some of the South West states at Election Tribunals and Appeal Court and declared that all appropriate measures will be taken to halt the trend. He urged all PDP state chapters and federal lawmakers from the Zone to move into Ekiti state and assist the state chapter in recapturing the number one position in the state. Members of the House of Representatives were led to the meeting by the Deputy Speaker, Alhaji Bayero Nafada and the House Leader, Tunde Akogun.

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