Nigerian Senate resumes, says Constitutional, Electoral Act amendment are priorities

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Senate resumes, says Constitutional, Electoral Act amendment are priorities

Written by Ayodele  Adesanmi,  Abuja Wednesday, 14 September 2011
The Senate resumed from a six-week recess on Tuesday and said Constitutional  and  Electoral Act amendment were the main focus.
The senators were seen exchanging pleasantries and banter as early as 9.00a.m.  before the plenary.
While welcoming his colleagues,  the Senate President, David Mark, disclosed that  Constitutional and Electoral Act amendment were the top priorities.
He declared, “let me note that Constitutional amendment remains  one of the top priorities of the seventh Senate. Our success in the electoral reforms is now obvious and has been widely acknowledged after the 2011 general election. I congratulate members of the sixth National Assembly, once again, for breaking the jinx of constitutional amendment in Nigeria. The onus is, therefore, on us to build on this success. We shall endeavour to produce a workable constitution that will stand the test of time.
He added  that in the course of pursuing  the  legislative agenda, “we will most likely review the Electoral Act, 2010. Now that primaries and elections are over and the tribunals are addressing the aftermaths of the election in accordance with the Electoral Act, we should be able to draw from the lessons learnt and further amend the Act accordingly.
“Thus, while the 2010 Act laid the foundation for possibly the best election in our democratic history, it is still not perfect. In our quest to continue to improve our electoral process, we will work with the Independent National Electoral Commission, political parties and other stakeholders to revisit the 2010 Electoral Act, to address the issues arising from its operation ahead of the forthcoming gubernatorial elections in some states and the 2015 general election.”
David Mark, who read a  written speech, said Nigerians expected  the Senate to revisit some fundamental issues such as state creation, the local government system, devolution of powers, revenue allocation, state police, state INEC, uniform minimum wage, joint account and other contentious but important issues.

THE SUN

Constitution amendment
State police, new states, others, top
Senate agenda
.Security chiefs summoned over Boko Haram

From
ADETUTU FOLASHADE-KOYI and JAMES OJO, ABUJA
Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Seventh Senate resumed yesterday in Abuja with the leadership setting the
agenda for what to expect from the lawmakers of the upper legislative chamber
just as the House of Representatives summoned security chiefs over terrorism.

Welcoming the senators back to the chamber yesterday, Senate President
David Mark listed amendments to the Constitution and Electoral Act 2010 as the
priority areas Security chiefs for the third time this year were summoned for a
closed-door session in a bid to proffer solutions to the spate of bombings by
Boko Haram and the killings in Jos, Plateau State which had assumed a
frightening proportion.

No date had been fixed for the meeting by Press
time. The Senate had on June 29, 2011 met with security chiefs.
The proposed
Constitution amendment, according to Mark, would touch on state police, revenue
formula, power, state creation and abolition of joint state and local government
accounts.

Briefing reporters yesterday, Senate Leader Victor Ndoma-Egbe
said the Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Oluseyi Petinrin is expected
to lead service chiefs including Inspector-General of Police, Hafiz Ringim and
the boss of the State Security Service (SSS) Ita Ekpenyong to the
meeting.

“Senate will very, very soon go into a closed-door session (with
security chiefs) to review the security situation in the country and if need be,
engage security chiefs again in dialogue to see what can be done.
“We will
review the security situation with them and find lasting solutions to these
incessant, needless killings and bombings.”
Earlier, Mark noted the chamber’s
intervention in the nation’s security situation and called for co-operation and
dialogue among the agencies.
“In the past few months, our dear nation has
come under grievous attacks by forces of darkness and agents of insecurity and
destabilization. Innocent lives have been mindlessly wasted and properties
wantonly destroyed through bomb explosions and related acts of
violence.

“Emotions have been ruptured, rivers of tears ripped open, and
the land needlessly drenched with the blood of hapless innocent citizens.
Indeed, what we have witnessed are gravely discordant with our cultural and
religious values of the sanctity of life and our age-long tradition of being our
brothers’ keeper.

“I have no doubt, therefore, that you share my view
that this is most deplorable and totally unacceptable.
“We must address the
issue of insecurity squarely, head-on, once and for all.
“The Senate has
never rested on its oars in the search for greater peace and security in the
land. In the discharge of our responsibilities as a sensitive parliament, this
hallowed chamber has hosted security chiefs at various times on the security
situation in the country.

“The bombers and their sponsors live amongst
us. Therefore, our constituents should spare nothing in assisting to find a
lasting solution to this national embarrassment. I urge the Federal Government
to take decisive steps to stem this ugly tide. It must rise to emphatically make
this land most infertile for all sponsors and peddlers of terrorism and anarchy.
And in doing this, there must be no sacred cows.”
Besides amending the
Constitution, the Senate President disclosed that the National Assembly would
also amend the 2010 Electoral Act to guard against flaws in the 2011
elections.

“Nigerians expect us to revisit some fundamental issues such
as state creation, the local government system, devolution of powers, revenue
allocation, state police, state INEC, uniform minimum wage, joint account and
other contentious, but important issues.
The amendment would be guided by the
following questions:

•Should we allow state police? Will it enhance
policing duties and reduce criminality in the country?;
•Is the current
revenue formula equitable? Will a change in favour of the states enhance the
deliverables to the people?;
•Should power distribution be on the Exclusive
Legislative List? Shouldn’t states that invest in power generation be allowed to
distribute?;
•Is it necessary to create new states? Will it bring government
nearer to the people and address cries of marginalisation?;
•How effective
are the local governments? Should they be made to function independently of the
states?; and
•Is the Joint State/Local Governments account still
necessary?

He said: “We will not run away from any of these issues. I,
therefore, expect that in this session, we will not only deal with them, but
also with other issues that will guarantee good governance, peace, justice, and
development in our country.
“Furthermore, in the course of pursuing our
legislative agenda, we will most likely review the Electoral Act 2010. Now that
primaries and elections are over and the tribunals are addressing the aftermaths
of the election in accordance with the Electoral Act, we should be able to draw
from the lessons learnt and further amend the Act accordingly.

“Thus,
while the 2010 Act laid the foundation for possibly the best election in our
democratic history, like any other human products, it is still not perfect. In
our quest to continue to improve our electoral processes, we will work with the
Independent National Electoral Commission, political parties, and other
stakeholders to revisit the 2010 Electoral Act to address the issues arising
from its operation ahead of the forthcoming gubernatorial elections in some
states and the 2015 general elections,” the Senate President
noted.
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives also yesterday resolved to
summon security chiefs to brief it on the incessant terrorist attacks and the
steps taken so far to check the trend.

However, no date had been
announced for the meeting.

Moving a motion on Matters of Urgent National
Importance after about two-hour closed-door session, Hon Patrick Ikhariale (PDP,
Edo) said that terrorism which was hitherto not known in this country, had gone
‘beyond issues that can be glossed over”.
At the first plenary session of the
House after returning from their annual recess, the lawmakers particularly
condemned the bombing of the UN building on August 26 as well as other attacks
that have led to the loss of lives and properties.

The House agreed that
necessary action should be taken to ensure that the world would know that
Nigeria does not support terrorism.
As a result, the House accepted the
prayers of the motion among which was that the security chiefs be summoned to a
closed-door session where they would highlight steps taken so far to improve in
security and to also point out areas where they require legislative backing to
enhance their performance.

“This has gone beyond issues that we can gloss
over”, he stated, noting that “we need laws that will guide, prevent and give
adequate funding to agencies which have responsibilities of securing lives and
properties”.
Arguing the motion, Ikahariale lamented that despite yearly
allocations to the Nigeria Police Force and the Department of State Services
[DSS], they have not been able to discharge their duties effectively especially
as there had been little or no information on the bombing.
The leadership of
the chamber was also mandated to pay a condolence visit to the representative of
the UN in Nigeria.
At the closed-door meeting, it was gathered that the
Speaker, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, tasked his colleagues to concentrate on passing
pending bills as they settle down from their recess.

He listed them to
include Electoral Matters Bill, Asset Management Amendment Bill, Office of the
Nigeria Ombudsman Bill, Petroleum Industry Bill, Banks and other Financial
Institutions Amendment Bill, EFCC and ICPC amendment bill and the Justice Sector
Reform Bill.
Members were equally briefed on the status of the composition of
the standing committees, election of the House Leader and the financial position
of the House.
 

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