A member of the Electoral Reform Committee (ERC), Barrister Festus Okoye has said that the seven electoral bills sent to the National Assembly by President Umaru Yar’Adua, were deliberately meant to fail. This reminds us of the General Ibrahim Babangida ‘maradonic’ transition programme
that was designed to be a cul-de-sac that would lead (and indeed led) to no where.
Festus Okoye, who was a member of the Justice Uwais Electoral Reform Committee, told Thisday:
“It can be seen that the bills forwarded to the National Assembly were deliberately packaged disjointedly, lacking in imagination and programmed to fail. The government is therefore either deliberately or out of mischief, forwarding the bills in a manner that will lead to their death or the government has finished buying time and is now comfortable with the current electoral situation in the country and does not need to amend any law.”
It would be recalled that The Nigeria Senate on May 25, 2009 killed the Political Parties Registration and Regulatory Commission (PPRRC) bill sent to it for passage by President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua seeking the lawmakers’ approval to enable him exercise a total control over political parties.
The executive bill, which was one of six bills earlier sent to the upper legislative chamber by the president, was part of efforts being made by the present administration to reform the electoral process. But it was thrown out after three days of intensive debate on some of its provisions.
The rejected bill is one among seven others on the electoral reform that the President sent to the National Assembly demanding accelerated endorsement ahead of the much -talked about constitution review. It is just as well that the Upper Legislative chamber sensed the danger inherent in approving a bill that will make the president the sole power to hire and fire members of the body and correctly decided otherwise.
They argued that the bill cannot sail through because it touches on an issue that requires constitutional amendment.
According to Senator Ayogu Eze, a spokeman of the senate,” any reforms should be anchored on more concrete factors that have been responsible for our failures such as attitude of Nigerians, and some institutional reasons. But the issue of registration of political parties cannot, in the opinion of the Senate, be such a profound issue as to be responsible for the failures in our electoral system”.
The Senate has since then demanded for and got copies of the Mohammed Lawal Uwais committee report from which the idea of the bills was gotten
But Okoye who represented the Human Rights and Civil Society group at the Election Reform Committee also said; “It is also possible that the National Assembly is playing out a script by picking the Political Parties Registration and Regulatory Commission Bill first knowing fully well that the first item should be the Act to amend the Constitution. It is clear that all the bills in the National Assembly are in trouble and may not pass the second reading.”
Accordingly, Okoye, said the “the implication is that Nigeria may go into the 2011 elections under the 1999 Constitution and with the provisions of the Electoral Act, 2006. These will portent great danger to the conduct of free, fair and transparent elections in Nigeria. It means that all the lessons of the 1999, 2003 and 2007 elections lost and Nigeria has lost an opportunity to recreate its electoral framework and bring them to speed with international standards. It will also mean that a blank cheque has been given to professional election riggers and criminal elements to hold the nation hostage and foist an electoral regime inconsistent with the Constitution on the country.”
In view of this and because time is fast running out, Okoye suggested a way forward:
“Civil society groups and other stakeholders can forward and sponsor the three Bills in the Report of the Electoral Reform Committee to the National Assembly as private members Bill and rescue the electoral process from the Bills already submitted and programmed to fail. Civil society groups and organizations can design a robust engagement policy and work with members of the National and State Assemblies especially during the public hearing of some of the Bills to impute into provisions of some of the Bills that can strengthen the electoral process and clean up the environment for elections.”
According to Thisday, The ERC member called on “the civil society groups to mass produce the Report of Electoral Reform Committee especially the recommendations and make same available to members of the National and State Assemblies to give them background information on the rationale for most of the recommendations. Okoye further called on civil society groups and other stakeholder to engage in mass mobilization and sustained advocacy for free, fair and transparent elections”.
Yes, according to a commentator, Professor Bolaji Aluko, the ‘maradonic’ plan is on to continue the evil of election-rigging into 2011, by continuing the installation of presidency-induced- INEC-commissioners, endless use of Election Tribunals and Appeal Courts to install and depose executives and legislators, Practice Directions that are practiced only in the breach, on-seat-power- use-while- petitions- are-on, etc!
Aluko added, this is being done by executive and legislative foot-dragging over the necessary amendments of the Electoral Law and/or of the Constitution until such a time when such amendments would be implemented, NOT in 2011 but in 2015.
Only civil action will thwart this design.
Here is the 300-page Uwais committee report.
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