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General News of Monday, 24 January 2022

Source: www.sunnewsonline.com

Electoral Bill battle hots up in NASS

House of Representatives House of Representatives

A fresh face-off is brewing between the leadership of the Senate and the House of Representatives over the inability to pass a unified version of the recommitted Electoral Amendment Bill. 

Last week, the House and Senate passed two versions following President Muhammadu Buhari’s veto in December 2021.

The president, had while rejecting the bill, told lawmakers that the exclusion of indirect primary mode for political parties from the Electoral Act was anti-democratic and a recipe for crisis.

He also expressed fear that small political parties may not be able to conduct expensive direct primaries, if other options were not created for them.

Following the rejection, the two chambers attempted without success to override the president’s veto, but failed, despite mounting pressure from the public and political pundits.

At last week’s resumed sitting, the senate accommodated Buhari’s concerns and included indirect primary, but went further to import a consensus option into the bill. The House on the other hand, only settled for an additional clause of indirect primary as demanded  by the president.

 Daily Sun, however, learnt that the leadership of the two chambers, headed by Ahmad Lawan and Femi Gbajabiamila, were unable to reach an agreement on the new terms of agreement.

A source said meetings were held before last week’s resumption between principal officers of the House but failed to settle for a common position.

He said unable to reach a compromise, both chambers decided to pass different versions of the recommitted bills and also resolved that the issue would be resolved when a conference committee is set up.

However, there are fears that the House may lose out in the ensuing battle with the senate when the two chambers set up a conference committee to harmonise the versions passed.

Senate Leader, Yahaya Abdullahi is expected to head the conference committee while his counterpart in the House would deputise.

It was learnt that if the senate is able to use its position as an upper chamber to compel the House to agree with its position,  the version of the recommitted Electoral Amendment Bill that would be sent to President Buhari will contain the controversial consensus option.

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives has said it would be guided by national interest when it meets with the Senate to harmonise the differences in the versions of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill passed by the two chambers.

House spokesman, Benjamin Kalu, disclosed this in a telephone interview, with Daily Sun, yesterday.

He said there was nothing to worry about in the slight variation in the versions of the proposed electoral law passed by the chamber.

He said the ninth Assembly was committed to giving the country a new electoral law ahead of the next general elections.

He said the Green chamber on resumption of plenary this week would constitute its conference committee to interface with the senate on the electoral bill.

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