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Reps approve independent candidacy, local council autonomy

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Speaker, House of Representatives, Honourable Yakubu Dogara

• Endorse 35% affirmative action for women
• Female lawmakers protest against rejection of indigeneship bill
• DPC, LP reject de-registration of political parties, others

The House of Representatives has voted in support of proposal for independent candidacy in the country’s electoral system.

At the plenary presided over by Speaker Yakubu Dogara, the lawmakers, who considered the Sulaimon Yussuff Lasun-led Special Ad-hoc Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution, approved the alteration of Section 65 of the constitution to pave the way for any person interested in vying for elective positions in the country.

The lower legislative chamber also altered Section 162 of the Constitution to abrogate the controversial state joint local council accounts aimed at empowering each of the 774 councils of the country to maintain special account to be called Government Allocation Account into which all allocations due to them shall be directly paid from the Federation Account and from the governments of the 36 states of the country.

They also approved the alteration of Section 121 of the constitution to provide for funding of the Houses of Assembly directly from the consolidated revenue fund of the state.

In a similar vein, they also endorsed the alteration of the constitution to bar the judiciary from declaring anybody who did not take part in an election as eventual winner of any of the elective seats contested for in the polity.

The lawmakers further endorsed alteration to Section 82 of the Constitution to reduce the period within which the president or governor of a state may authorise the withdrawal of monies from the consolidated revenue fund in the absence of an Appropriation Act from six months to three months, among others.

In another development, female members of the House condemned the rejection of a proposed amendment in the 1999 Constitution to entitle married women claim indigeneship of the state of their husbands.

Attempts by the lawmakers to devolve powers by moving certain items from the exclusive legislative list to the concurrent legislative list to give powers to states, was also rejected.

The 11th item proposing 35 per cent affirmative action for women was, however, allowed by the House despite that senators rejected it on Wednesday.

The female lawmakers angrily approached the Speaker to allege manipulation of the voting process as soon as the result was announced.

Betty Apiafi (PDP, Rivers) was visibly angry that she refused to speak with some newsmen who had approached her to seek reaction.

Another female member, Nkeiruka Onyejeocha (PDP, Abia), described the decision of the House as unfortunate at the time women were actively participating in local and global debates, politics and decision-making processes.

But Ossai Nicholas Ossai (PDP, Delta) said the rejection of the bill was not only a blow to the womenfolk but to the men as well.

He said he was saddened by the development considering the importance of women to peace building, cohesion and national development.

Meanwhile, the Democratic People’s Congress (DPC) and Labour Party (LP) have strongly condemned the majority resolution of the Senate, which favoured independent candidacy in future elections and new powers for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to de-register political parties.

The DPC, in a statement yesterday in Abuja by its National Chairman, Rev. Olusegun Peters, urged the 36 Houses of Assembly to reject the proposed amendments.

It argued that in advanced multi-party democracies, political parties are not de-registered based on their failure to win legislative seats or secure a percentage of votes cast in polls, saying: “Political parties are allowed to function or fizzle out if their manifestoes are not acceptable to the people, definitely not by obnoxious, outrageous and draconian laws and legislative fiat.”

Also, National Chairman of the LP, Alhaji Abdulkadir Abubakar, told The Guardian: “What we see playing out in the National Assembly is the absence of a virile, viable and sustainable opposition party.”

He stressed that the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) lack direction as he the Senate of lacking faith in the supremacy of political parties.

Abdulkadir stated: “Our environment, background and culture are not yet ripe for independent candidacy as over 1,000 candidates will jostle for election and this could create administrative problems for INEC, the voters and the security agencies. Even the candidates will be confused.”


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