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JONAS EZIEKE, Abuja
Owing to the failure of President Muhammadu Buhari to assent to the Electoral Act amendment Bill passed by the National Assembly three times, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Yakubu Dogara, has warned the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the Police that Nigerians would accept nothing short of complete openness, a level -playing ground and strict adherence to extant laws in the conduct of the 2019 elections.
He also noted that the palpable fears of well-meaning Nigerians and the international community of the possibility of some forces working to manipulate the coming elections by exploiting the identified loopholes in the current Electoral Act may become a reality if proactive steps are not taken by critical stakeholders.
In a speech to mark the resumption of the House from the Christmas and New Year recess delivered on Thursday, the Speaker said the National Assembly has done its possible best to deepen the nation’s democratic process by providing mechanisms that would guarantee successful and rancour-free elections.
According to him, by passing the Electoral Act Amendment Bill for the third time after the President had declined assent to it twice, it means that the impending general elections will not benefit from the innovative mechanisms crafted in its collaboration with international and development partners.
The Speaker stated: “It should remain a thing of pride for us that the National Assembly has done its best by taking steps to guarantee the successful and rancour-free conduct of the 2019 General Elections by passing the Electoral Act Amendment Bill for the third time after Mr President had declined assent to it twice.
“ Lack of passage into Law of the amended Bill means that the impending General Elections will not benefit from the innovative mechanisms crafted in its collaboration with international and Development partners. Consequently, the palpable fears of well-meaning Nigerians and the international community of the possibility of some forces working to manipulate the coming elections by exploiting the identified loopholes in the current Electoral Act, may become a reality if proactive steps are not taken by critical stakeholders.
“Hon. Members, I believe that our intention to improve on the successes of the 2015 General Election through the Amendment Bill is very clear to all fair-minded Nigerians. The spate of serious allegations by stakeholders, corroborated by some Press reports against INEC and the Nigerian Police in the recent elections, which are already subjects of litigations, are some of the factors that gave rise to public apprehension on the success of the coming General Elections.
“We had intended, through this Bill, to minimise the risk to the survival of our hard-won democracy through responsive and timely legislation aimed at ensuring free, fair and transparent elections. Nonetheless, as Parliament, we have done our best to guarantee the stability and growth of our fragile democracy, and I have no doubt that history will be very kind to us.
“Under the present circumstance, we have no choice than to take INEC and the Police by their words and give them the benefit of doubt in their recent assurances to be impartial, efficient and truthful in the conduct of the coming elections. This is the minimum that the country deserves from them at this auspicious time. Nothing short of complete openness, a level playing ground and strict adherence to extant Laws will be acceptable to Nigerians.”
Dogara also called on the President and Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces, President Muhammadu Buhari, to take a hard look at Nigeria’s national security architecture with a view to securing lives, national pride and prestige and to fight against unbridled violence.
“We are all witnesses to the continuous deteriorating security situation in our country more especially in the North East, North West and some parts of the North Central. Only three days ago, scores of people were killed in Sokoto State and elsewhere,” he stated, adding, that hardly does any week pass without reports of mass killings and bloodletting, either by terrorists or armed bandits.
“This calls for drastic, urgent and concerted action and efforts to bring to a quick end. Our citizens are looking up to us and we can’t afford to fail them because security of lives and properties is the primary purpose of government. The fight against unbridled violence is one we cannot afford to lose as we can’t do so and still keep our civilisation. The symptoms of the malady afflicting our national security architecture are in plain sight. It is therefore imperative for the President and Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces to take a hard look at our national security architecture with a view to fixing the malady in order to secure lives, national pride and prestige,” he said.
Addressing his colleagues, Dogara further noted that with less than five months to the end of the 8th National Assembly, it is a good time to reflect on the journey they started in June, 2015 and while the House can boast that it has done appreciably, the remaining period demands assiduous and expeditious work so that the huge legislative assignments that still lies ahead of them can be done with and the unsurpassed record of legislative outputs so far achieved by the House can be maintained.
Specifically, he called for accelerated legislative processing of the 2019 Appropriation so that government business will not be impeded, as well as other Bills under consideration which are critical to the development of our country. This is just as he reminded them to strike a good balance between their commitment to legislative duties and participation in the campaigns by streamlining their political timetable and schedules to make room for attendance to legislative duties as much as is expected of them.
While calling for the highest form of decorum in the campaigns, the Speaker stated, “I find it imperative on this occasion to call on all our political leaders to cultivate the highest level of decorum, responsibility and respect for the Law in our electioneering campaigns. We must, through our conduct, show our commitment to the successful and peaceful conduct of the 2019 elections and above all, the sustenance of our democracy. We should avoid the tendency of being hypocritical by engaging in misdeeds that we are quick to point out in our opponents. Let us be guided by our conscience and the teachings of our religions, which demand that we judge ourselves before judging others.”
He expressed gratitude for the continued support and unity of the members to the leadership of the House, and cautioned that “neither contest for elective office nor elections are ends in themselves as they are merely the means by which we seek to serve the people and indeed humanity. Where our intentions are genuine and honorable, we shall never seek power at the expense of the lives and properties of those we seek to serve. This should be our resolve across board.”
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