The Senate has decided to give high priority to the passage of 60 bills (both executive and members’ bills), preparatory to their passage. Including the electoral reform-related bills recently submitted to the National Assembly by President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua should be considered to be of highest priority.
They seven electoral reforms bills are: a Bill for an Act to Amend the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Act Cap 15 LFN 2004 and other Matters Connected Thereto; a Bill for an Act to Alter the Provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 and for other Matters Connected Thereto; a Bill for an Act to Establish the Electoral Offences Commission and for other Matters Connected Thereto; and, a Bill for an Act to Establish the Centre for Democratic Studies and other Related Matters
Others are: a Bill for an Act to Further Amend the Police Act 1967 CAP P19 2004 LFN and for other Matters Connected Thereto; a Bill for an Act to Establish the Political Parties Registration and Regulatory Commission and for other Matters Connected Thereto; and a Bill for an Act to Amend the Independent National Electoral Commission. The bills were sent to the National Assembly penultimate week, but the Senate President, Senator David Mark, announced their receipt in plenary on Tuesday, last week.
Although, they are yet to be listed for the first reading (reading of the short titles of the bills), the session agreed last week to fast-track their consideration and passage once they scale the first reading.
The bills may be listed for first reading this week, according to feelers from the Offices of the Senate Leader, Senator Teslim Folarin, and the Chairman of the Rules and Business Committee, Senator Alloysius Etok.
Last week the Senate concluded the second reading of the Land Use Act (Amendment) Bill and referred it to the Committee on Constitution Review.
The Senate conceded that the Bill could not be amended without amending the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
It was learnt that some of the seven electoral reform-related bills would also be treated by the Senate within the context of the amendment of the 1999 constitution.
In his letter to the Senate President, dated April 29, 2009, Yar’Adua had said that the bills were “critical to the actualisation of electoral reform and the consolidation of our democratic process.”
According to him, “It is in the light of their vital importance and in the larger national interest that I request that they be treated distinctly from the more holistic on-going constitution review process.”
This would enable us effect critical elements of the electoral reform process in the shortest possible time.”THISDAY learnt that the Senate leadership expressed concern at the closed door session over the delay by standing committees in processing bills referred to them after the second reading (debate on the bills’ general principles) for further action.
It was further gathered that members put on record the fact that the Executive on its part had been tardy in treating members’ bills sent to it for assent. Chairman of the Senate Committee on Media and Information, Senator Ayogu Eze, confirmed that the Senate had resolved to set a priority list of the pending bills so that they could receive expeditious consideration.
He said that the standing committees had been given a month or thereabout to report progress on the bills referred to them.