Senate empowers INEC to deregister parties
THE Senate yesterday amended the Constitution to empower the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to deregister parties.
The amendment followed its adoption of a Bill, titled: An Act to further alter the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 and for other matters connected therewith, 2013, sponsored by the Chairman of the Senate Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution, Ike Ekweremadu.
The alteration to Section 68 of the Constitution says: “The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) shall have power to deregister political parties on any of the following grounds (i) breach of any of the requirements for registration, and (ii) failure to win Presidential, Governorship, Chairmanship of a Local Government/Area Council or a seat in the National or State Assembly election.”
Of the 87 senators who registered to vote, 82 voted ”yes”; two abstained.
The INEC has tried severally to deregister parties it accused of non-performance, but its attempts were frustrated by the courts.
The Senate also approved the alteration to Sections 134 and 179 of the Constitution, extending the period of rerun during presidential and governorship elections from seven days to 21 days.
Eighty-two senators voted ‘yes’ to approve the amendment.
The Senate, with 82 ”yes” votes, also approved a provision that confers exclusive jurisdiction to hear electoral offences on Federal High Courts.
A provision that mandates the Clerk of the National Assembly and States’ Assemblies to notify the INEC when there is vacancy in the Senate, House of Representatives or a House of Assembly due to “death, resignation, recall or vacation of a seat, was also approved by the Senate with 82 ”yes” votes.
The clerks of the legislature are expected to write within seven days of the existence of a vacancy arising from death, resignation or defection of a member of the National Assembly or a member of the State House of Assembly.
The lawmakers also approved Clause Eight of the amendments, which altered the Third Schedule of the Constitution to include former Senate Presidents and Speakers of the House of Representatives as members of the Council of State.
The Senate said it would vote on the controversial amendments being sought to Section 9 (3a) of the Constitution, which seek to empower the President to initiate a new Constitution.
It will also vote on Clause 3 (m), which will mandate the INEC to, within six months of the receipt of the draft constitution, cause a referendum to be conducted to approve the draft constitution.
The Senate will also vote on Clause 3 (n), which says: “If the draft Constitution receives a simple majority of votes cast in two-thirds of all states of the federation, it shall come into force as constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
Other amendments contained in the Electoral Act, include empowering INEC to issue duplicate voter cards before an election, determine voting procedure, hold elections on a single day, and cause the electoral body to conduct a debate for all candidates contesting an election into the Office of the President.
Further amendments seek the conduct of general elections six months before the expiration of the tenure of the incumbent and bye-elections to be held twice in a year.