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Bill Seeks Defecting President, Govs To Lose Seats

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A bill is seeking to compel a sit­ting president, vice president, governors and their deputies to face the penalty of losing their seats if they defect from the po­litical parties upon which they contested and won elections without following prescribed procedures.

The House of Represen­tatives also introduced a bill seeking to abolish the prac­tice of organising a bye-elec­tion into vacant positions left open either as a result of death of the occupant or resignation.

Also read for the first time was a bill to expunge subsec­tion (5) of section 315 of the constitution on the ground that it has outlived its use­fulness in the face of the Na­tional Security Agencies Act.

The bills are being spon­sored by Hon. Rimamnde Kwewum Shawulu (PDP, Taraba), who said “the amendment proposed here is to delete and/or complete­ly expunge the provision of subsection (5) of section 315 CFRN as same has outlived its usefulness and serves no better purpose in relation to present day realties.”

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On penalties for defecting office holders, the proposed bill seeks to amend section 144(1) as well as section 189(1) of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, to check incidents of defections.

According to the docu­ment, “Cross-carpeting, or abandoning the political par­ty that sponsored a president, vice president, governor or deputy governor (as the case may be) for another political party, in the absence of a merger of political parties; division or factions within the sponsoring political par­ty/shall be penalised by for­feiture of such a position by the defecting officer”.

Presently, only legislators in the National and State Houses of Assembly lose their seats if they decamp or cross over to other political parties without meeting the prescribed procedure.

“There is no doubting the fact that all through his­tory political parties have remained the strongest pillars of democracy. They provide choices for people by professing and working through some governing philosophies, and help to educate people on different patterns of developments be­ing proposed by the different political parties.

“Often regarded by politi­cal parties which sponsored them as leaders, presidents, governors cannot abandon their political parties and re­tain the seat that they were hard earned by the sponsor­ing political parties.

“The people vote for par­ties and that is why party symbols are used on ballot parties. Winners of elec­tions by this logic are simply agents of the political parties.

“It is important, therefore, that once an elected person, the president, vice president, governor or deputy president abandons the position to which he was elected”, the sponsor said in an explana­tory note.

On bye-elections, the bill seeks to amend section 68(1) of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, Cap C23, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.

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“This bill seeks to amend section 68(1) of the constitu­tion of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Cap. C23, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 by making the Inde­pendent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to ac­cept nominations by political parties, rather than conduct bye-elections, in order to re­place or fill vacancies caused by the death of a member of the Senate or of the House of Representatives, or of mem­bers of state House of Assem­bly (under the corresponding section 109(1) CRFN, 1999.)

“The underlying idea here is borne out of the fact that under the current practice, where and whenever a va­cancy occurs as a result of the death of a member of a Senate or of the House of Representatives (as well as for a member of the House of Assembly of a state), the In­dependent National Electoral Commission (INEC) would normally conduct a bye-elec­tion to fill such vacancy.

“Under this amendment, political parties are permit­ted to first, make fresh nom­inations to INEC to replace such vacancies, before going ahead to conduct a bye-elec­tion. It is only when political parties are unable, to utilise their internal party mecha­nism and made nominations to INEC that INEC is expect­ed to conduct a bye-election as contemplated under sec­tion 68(1) CFRN, 1999.

“In the USA and other climes, governors appoint persons to replace congress members who die or resign from office in 36 states; in 14 other states elections are held. However in 10 of those states, the governor appoints an interim member to act in that position till election is held.

“In Nigeria, no one can contest election outside the sponsorship of a political party. In the case of death, the party which sponsored the member should be allowed to replace their members. This will strengthen the par­ty system and stabilise the legislature as well reduce the cost of democracy,” Hon. Shawulu said.

On section 315, the law­maker is proposing amend­ment that suggests that the National Security Agencies Act (1986) has outlived its usefulness and cannot han­dle current security threat in the country.

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