*Seeks prosecution of culprits in invasion of National Assembly
*Decries impunity that characterised conduct of parties’ primaries
By Ndubuisi Michaels
Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Yakubu Dogara, has stated that the House of Representatives would resist any further attempt to frustrate the enactment of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill as failure to do so would be indicative of a desire not to improve on the successes recorded in the 2015 elections.
Delivering a speech to mark the resumption of the House from its annual recess at the National Assembly, Hon Dogara said the passage of the Bill is also important in order to quell fears that some forces intend to manipulate the forthcoming elections by exploiting identified loopholes in the Electoral Act currently in force.
He explained that the new Electoral Act amendment Bill has provisions that are designed to guarantee free, fair and transparent elections in Nigeria, entrenches the Smart Card Reader and electronic transmission of results, among others. He also added that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Supplementary budget Bill must also be accorded expeditious consideration.
“As we settle down to business, let me reiterate that the INEC Supplementary budget Bill must be accorded expeditious consideration. Furthermore, the pending issue of the Electoral Act amendment Bill, which was unfortunately vetoed by Mr President, must also be expeditiously considered and passed. The new Electoral Act amendment Bill has provisions that are designed to guarantee free, fair and transparent elections in Nigeria. The amendment Bill entrenches the Smart Card Reader and electronic transmission of results among others. Any further attempt to frustrate the passing into law of the Bill, will be indicative of our desire not to improve on the successes of the 2015 general elections further fueling the fears that some including our international partners have about some forces who intend to manipulate the forthcoming elections by exploiting identified loopholes in the Electoral Act currently in force,” he added.
The speaker said the August 8th assault on the institution of the National Assembly by masked personnel of the Department of State Services, DSS, the third by security agencies working in concert with anti-democratic elements in quick succession, was a rude reminder to all that, “our democracy is still very fragile and therefore we should never go to sleep believing that the work of democracy is done and that progress is inevitable.”
Furthermore, he thanked vigilant NASS members, who at great risks, confronted these heavily armed; masked and hooded fascist agents, the Press, Civil Society Organisations, the generality of Nigerians and the international community for rising to the occasion as living heroes of our democracy.
He also commended the then Acting President, His Excellency, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, SAN who swiftly took disciplinary action against some of the perpetrators of these seditious and subversive action and called on the executive to ensure that all other assessors, before or after the fact of this treasonable act, must be quickly brought to book; as the then DG, SSS could never have acted alone.
Charging his colleagues to be steadfast in their fight to protect democracy, Hon Dogara reminded them that their loyalty must be in tandem with their oath of office to the nation and not to any individual or sectional cause or interest.
He said, “The goal of some people who are working to enthrone tyranny and despotism is to harass, intimidate and ridicule this great institution of the people to the point that we are forced to abdicate our responsibilities and fidelity to our oath of office. It’s a pity that these elements know nothing about the character of this great Institution and the fact that our devotion to the rule of law far surpasses our love and admiration for any individual or group of persons. If this was not the case, third term would have succeeded and the motion on the doctrine of necessity would have failed. We cannot drift, in our own time, from the path of honour and courage that has been the hallmark of this hallowed Chambers. As patriots, we owe it a duty to patriotically support the patriotic even if they are our foes and to patriotically oppose or defeat the unpatriotic even if they are our best friends.”
While commending all members of committees who sat during the recess, he specifically thanked the Joint Committee on INEC for the patriotism, sacrifice and commitment they put into the work on the INEC Supplementary Budget for the 2019 general elections, he urged his colleagues not to lose sight of the fact that they still have much business to do.
He said, “I urge us not to be so absorbed by the politics of 2019 as to allow our Legislative duties to suffer. We must utilise the available time judiciously to serve the country and our people to the best of our ability. Having started strong with ground breaking and record setting achievements, we will be on the wrong side of history if we fail to finish as strongly as we started. It is said that the end of a matter is better than the beginning thereof.”
The speaker, who congratulated all members who won their primary elections, wished those whose elections may still be in process a favourable conclusion and pledged assistance for others who are said to have lost their nominations in circumstances which remain contentious so that they get fair opportunities as they have all made tremendous sacrifices and it is only fair that they are rewarded.
“The leadership is aware of the impunity that characterised the conduct of some primaries in which some of our members allegedly lost the ticket to contest in the next election. We have done our best to ensure internal democracy within parties but it appears parties prefer to pander to the whims and caprices of some individuals rather than the law. May I reiterate the warning of Kekere-Ekun, JSC in MATO V. HEMBER & 2 ORS (2018) 5 NWLR (PT. 1612) 258 at pages 297-298 PARAGRAPHS C-B,” he stated, adding that, “It is a pity that the 2018 primaries will throw up more pre-election cases than ever before witnessed in Nigeria due to display of impunity by parties in the conduct of primaries across board.”