The House of Representatives says it will address the refusal of President Muhammadu Buhari to assent to the 2021 Electoral Act in January.
The Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, made the disclosure in a speech to members to mark the adjournment of the House for the Christmas and New Year break.
President Buhari in a letter earlier read at the plenary withheld assent to the bill, citing the cost of conducting direct primary elections, security challenges and possible manipulation of electoral processes by political actors as reasons.
Gbajabiamila explained that ”time was short to address the sensitive issue at hand in haste because members were set to proceed on break and they must pass other important bills such as the 2022 Appropriation Bill and the Finance Bill before doing so.
The Speaker however noted that the new bill introduced several innovations, besides direct primaries, to help advance the country’s democracy.
He said; “This year, despite the differences of opinions, all of us in the House of Representatives and indeed, the entire National Assembly, worked to pass the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill.
We included in that bill, provisions we hoped will significantly enhance the conduct of our national elections and improve public confidence in our electoral outcomes.
”As it is now, that bill has not received presidential assent, and it falls to parliament to decide the best way forward.
When we return in the New Year, we will resume our efforts to reform the electoral system in our country.
And we will do it together.
That is what the Nigerian people expect of us, and we will do our duty for God and country.
Whichever way it pans out, we must not throw out the baby with the bath water and must deliver a credible and enduring electoral system to Nigerians.
Every law is a living document and as long as it has breath, it must survive.
Gbajabiamila disclosed the plan of the legislature to consider the merging of many Ministries, Departments and Agencies of the Federal Government with overlapping functions, to help address the increasing inadequacy of budgeting as well as reforming the envelope budgeting system currently being operated.
He said; “During consideration of the 2022 Appropriation Bill, we were inundated with requests for funding from Ministries, departments and agencies of government, all of whom require additional funding to effectively discharge their mandates.
We recognize the genuine urgency of many of these requests and we have tried within the reality of limited revenues to meet the most critical needs.
However, one thing that is now abundantly clear, is that the legislature needs to act to reform the envelope system currently in place because it imposes conditions that do not make for optimal outcomes.
At the same time, we must begin also to consider options for merging agencies where there is a significant overlap in functions and responsibilities, and scrapping other institutions where their utility is no longer apparent.
Meanwhile, the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives has suggested that the lawmakers should consider the President’s observations, amend and pass the Electoral Act Amendment Bill 2021 before embarking on the Christmas and New Year break, for Nigerians to reap the full benefit of the bill.
He said that since the President’s observations were believed to be in the best interest of the nation, “The Lawmakers should consider it and pass before the break, so that the President will assent to it.
However, Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila who acknowledged the Minority Leader’s observation said it would be the priority of the lawmakers when they resumed in 2022.
House considers Electoral Act Amendment Bill next year