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JUST IN: Senate Disowns Hate Speech Bill

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Nigerian senate

The Nigerian Senate has disowned the controversial Hate Speech Bill which passed through the first reading on the floor of the Senate a fortnight ago.

Its spokesman, Senator Godiya Akwashiki, told reporters Monday that the Bill that was re-introduced by the Senate Deputy Whip, Senator Sabi Abdullahi, was a private member Bill and not sponsored by the upper chamber as being alleged in some quarters.

According to him, the bill cannot be called a Senate bill “but simply a bill sponsored by an individual senator who has the right to sponsor private member Bill which will have to go through all the necessary processes including second reading and public hearing for it to make headway”.

Recall that a Bill to Establish a Commission for the Prohibition of Hate Speeches resurfaced in the Senate last week.

The Bill titled, “National Commission for the Prohibition of Hate Speeches (Est, etc) Bill, 2019(SB.154) and sponsored by the Deputy Chief Whip of the Senate, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, All Progressives Congress, APC, Niger North was read the first time at Plenary.

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Meanwhile, acting Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Godiya Akwashiki, All Progressives Congress, APC, Nasarawa South, Akwashiki said that it was solely being sponsored by the Deputy Chief Whip, Sabi Abdullahi, based on his conviction, however described as unfortunate, the statement credited to the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP which insinuated that the bill was a Senate bill, skewed to make the alleged third term ambition of President Muhammadu Buhari.

He maintained that the fate of the bill would be determined on the floor of the Senate after a robust debate by senators.

Meanwhile, the ex-spokesperson for the Senate who sponsored the bill insisted at a news briefing on Monday that his proposed legislation was aimed at achieving peace in the country.

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Inside Nigeria

E-Voting Not Yet Feasible — INEC

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INEC Chairman Mahmood Yakubu

The National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said electronic voting systems could only be introduced into the nation’s electoral process when the nation was sure of the appropriate technologies, provide infrastructure, to address cyber security, among other challenges.

According to INEC Chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, the country was not there yet. He was however confident that his agency could achieve electronic collation of results (e-collation) and electronic transmission of results (e-transmission) during the next election circle in 2023.

Mahmood spoke in Abuja on Monday at the Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room (NCSSR) stakeholders’ forum on elections. NCSSR is a coalition of civil society organisations, led by Clement Nwankwo, the Executive Director, Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC).

The INEC Chairmen, Deputy Senate President, Snetor Ovie Omo-Agege and the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami were unanimous on the need to review the nation’s Electoral Act before the next election season and particularly, the importance of creating the much-requested Electoral Offences Commission.

Represented by Festus Okoye (an INEC National Commissioner), Mahmood stressed the need for any review of the Electoral Act to further strengthen his agency’s regulatory capacity and independence.

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He said: “The commission (INEC) must be the major driver in the introduction of new technologies in our electoral process.

“Electronic voting systems are dynamic and the appropriate time for the introduction of each aspect must be clearly thought out taking into consideration the appropriate technology, the state of infrastructure in the different parts of the country, environmental issues, cyber security matters, procurement challenges, the level of literacy in the country and other sundry matters.

“We believe that Electronic Collation of Results (E-Collation) and Transmission of Results (E-Transmission) are possible and achievable in the 2023 election. The Commission will continue to improve the electoral system through the adoption of new election technologies where feasible and relevant, and will, in all cases, examine the viability and relevance of such technologies before adoption.

“Towards these, the legal framework for the adoption of such technologies would be the first most important step before any other steps. We acknowledge the introduction of a bill to establish an Election Offences Commission and Tribunal and state unequivocally that we support it.

“Our country must break the cycle of impunity in the electoral process and bring to justice the violators of the sovereign right of the people to clean elections.

We urge you to critically examine aspects of the Constitution and the Electoral Act, 2010(as amended) that will strengthen the electoral legal framework and enhance the power of the vote.

“It is also important to emphasis the collective nature of electoral reform, and draw attention to the fact that electoral reforms should not end at the level of retooling the legal framework, but should also extend to attitudinal issues bordering on curbing impunity and the development of a culture of tolerance and sportsmanship.

“The commission will remain transparent and accountable in its dealings with the Nigerian people and will continue to consult with critical stakeholders on major policy issues and issues around its regulations, guidelines and manuals.

“However, the commission will not share its constitutionally and legally guaranteed regulatory powers with any individual, Political Party, groups or organizations. Rather, the commission will approach the National Assembly with new proposals to further enhance its regulatory powers and the provision of clarity on grey areas that have been exploited to whittle down its powers.

To this end, the commission will propose the review of the provision to section 31 of the Electoral Act, 2010(as amended). The commission is a creation of the Constitution and is duty bound to give effect to the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999(as amended).

“The commission will be shirking its constitutional and regulatory powers if it cannot enforce the qualifying threshold in section 177 and 187 of the Constitution and other equivalent provisions.

“The implication is that the Commission can close its eyes to the nomination of non-Nigerians and infants by Political Parties to contest Governorship and other elections. The commission will robustly and expansively implement and interpret its powers within the compass of constitutionally allowed window.

“The commission will also make proposals that will clarify and strengthen its powers in relation to declaration and returns by Collation and Returning Officers. Declarations and Returns must be made voluntarily and not through duress and other unwholesome practices.

“To this extent, the commission must retain the discretion to take urgent and remedial actions in clear cases of the violation of its regulations and guidelines in the conduct of elections.

“The commission is irrevocably committed to the enhancement of the power of the Smart Card Reader as the dominant procedure for verification, accreditation and proving over voting in the electoral process.

“The commission will therefore seek the incorporation of the Smart Card Reader in section 49 of the Electoral Act, 2010(as amended). The individuals holding the Permanent Voters Cards must be the ones voting and not the cards.

“The Smart Card Reader is now part of our national asset and the Commission will not allow any individual or groups to undermine it. Rather, the Commission will guard it jealously and make for its robust usage,” the INEC Chair said.

Omo-Agege said the National Assembly has heeded calls, particularly from the Judiciary, via it many pronouncements for amendments to the Electoral Act.

“It is for these reasons and much more that we are coming up with very clear provisions amending the principal Act to give unambiguous effect to Electoral Guidelines, Regulations and Manuals duly issued by the Commission in strict compliance with section 160 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).

“Pervasive non-compliance with the Guidelines, Regulations and Manuals will carry clear consequences for people, who think violating electoral due process is a rewarding exercise,” Omo-Agege said.

He identified the many amendments being proposed to include: “focusing on resolving issues surrounding INEC’s introduction of modern technologies into our electoral process, particularly accreditation of voters.; ensuring that the Act clearly forbids members of political parties from taking up employment in INEC; and mandating INEC to suspend an election in order to allow a political party that lost its candidate before or during an election to conduct a fresh primary to elect a replacement or new candidate.”

Also being planned is the provision “defining ‘over voting’ to include situations where ‘total votes cast’ also exceed ‘total number of accredited voters’ and “overhauling Section 87 on Nomination of Candidates by Parties for Elections by prescribing maximum fees payable by aspirants and restricting nomination criteria strictly to relevant provisions of the Constitution.”

Malami noted that elections in the country have “become much more contentious than ever before,” a development he attributed to “the desire to win election at all cost as well as weak electoral structures that are not accountable to voters at all levels of governance”.

Represented by the Adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari on Justice Sector Reform, Juliet Ibekaku-Nwagwu, Malami argued that it was” imperative that our electoral laws are reformed to ensure the efficient and legitimate conduct of elections in Nigeria, as the credibility of elections impacts our global outlook and eventually lead to economic growth, shared prosperity and a secured nation.

“In line with this, the administration is committed to tackling the issue of electoral fraud and violence and supports the establishment of an Electoral Offences Commission.”

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Buhari Departs Abuja Tuesday For Egypt

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Buhari

President Muhammadu Buhari will depart Abuja on Tuesday for Aswan, Egypt to attend the Aswan Forum designed to set “An Agenda for Sustainable Peace and Development in Africa.”

The president’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina, confirmed this development in a statement in Abuja on Monday.

The Forum which holds between Dec. 11 and Dec. 12, is an initiative to address the interconnections between peace and development in Africa while promoting Africa-led solutions through strengthening policies and practices.

“The initiative is being launched by the Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in his capacity as the Chairman of the African Union (AU) and as an advocate of Post-Conflict Reconstruction and Development in Africa – a recurring theme of his tenure as the AU Chairman.

“It is also grounded in the AU’s Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want, and the search for African solutions to African problems.

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“The gathering is expected to bring together heads of state and government, leaders from regional and international organisations, financial institutions, private sector and civil societies.

”(Others are) scholars, visionaries and prominent experts for action-oriented discussions on the threats, challenges and opportunities.

“It is also expected to end with a Declaration on the theme of the Forum and become an annual event,’’ he said.

It would be recalled that the Speaker of Egypt’s House of Representatives, Ali Abdel Aal had delivered el-Sisi’s message to Buhari in Abuja on Oct. 28 inviting him to the inaugural Aswan Forum.

According to the presidential aide, the President will be accompanied by Governors Ahmadu Fintiri of Adamawa, Godwin Obaseki of Edo and Mai Mala Buni of Yobe State.

Others are: Minister of Defence, Gen. Bashir Magashi (Rtd); Minister of State, Foreign Affairs, Amb. Zubairu Dada; National Security Adviser, Maj.-Gen. Babagana Monguno (Rtd); and the Director-General, National Intelligence Agency, Amb. Ahmed Abubakar.

Buhari is expected back in Abuja on Friday.

(NAN)

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Inside Nigeria

Using Phones At Checkpoint Is Wrong – Nigerian Military Chief Warns

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Major-General Usman Mohammed

The Chief of Civil Affairs in the Nigerian Army, Major-General Usman Mohammed, has said that the use of phones when approaching a military checkpoint is wrong.

According to him, it is security loop for anyone to approach a checkpoint and at the same time, make use of his or her phone.

“It is a security measure for when you are approaching a checkpoint, you don’t make phone calls because the tendency is that if you are making a phone call, you might be communicating with some bad guys or you may use that particular device to set up some certain devices.

“It is a general convention; it is not peculiar to Nigeria, it is everywhere. People who have travelled abroad know that you don’t make phone calls when approaching a checkpoint,” he said.

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