The Senate has rejected a bill seeking to replace a member of the Legislature in the event of resignation, death or vacancy by simply nominating a replacement as against conducting a fresh general election to fill the vacancy.
The Legislature herein referred to includes the National Assembly and State Houses of Assembly.
The bill, a proposed amendment to the Electoral Act, 2022, was sponsored by a senator representing Kogi-West Senatorial District of Kogi, Karimi Sunday.
It was presented on the floor of the Senate for a second reading on Tuesday in Abuja.
The long title of the bill reads, “A Bill for an Act to amend the Electoral Act, 2022 to allow political parties to nominate and replace validly elected candidates in the event of resignation, death or vacancy (of seats) of serving members in National Assembly and State Houses of Assembly and for connected matters therewith, 2023.”
The bill’s key provision is that the political party on whose platform the candidate contested election should simply nominate a replacement if vacancy occurs, as against conducting a fresh general election to fill the vacancy.
Leading the debate on the general principles of the bill, Sen. Sunday, argued that the votes that produced the candidate belonged to the political party, not the candidate; hence the same party could nominate the replacement.
However, he added that the political party could organise a primary election to pick the replacement from the persons who originally participated in its primary for the initial general election.
Sen. Sunday stated that the idea was to save the huge costs that would have been incurred by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct a fresh election to fill the vacancy.
He said, “Why the bill? It’s about saving the nation from unnecessary spending.
“Upon the death or resignation of a member, there is no need to conduct a fresh election. A replacement will simply be nominated by the political party from among its members, who are duly qualified.
“A political party may hold a primary to nominate the replacement. The purpose is to eliminate waste in conducting a fresh by-election by INEC.
“This is the practice in other democratic jurisdictions, including the USA.”
But, the bill failed to progress beyond the second reading stage on Tuesday, as the majority of members rejected it.
The President of the Senate, Sen. Godswill Akpabio, made the first observation by advising the chamber to proceed with caution by ensuring that the bill was not in conflict with other provisions of both the Electoral Act and the 1999 Constitution.
Akpabio further observed that in some of the jurisdictions Sen. Sunday referenced in the bill, members of their legislatures were nominated to office and not by election.
He explained that in such jurisdictions, it might not be a misnomer for a vacancy to be filled by nomination since it was the tradition there.
Sen. Suleiman Kawu (Kano-South) vehemently opposed the bill, saying that Nigeria, being a presidential democracy, would not accommodate the proposal of the bill.
“Yes, the ticket is for the party but the vote is for the candidate. How can a few people nominate a candidate in a constitutional democracy?
“This bill should be withdrawn to save legislative time,” Kawu told the Senate.
Senate Majority Leader, Senator Opeyemi Bamidele, also pointed out some procedural errors in the manner his colleague (Sen. Sunday) presented the bill.
For instance, he said the bill was not accompanied by a brief on its merits and demerits to guide senators in making contributions to the debate.
Although Sen. Sunday was advised to withdraw the bill, he refused to do so, insisting that it should be forwarded to the ad-hoc committee on constitution alteration.
When Sen. Akpabio put the bill to a voice vote, senators responded by rejecting it overwhelmingly.
Credit; Nigerian Tribune