The House of
Representatives has on Wednesday, May 4, 2016 referred to the Committee on
political and Electoral matters, a consolidated Bill that seek to make
provisions to address the lacuna in the event of the death of a candidate, any
time before the conclusion of an election and to empower Election Tribunals and
Courts to declare Candidates who score the second highest votes as winners of
the elections. Other issues which the Bill seeks to address include to ensure
that all political parties are gender sensitive and to eliminate all forms of
A co-sponsor of the Bill,
Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, while leading the debate on the general principles of
the Bill stated that a key component of the Bill also wants to accommodate the
use of Card Reader in the Electoral Laws as well as to increase the amount of
money permitted as maximum election expenses to be incurred by Candidates
standing for elections. In addition, nullification of elections by Tribunals or
Court should be put in the right perspective, he said. Other sponsors of the
Bill, Hon. Karimi Sunday, Edward Gyang Pwajok, Uzoma Nkem-Abonta, Olatoye
Temitope Sugar and Raphael Nnanna Igbokwe took turns to adumbrate on the
desirability or otherwise of the Bill as they appealed to the Members of the
parliament to support their argument and prevent the recent electoral impasse
in Kogi Sate Governorship election from happening elsewhere.
However, the Minority
Leader, Hon. Leo Ogor had a different view regarding the use of Card Reader, he
informed that the Card Reader was almost declared illegal in a recent ruling by
the Supreme Court. He opined that the Card Reader inadvertently shuts out
several eligible voters from performing their franchise, calling it a violation
of the fundamental Human Rights of the people; he however suggested that the
system of electronic voting be captured in the Electoral Act. 

In a related development,
the representatives passed for second reading a Bill which seeks to alter the
3rd schedule of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 to
provide for Electronic Voting and other related matters, standing in the name
of Hon. Edward Gyang Pwajok.
Meanwhile, the House
resumed the 
senatorial debate on Diversification of the Economy: real sector
development during the plenary session where it played host to the Hon.
Minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbe who delivered his brief where he
advised that the way out of the current economic quagmire is to ride the lane
of self-sufficiency and to focus on export goods like cocoa and palm oil. “We
must begin to grow our own foods and wage an economic war against importation
of excessive goods”, he emphasized.

He informed that the
Ministry of Agriculture is doing well in rice and beans production, reviving
the cocoa industry, establishing a new market for bananas and conducting
nationwide survey on fertilizer. 
Chief Ogbe stated that the
Ministry is tackling the issues of competition, importation and inability to
access finance through policy direction, however, solicited support of the
parliament if the challenges are to be surmounted. He further stressed that
factors such as high and inaccessible financial interest rate for farmers,
youth restiveness, land revenue and problems of Extension Services need to be
addressed. “Nigeria has the highest ratio of extension workers to the tune of
1:10 in Africa”, he stated.
Responding to questions
from the lawmakers, the Minister said that the way forward includes having a
functioning Local Government system that will perhaps boost local production in
the grassroots, and interest rate for agriculture should not be higher than 5%.
He strongly advised against re-opening of the grazing routes across the
country, citing waste of effort as reason if the routes would not lead to grasslands
but farms. 
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