19 June 2017

Nigeria: Ekweremadu Canvasses Major Overhaul of National Assembly, Seeks Proportional Representation for Parties

The Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, has blamed the withdrawal of government subvention to political parties on abuse by people in positions of authority.

This is contained in a statement signed by Mr. Ekweremadu's Special Adviser on Media, Uche Anichukwu, in Abuja on Sunday.

Mr. Anichukwu said the deputy senate president made this known when the Inter-Party Advisory Council of Nigeria, IPAC, visited him in his office.

He said: "Giving subvention to political parties was the case in the past, but we had to amend the constitution to remove that, because it was thoroughly abused by some people.

"They register a political party and wait for election. Government gives them subvention, then they put it in their pockets and make no efforts to win.

"To them, political parties are platforms for making cool money from the government."

Mr. Ekweremadu urged political parties in the country to agitate for the introduction of proportional representation to widen political representation in the legislature, which would in turn help smaller political parties to thrive.

"When this is done, instead of first-past-the-post system where a party that polls the highest number of votes, even by a single vote, takes the parliamentary seat, while the other parties go home empty-handed, no matter how well they performed.

"Parties will now be allocated parliamentary seats based on the percentage of the total votes they garnered in an election.

"That way, smaller parties will be accommodated in the parliament. They will know that they will not go empty-handed if they work hard," he added.

Meanwhile, Mr. Ekweremadu, who is also the Chairman, Senate Committee on Constitution Review, said the National Assembly was holding consultations with some critical stakeholders to ensure a smooth sail of the ongoing constitution amendment exercise.

He said the essence was to ensure an outcome that would be in tune with the aspirations of Nigerians.

He stressed that "we have gone to the judiciary.

"We have gone to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and other stakeholders asking them to express their views.

"We got a lot of responses. So, we are going ahead, and your visit today will help to shape the final document, which we will present to the Senate."

Mr. Ekweremadu said the current consultations would culminate in a joint retreat in few weeks to enable members of the Senate and House Committees on Constitution Review reach a consensus on issues slated for amendment.

He added that representatives of the State Houses of Assembly would be part of the retreat.

According to him, this is to arm them with first-hand knowledge of the thrusts of the proposed amendments ahead of the transmission of the alteration bills to them for approval.

He explained that the current exercise was drawn substantially from the failed Fourth Alteration Bill.

He further explained that proposed amendments would be drafted into several alteration bills to avoid a situation where the rejection of one amendment could lead to the death of the entire amendments.

Earlier, the National Chairman of IPAC, Mohammed Nalado, said the council was making efforts, with the support of major stakeholders to facilitate electoral reforms that would guarantee free, fair, credible and transparent electoral process.

He added that IPAC was already getting the support of the International Republican Institute (IRI), United States Aid Agency (USAID), Political Party Policy and Leadership Development Centre, among others in that direction.

He urged the National Assembly to consider amending the constitution to reintroduce government funding of political parties, reduction of age limit for elections, and cause persons who cross-carpet to lose their seats.

(NAN)

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