Saturday 23rd September, 2017
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Constitution Amendment: Why govt may not fund parties - Ekweremadu

Constitution Amendment: Why govt may not fund parties - Ekweremadu

Last week Thursday, there was uproar on the floor of the House of Representatives, following the rejection of the proposed Bill seeking to establish the Southeast Development Commission (SEDC). SAMUEL OGIDAN analyses the unfolding development
Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, has blamed the withdrawal of government subven­tions for political parties on abuse, noting that it was still inadvisable to reintro­duce it.
He also said that high level consultations were in top gear to obtain the views of critical stakehold­ers about the ongoing con­stitution review. The Dep­uty President of the Senate spoke when the Inter-Party Advisory Council of Nigeria (IPAC) visited him at the weekend on the on­going constitution amend­ment.
He said: “Giving subven­tion to political parties was the case in the past. But, we had to amend the con­stitution to remove that, the reason being that 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”.
Rather than government funding, he urged political parties 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, he said the National Assembly was holding consultations with some critical stakeholders to ensure a smooth sail of the constitution amend­ment exercise and an out­come that will be tune with the aspirations of Nigeri­ans.
“For instance, 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”, he continued.
Ekweremadu, who is also the Chairman, Sen­ate Committee on Con­stitution Review, said that the current consultations would culminate in a joint retreat in a few weeks to enable members of the Senate and House Com­mittees on Constitution Review to reach consensus on issues slated for amend­ment.
He said that representa­tives of the State Houses of Assembly would be part of the retreat to arm them with firsthand knowledge of the thrusts of the pro­posed amendments ahead of the transmission of the Alteration Bills to them for approval.
The lawmaker explained that the current exercise drew substantially from the failed Fourth Altera­tion Bill, and 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 in his address, the National Chairman of IPAC, Hon. Moham­med Nalado, said IPAC was making efforts, with the support of the Interna­tional Republican Institute (IRI), United States Aid Agency (USAID), Political Party Policy and Leader­ship Development Centre, among others, to facili­ate electoral reforms that would guarantee free, fair, credible and transparent electoral process.
It also requested 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.

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