Constitution Review: Reps Adopt E-voting System

Nigeria's House of Representatives

The Nigeria’s House of Representatives, also known as the green chamber on Wednesday, tested its electronic voting system ahead of consideration of the report by the Joint Senate and House Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution.

Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, said the lawmakers would within the next two weeks vote on the Constitution amendment bills.

Gbajabiamila asked members of the House to inform the Clerk on time if the computer attached to their respective seats is not working so it could be fixed immediately.

“The constitution amendment voting is coming up in a week or two, and we will need the required numbers. It is the only way we can vote on constitutional amendment,”

The Deputy Minority Leader, Toby Okechukwu, also advised the House the lawmakers to take their allotted seats when voting.

“These votes are not just mere votes, they are matters of record. It will not be imagined or practiced that a member is sitting on another person’s seat and votes. It will alter our records,” Okechukwu noted.

Agreeing with the Okechukwu, Gbajabiamila said:

“This is no longer a fledgling democracy, we are now in advanced democracy. And one of the essential ingredients of that is to be able to determine for the people back home that we represent, on whether we are voting in their interest or not.

“So, electronic voting is not just about the number but about records, the pattern of voting. In more advanced democracies, it can be used against you by your opponent that this was where you voted against the position of your constituents. So, it is important, therefore, that we sit at our respective seats.”

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The Minority Leader, Ndudi Elumelu, however, noted that having to take their original seats would mean that the social distance protocol against COVID-19 might be breached. He, therefore, urged the lawmakers to wear their masks and sanitise appropriately during the exercise.

Gbajabiamila also asked if all the lawmakers had been vaccinated.

While Elumelu noted that vaccination does not contain the spread of coronavirus, he urged the lawmakers not to breach the safety protocols.

Gbajabiamila, at the plenary on Wednesday, ruled that a Senate bill transmitted to the House for concurrence should be left in abeyance until a similar bill which the House sent to the Senate for concurrence had been attended to.

A member of the House, Victor Mela, had raised concern when a Senate bill titled, ‘Federal Medical Centre, Deba, Gombe State (Establishment) Bill, 2022 (HB. 1847),’ was introduced for first reading.

Mela told the Speaker that he had a similar bill that had been sent to the Senate for six months but it had yet to be attended to at the other chamber.

In his ruling, Gbajabiamila said, “Yours has been sitting in the Senate for six months? I think fair is fair, we have to observe the rule of first in time. We have similar situations with other bills and I have made this pronouncement on the floor a couple of times.

“If any bill comes from the Senate and it’s in the House, it will be difficult for me to accept for a member to bring the same bill on the floor of the House because it will be unfair on the Senator who sponsored that Bill and sent it here for concurrence.

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“I will not accept for a member’s bill to be in the Senate just cooling off for months and then a similar bill is brought to the floor of the House and then we process that. So therefore we take this Bill for first reading and we leave it in abeyance until Hon. Mela Bill that has been sitting there for the past six months is processed in the Senate. It’s the fair and proper thing to do.”

The House however passed a bill seeking to prohibit sexual harassment in tertiary institutions.

The legislation is titled ‘A Bill for an Act to make Comprehensive Provisions for the Prohibition and Punishment of Sexual Harassment of Students by Educators and Other Persons in and out of Tertiary Educational Institutions; and for Related Matters (HB. 1006).’


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