Written by Muideen Olaniyi, Abdurrahman Abubakar & Nasidi Adamu Yahaya:
An “unedited” version of the Justice Mohamed Lawal Uwais panel report on electoral reforms was sent to the National Assembly by Acting President Goodluck Jonathan two weeks ago, Secretary to the Government of the Federation Mahmud Yayale Ahmed told demonstrating members of the Save Nigeria Coalition (SNC) in Abuja yesterday. It indicated a major reversal of course by the Federal Government, since the Federal Executive Council [FEC] under President Umaru Yar’adua issued a white paper last year that rejected several key aspects of the panel’s recommendations, notably on the appointment of the Independent National Electoral Commission [INEC] chairman by the National Judicial Council. Addressing the protesters in front of his office, Yayale said with respect to their demand for electoral reforms, “We are aware of your concern regarding credible elections in this country. Only two weeks ago, the Acting President handed over again Uwais committee report unedited to the National Assembly. I will like to assure you that the National Assembly would do the necessary legislation in terms of reviewing the electoral act and the Constitution in order to have a better electoral process.”
However, both chambers of the National Assembly denied yesterday that they received such a document from the Acting President. Some members of the Senate Committee on Constitution Review (SCRC), which was said to have received the copies of the report sent by the Acting President, said they received nothing of the sort.
Deputy Senate Majority Leader Victor Ndoma-Egba (SAN) told Daily Trust on phone last night that the National Assembly has copies of the Uwais report sent to it by President Umaru Musa Yar’adua last year. He said, “We have copies of the report for a long time. There has not been another version of the Uwais report. The only reports sent were those by Yar’adua.”
On his part, SCRC member from Rivers State Senator Lee Maeba said he was not aware of any such transmission by the acting president. He said, “I am not aware. Maybe if I get to the National Assembly tomorrow I will ask my colleagues.” Chairman of the SCRC, Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu, said the committee will present its report to the whole Senate this month for further consideration.
The House of Representatives also said it did not recently receive “unedited” copies of the Justice Mohammed Lawal Uwais report on electoral reform as claimed yesterday by the SGF.
Chairman of the House committee on Media and Public Affairs Rep Eseme Eyiboh (PDP, Akwa Ibom State) told Daily Trust on phone last night that the House “is not aware of the presence of Justice Uwais report in its domain”.
He said, “As I am speaking with you, the report is not sent to the House. I know it is not a secret document, and when it is sent to us, we will do all that is possible to ensure electoral reform”. He said the House was ready to pursue the reform to its logical conclusion, saying however that they would also ensure relevant sections of the constitution are altered during the constitution review.
President Yar’adua had sent six bills on electoral reform to the National Assembly for consideration. After the lawmakers requested for it, the president also sent unedited copies of the Uwais panel report for consideration alongside the electoral reform bills.
The demonstrating members of the Save Nigeria Group (SNG) had submitted a petition to Acting President Goodluck Jonathan demanding invocation of Section 144 on the health of President Umaru Musa Yar’adua and the dissolution of the Executive Council of the Federation (EXCOF).
The petition, read by Pastor Tunde Bakare during a rally which started at Unity Fountain Abuja, was handed over to Alhaji Yayale Ahmed for onward delivery to Acting President. The group also asked for the implementation of the Uwais Report on electoral reform and the sack of the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Maurice Iwu as well as the reconstitution of the commission.
They said “The refusal of President Yar’adua to resign from office on account of his deteriorating ill-health and failure to transmit a letter of vacation on time as required by the Constitution has resulted in a severe but avoidable constitutional crisis.” They also demanded for a “Quick and thorough implementation of the Uwais Report on electoral reform starting with the immediate removal of Professor Maurice Iwu as Chairman and the reconstitution of the INEC with persons of impeccable integrity and competence.”
However, a Pro-Yar’adua group under the aegis of National Coalition of PDP Youths staged a separate rally at Eagle Square yesterday and said the ill health of President Umaru Musa Yar’adua is a natural occurrence and should not be used to disparage his integrity.
Addressing the rally, the National President of PDP Youth Development Front, Musa Yakasai, faulted the motive of the anti-Yar’adua protests.
Yakasai said that “the Acting President is the legitimate Commander- in – Chief whose ability is not in doubt”, adding that “the three arms of government are functional, an indication that Dr. Goodluck Jonathan is in charge.”
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