Senate vows to safeguard democracy through electoral reforms

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Edwin Akwueh, Abuja

President of the Senate, Dr. Ahmad Lawan, has pledged that the Senate would give priority attention to the Electoral Reforms Amendment Bill after the Christmas and New Year break by the senators.

Senator Lawan, who was speaking at a media briefing in Abuja, maintained that this has become necessary “because of the urgent need to improve our electoral processes and secure the democratic gains that we have made in the Fourth Republic.”

“We want to pass the Bill well ahead of the next electoral cycle in 2023 and avoid the political heat and pitfalls that imperilled the efforts of the eighth National Assembly which passed the same bill close to the last general election,” he stressed.

The Senate president also described poverty, ignorance, illiteracy, diseases, religious and political extremism, violent crime, environmental degradation and the effects of climate change as the new enemies of Nigeria which must be fought by all and sundry.

He therefore advised every Nigerian irrespective of their ethnic, religious and political backgrounds to have faith in the country, assuring them that the common goal of the 9th Senate remain the pursuit of the wellbeing and happiness of all Nigerians.

Dr. Lawan noted that “the challenges of fighting these enemies may sometimes confound distress or frustrate us but we must keep our eyes on the ball and not despair or be despondent in our endeavour to build a progressive and democratic polity.”

“Our views on how to fight the common enemies will differ, and this is understandable in a plural society, but we must harbour no illusions about what the enemies are. Our common goal must remain the pursuit of the wellbeing and happiness of all our people.

“We may not always agree on approaches but we in our different stations are all working for the peace and prosperity of our country,” he said.

Constructive criticism
Senator Lawan said the 9th National Assembly respects the media role and will always seek to work in harmony with the practitioners in the greater interest of the country.

The senate president therefore appealed to them to always be factual and balanced in their reports, be constructive in their criticism, put issues in perspective and never slip into cynicism “because it darkens perception and distorts reality.”

He commended the mass media for being “a great pillar of democracy and free society”, pointing out that it did not just project the conditions of society and democracy; but also chronicles history for the understanding and guidance of posterity.

“You provide free society with a crucial platform for debate and deliberations. You set the agenda for development. You hold public officers and institutions to account, especially by exposing the inconvenient facts. And above all, you light the path to progress through public enlightenment,” he added.

The President of the Senate also listed some achievements of the parliament under his leadership within the first six months of its inauguration, which included six bills it has passed, four of which he disclosed came from members.

The bills, according to him include the Deep Off-shore and Inland Basin Production Sharing Contracts Act CAP D3 LFN 2004 Amendment Bill 2019, which he said was promptly assented into law by President Muhammadu Buhari on November 4.

He also gave the two Executive bills that were passed as the Appropriation Bill, 2020 which he said was “in line with our commitment to changing the current unhealthy and unpredictable budget cycle to a January to December fiscal calendar”, and the Finance Bill 2019 which he noted amended seven existing tax and fiscal policy laws.

Emmanuel Ukoh