By Suoyo Ekubo
The upper chamber of the National Assembly on Tuesday okayed independent candidacy in presidential, governorship, national and state assemblies and local government councils elections, according to the Independent newspaper.
The Senate, which seeks the inclusion of presiding officers of the National Assembly in the National Security Council (NSC), has, however, put a stumbling block on the part of the independent candidate to achieve its desire.
The move by the Senate was part of the constitutional alteration bills transmitted to State Houses of Assembly for concurrence last year but not part of the 35 that secured the required approval of 24 out of 36 state assemblies.
The Senate, has, however, directed the Clerk to the National Assembly (CNA) to transmit a constitution alteration bill No. 58 to President Muhammadu Buhari for assent in line with the provisions of the Authentication Act.
Even though the Senate has okayed the Independent candidacy in elections, the requirements to achieve the goal of the independent candidate is high.
For any Nigerian national to contest the presidential election as an independent candidate, he or she must obtain the verified signatures of at least twenty percent of registered voters from each State of the Federation provided that a registered voter shall not sign for more than one independent candidate in respect of the same office.
For governorship, the independent candidate must obtain the verified signatures of at least twenty percent of registered voters from each of the local government areas of the state.
The bill also states that anyone willing to contest National Assembly elections, he or she must obtain the verified signatures of at least twenty percent of registered voters from each of the local government areas in the respective senatorial district or federal constituency.
The proposed legislation empowers the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to prescribe the payment of administrative fees by independent candidates for respective elections.
It mandates the electoral body to waive fifty percent of the administrative fees for women candidates.
The Senate has also directed the Clerk to transmit to the President, constitution amendment bill No. 46, which seeks to include the presiding officers of the National Assembly in the membership of the National Security Council.
The presiding officers are the Senate President, the Deputy Senate President, the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the Deputy Speaker.
The Deputy President of the Senate, and Chairman, the Senate Committee on Constitution Amendment, who sponsored the motion, explained during plenary on Tuesday, that Gombe State House of Assembly has approved the Constitution Alteration Bill Nos. 46 and 58 and forwarded its resolution to the National Assembly.
Omo-Omo-Agege, who is the Chairman of the Senate Ad hoc Committee on Constitution Review, said with the approval of the Gombe assembly, the bills on the independent candidacy and inclusion of National Assembly presiding officers in the National Security Council membership have met the provisions of Section 9(2) of the Constitution for passage.
The Senate recalled that Gombe State House of Assembly, which was among the State Houses of Assembly that were yet to forward their resolution, has forwarded its resolution at last.
Other State Houses of Assembly that were yet to send their resolution are Jigawa, Kebbi, Kwara, Plateau, and Taraba States Houses of Assembly.
The Senate, after adopting the motion, directed the Clerk to the National Assembly to transmit the bills to the President for his assent.
The parliament had earlier transmitted 35 constitution alteration bills to the president for assent out of which 19 were rejected and 16 signed into law
It will also be recalled that on Tuesday, 2nd May, 2023; the Clerk to the National Assembly was directed to transmit Constitution Alteration Bill No. 20 (Uniform Retirement Age for Judicial Officers) after it met the requirement of Section 9(2) of the Constitution to Buhari for his assent.