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Electoral Act amendment bill: Senate backs down on overriding Buhari



The Senate on Wednesday failed to override the veto of the President Muhammadu Buhari on the Electoral Act Amendment bill.

The President of the Senate, Dr Ahmad Lawan,  after an executive session, said the lawmakers had decided to take the President’s rejection of the bill to their constituencies during Christmas and New Year holidays before deciding on the next line of action.

Buhari had withheld assent to the Electoral Act amendment bill 2021, insisting that the inclusion of the mandatory direct primaries in the bill might pose financial, legal and security challenges.

While the House of Representatives led by Femi Gabajabiamila had resolved to debate the matter after they returned from recess in January, the Senate remained adamant even as 73 senators reportedly resolved to override the President’s veto.

It was learnt that the leadership of the House was waiting on the Senate to override the President’s veto and then the Reps would follow suit. This information, it was learnt, had been communicated to Lawan.

Aware of the plan to override the President’s veto, several governors of the All Progressives Congress (APC) relocated to Abuja and began lobbying Lawan and some other influential lawmakers.

A top source said, “Many APC governors relocated to Abuja over this matter. The lobbying was led by Governor Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti) and Atiku Bagudu (Kebbi), Lawan assured them that the President would not be embarrassed.”

At plenary on Wednesday, Lawan said the chamber would consult with the House of Representatives on how to respond to the President’s decision to veto the bill.

Lawan made this known after the Senate emerged from an executive (closed-door) session to deliberate on the President’s decision to withhold assent to the electoral bill passed by the National Assembly.

He noted that the provisions of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) do not permit the chamber to exclusively take any action on overriding a Presidential veto in the absence of the House.

Lawan stated that a joint position would be reached with the House after due consultation with Nigerians to determine the appropriate line of action, after both chambers reconvene from the Christmas and New Year break.

We will consult our constituents during recess, they have a role to play, says Lawan
Speaking on what transpired in the closed session, Lawan said, “The Senate, in a closed session, deliberated on matters relevant to the workings of the Senate in particular and the National Assembly in general. The Senate, also in the closed session, discussed how to respond to the letter from Mr. President on the electoral bill amendment.

“The Senate consequently resolved to consult with the House of Representatives in January when both the Senate and House will be in session.

“Presently, the House of Reps has gone or recess and like we all know, the constitutional provision is for the Senate and House of Representatives to jointly take the appropriate action.

“The Senate also resolved to consult with our constituents during our recess in January. The Senate believes that our constituents have a role to play as the major stakeholders in the laws that we make in the National Assembly.”

But a top member of the House, however, stated that Lawan was only being clever, adding that the House had informed him that the Senate could go ahead to override the veto.

“Lawan was only being clever. We had informed him that once the Senate overrides the President’s veto, we would concur. This is how we passed the bill in the first place. He was the one who scuttled this bill,” the lawmaker who wished to remain anonymous said.

However, it was learnt that the National Assembly may not go ahead with the plan to amend the Electoral Act.

A lawmaker noted that in the letter written to the National Assembly by the President, the lawmakers were not advised to send an amended version.

He said the President had shown time and again that he had no problem with the Electoral Act 2015 and so the lawmakers would stop embarrassing themselves.

The lawmaker added, “The President rejected four electoral bills from the 8th National Assembly and has now rejected one from the 9th Assembly. It is obvious that he does not have any problem with the current Act. If he did, a bill would have originated from the Presidency requesting an amendment.

“From 2022, we will not be sitting as regularly as we should because members will be visiting their constituencies for empowerment ahead of elections. From what we decided at the House, we will not be seeking any further amendment. Besides, the President did not expressly state that he will sign the bill once we remove the provision for direct primaries.”

Buhari has so far declined the Electoral Act amendment five times. In March 2018, the 8th Assembly passed the electoral bill along with a controversial clause that makes it compulsory for legislative and governorship elections to be held before the Presidential poll.

But President Buhari refused to sign the Electoral Amendment Bill 2018. In a letter dated March 3, 2018, he said he withheld his assent to the bill because the amendment to the sequence of the elections in Section 25 of the Principal Act might infringe upon the constitutionally guaranteed discretion of the Independent National Electoral Commission which had ultimate powers to determine the sequence and order of elections.

The lawmakers subsequently removed the controversial clause and transmitted it to the President for assent five months later. But in September, Buhari again rejected the bill, citing some errors in the bill. He subsequently asked the lawmakers to make corrections and send the bill back to him on time.

The bill was again sent to Buhari for assent. This time around a provision for electronic voting was included which would boost the credibility of the polls. This aspect was embraced by civil society organisations but the President rejected it once more in December, claiming that it was improper to amend electoral laws barely two months before the 2019 elections.

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Google set to invest $9.5bn in US



Google has announced plans to invest $9.5bn in its US offices and data centers around the country in 2022, up from more than the $7bn it spent in 2021.

According to CNN, the big bet on office space was coming at a point Google was embracing a hybrid work model. The Alphabet-owned company has called for many of its employees to work in an office three days a week after two years of being fully remote.

The Chief Executive Officer of Alphabet and Google, Sundar Pichai, said, “It might seem counterintuitive to step up our investment in physical offices even as we embrace more flexibility in how we work.

“Yet we believe it’s more important than ever to invest in our campuses and that doing so will make for better products, a greater quality of life for our employees, and stronger communities.”
Google said it would open an office in Atlanta this year and continue to develop and expand office space in Austin and New York. It added that it planned to continue investing in data centers in Iowa, Nebraska, and Tennessee, among other states.

As part of the announcement, Google said it expected to create at least 12,000 new full-time jobs at the company this year.

Google and other tech companies were among the first businesses to shift to remote work when the pandemic hit in early 2020. But that shift always appeared to be temporary. Like others in Silicon Valley, Google had previously invested billions in expansive campuses and lavish office benefits for workers.

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European markets pull back amid doubts over latest Russian pledges over Ukraine



European stocks retreated on Wednesday following the latest round of talks between Russia and Ukraine, aimed at finding a solution to the conflict.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 fell 0.8% in early trade, with autos shedding 1.9% to lead losses, while oil and gas stocks gained 1.7%.

In terms of individual share price movement, Finland’s Nokian Tyres fell 6.6%, while Sweden’s Lundin Energy added 4.7%.

Investor sentiment was boosted on Tuesday following negotiations between Russian and Ukrainian officials in Turkey, at which Russia’s deputy defense minister claimed Moscow had decided to “drastically” cut back its military activity near Ukraine’s capital.

Alexander Fomin, who spoke following the talks in Istanbul, said Russia would slow its military operations near Kyiv and Chernihiv in order for peace talks to progress. Russia previously claimed that it would reduce military operations in other parts of Ukraine but then continued its advance.

Growing hope for a cease-fire appeared to boost investor sentiment Tuesday, as Dow Jones Industrial Average futures rose 200 points, or 0.6%. S&P 500 futures also climbed 0.6%, while Nasdaq 100 futures climbed 0.7%. Meanwhile, the price of U.S. benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude oil, which spiked on the heels of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, fell more than 4% to $100 per barrel.

Doubts have set in over the pledge, however, and while the Russian military has begun moving some of its troops in Ukraine away from areas around Kyiv to positions elsewhere in Ukraine, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby warned the troop movements do not amount to a retreat.

Shares in Asia-Pacific were mixed in Wednesday trade as investors watch for developments surrounding the war in Ukraine. Stateside, traders are keeping tabs on a slew of key economic reports, while also monitoring the Federal Reserve’s planned interest rate hikes.

The Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey on Tuesday showed 11.3 million job openings, higher than the 11.1 million expected. The ADP will also release its private payrolls data ahead of the closely watched monthly jobs report, on Friday.

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Lagos Assembly kicks against harassment of residents by police



Lagos State House of Assembly Speaker, Mudashiru Obasa, yesterday, cautioned police in the state against harassment, intimidation and extortion of residents.

Obasa said this on the floor of the House when lawmakers honoured outgoing Commissioner of Police, Mr. Hakeem Odumosu, who has been promoted to Assistant Inspector-General, and is due to retire in January 2022.

Obasa said Odumosu was honoured as the first Commissioner of Police in the state to stand before the lawmakers and address Lagosians on his experience policing the state.

The Speaker thanked Odumosu for his openness and responsiveness to issues affecting the peace of the state.

“It is important to call on those behind you to know that the relationship between the police and the people need to be constantly improved upon,” Obasa said, adding that men of the Nigeria Police Force need to build more trust among the people.

“Everybody must be treated with respect, dignity and honour. And that is how we can earn respect. Policing should not be about harassment and extortion but building trust among the people and making them comfortable,” Obasa said.

The Commissioner of Police, who led a team of officers to the House, thanked the lawmakers for their support. According to him, nothing could have been achieved in terms of security and peace in the state without assistance of the House.

He said he would remain grateful to Lagosians for making it possible for him and his team to effectively manage the security of the state.

Odumosu, who described Lagos as ‘mini-Nigeria’, said proactivity of the Assembly led to the creation of laws that helped the police remain successful in the state.

He said the Cultism Prohibition Law also helped to reduce illegal associations in tertiary institutions in the state and enlightened property owners and residents.

“We promise to continue to excel in providing watertight security for people of the state,” he told the lawmakers. He also promised he would encourage his successor to sustain the relationship between the police and the House, while urging the lawmakers to extend their support to his successor.

“Policing Lagos is not a tea party. Without the laws in Lagos, it would have been difficult to police the state. Don’t get tired, don’t relent in making laws that would make Lagos maintain its place as the most peaceful state in Nigeria,” he said.

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