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Electoral Act Amendments: Buhari writes INEC, seeks advice on direct primaries, others

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President Buhari

PresidentMuhammadu Buhari has written a letter to the Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmoud Yakubu, seeking comments from the commission over the Electoral Act amendment bill which was passed by the National Assembly on November 9, 2021.

Buhari, who received the bill on November 19, has until December 19 to sign it or communicate to the National Assembly his feelings and comments about the bill.

But if after 30 days, the President refuses to sign the bill and the National Assembly is not in support of the President’s amendments, the Senate and the House of Representatives can recall the bill and pass it. If the bill is passed in the form it was sent to the President by two-thirds majority votes in both chambers, the bill automatically becomes a law even without the signature of the President.

So far, the President saw no problem with the bill but was seeking advice from INEC and the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN).

A top INEC source said, “We received a letter from the President last week regarding INEC’s position on the Electoral Act amendment especially as regards the controversial direct primaries which many governors have kicked against. We are supposed to respond within seven days. I know that a response will be sent to the President anytime from now.”

When asked if INEC would endorse the direct primaries, the source said the commission would only indicate its position on the merits and demerits of the bill and let the President decide.

Another INEC official noted that the National Assembly never discussed the issue of direct primaries with the commission but only electronic transmission of results and other issues.

“During the amendment of the Electoral Act, we met with the National Assembly but the issue of direct primary was never discussed. We discussed electronic transmission of results, electronic voting, Diaspora voting and other issues. It was at the point of the adoption of the report that the direct primary was added to the bill.

“So, INEC was never given a chance to present its position. What the President has done now is to get our position on the matter. The truth is that if INEC cannot undertake the direct primaries, it will make the law useless,” he said.

When contacted on Monday, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, said the President would continue to consult with relevant stakeholders on the matter before the bill is signed.

On whom the President would meet as part of consultations on the bill, Shehu said, “The President will consult with those who he believes are important to his decision and who can advise him on the Electoral Act. And he will meet them. But I cannot draw boundaries or name specifics and say this is who the President might meet. He ultimately decides.”

INEC National Commissioner, Festus Okoye, did not respond to calls on Monday.

However, Okoye had said earlier in the month that the direct primary method would be far more expensive because of the huge personnel that would be needed to undertake the primaries.

Okoye had said the commission would also need about two officials to supervise the poll in each of the 8,809 wards in the country, bringing the total number of staff to 17, 600. He further told a national daily that the commission may need to use National Youth Service Corps members to undertake the direct primaries because INEC doesn’t have the manpower.

The Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN), had also stated that the President would take cost and security into consideration before signing or rejecting the bill. Some of the governors who are members of the All Progressives Congress had begun lobbying Malami to advise the President against signing the bill.

When asked if the President had also written to Malami, the AGF’s Spokesman, Umar Gwandu, said, “I am not aware.”

However, the National Assembly had said no amount of money was too much in the quest for credible and fair elections.

Many of the governors have rejected the compulsory adoption of the direct primary. Some even argued that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it may be inappropriate to encourage mass gatherings in the name of direct primaries.

Although many civil society organisations have endorsed the direct primary method based on the argument that it would deepen democracy, the Inter-Party Advisory Council which comprises all political parties in the country have kicked against it, saying many smaller parties do not have the funds to carry out direct primaries.

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Google set to invest $9.5bn in US

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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

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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

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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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