A House of Representatives member for Gwer East/Gwer West constituency in Benue State, Mark Gbillah, has alleged the Senate is responsible for inserting 20 controversial clauses into the Electoral Amendment Bill, including the clause that outlaws electronic transmission of results.
Speaking on Arise News, on Friday, July 9, 2021, Gbillah said chairman of the House committee responsible for the Electoral Bill told House members that she was not aware of any change in the initial harmonised version from both chambers.
In addition to the removal of electronic transmission of results from the Bill, the National Assembly also raised campaign spending limit of a presidential candidate from N1 billion to N15 billion and that for governorship, senatorial, House of Representatives and House of Assembly candidates by 1,500 percent. This clause has been slammed by stakeholders and civil society who accused the National Assembly of attempting to allow the highest bidders to hijack the elections.
But Gbillah insisted that House members discovered that the clauses generating controversy were inserted when the Bill got to the upper chambers.
“On the issue of the Electoral Act, I want to appeal to the Senate because we have come to discover it is where the insertions came from. At a recent meeting, the chairman of the House committee told our colleagues that she is not aware of any change to the initial harmonised version from both chambers. But obviously, there is an insertion and I can confirm that about 20 clauses, and it is alleged that it was inserted at the Senate version. We are at a point in our country where we should not be playing politics with this issue. I wonder why people think they are going to stay in power perpetually. The world is moving forward and we are still deliberating on electronic transmission of results, something that is a forgone issue in other nations. We, in the PDP, are insisting the provision of electronic transmission is sacrosanct and we suspect that those sections were intentionally inserted so that the ability to manipulate and rig the forthcoming elections would be possible. It is unfortunate and we are going to resist it.”
On the outrage generated after the National Assembly passed the Petroleum Industry Bill which makes provision for 30 percent of profits of oil proceeds to be used for oil exploration in frontier states and for equity for host communities to be reduced from five to three percent, Gbillah said the controversial provisions were ridiculous and unacceptable.
“I don’t believe there is a conspiracy by the northern lawmakers against the South but very clearly, there is concern by northern legislators about the issue of resource allocation. It is important as the National Assembly, we recognise that unnecessary bickering will not do this country any good because in the very near future, these oil reserves would be of no use to us to a large extent because of the renewable energy alternative that is gathering steam all over the world.
“As a former deputy chairman of the House Committee on Petroleum Resources (Upstream), I am privy to the number of oil wells across the country that the Federal Government is still holding onto and keeps dispensing at will with patronage that is of no use to this country.
“I will like to advise my northern brothers that if we don’t get our acts together and do the right thing, they should know when we are allocating 30 percent to oil exploration, it is not to the benefit of the country because we are exploring what would soon be obsolete. We should just make a reasonable provision towards that part of the industry and focus on exploiting what we already have to the maximum within the shortest possible time. As someone who is interested in justice, equity and fairness, I have been to the South South and I have seen the level of livelihood that has been destroyed by oil production.”
“The provision of 30 percent for oil exploration is unacceptable to some of us with regards to resource allocation and the three percent is ridiculous,” Gbillah said.