By Uche Anichukwu, Special Adviser (Media) to Deputy President of the Senate
Constitution Amendment: Why Government May Not Fund Political Parties Now- Ekweremadu
…Says high level consultations ongoing
Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, has blamed the withdrawal of government subventions for political parties on abuse, noting that it was still inadvisable to reintroduce it.
He also said that high level consultations were in top gear to obtain the views of critical stakeholders about the ongoing constitution review.
The Deputy President of the Senate spoke when the Inter-Party Advisory Council of Nigeria (IPAC) visited him at the weekend on the ongoing constitution amendment.
He said: “Giving subvention to political parties was the case in the past. But, we had to amend the constitution to remove that, the reason being that it was thoroughly abused by some people. They register a political party and wait for election. Government gives them subvention, then they put it in their pockets and make no efforts to win. To them, political parties are platforms for making cool money from the government”.
Rather than government funding, he urged political parties to agitate for the introduction of proportional representation to widen political representation in the legislature, which would in turn help smaller political parties to thrive.
“When this is done, instead of first-past-the-post system where a party that polls the highest number of votes, even by a single vote, takes the parliamentary seat, while the other parties go home empty-handed, no matter how well they performed, parties will now be allocated parliamentary seats based on the percentage of the total votes they garnered in an election.
“That way, smaller parties will be accommodated in the parliament. They will know that they will not go empty-handed if they work hard”, he added.
Meanwhile, he said the National Assembly was holding consultations with some critical stakeholders to ensure a smooth sail of the constitution amendment exercise and an outcome that will be tune with the aspirations of Nigerians.
“For instance, we have gone to the judiciary. We have gone to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and other stakeholders asking them to express their views.
“We got a lot of responses. So, we are going ahead, and your visit today will help to shape the final document, which we will present to the Senate”, he continued.
Ekweremadu, who is also the Chairman, Senate Committee on Constitution Review, said that the current consultations would culminate in a joint retreat in a few weeks to enable members of the Senate and House Committees on Constitution Review to reach consensus on issues slated for amendment.
He said that representatives of the State Houses of Assembly would be part of the retreat to arm them with firsthand knowledge of the thrusts of the proposed amendments ahead of the transmission of the Alteration Bills to them for approval.
He explained that the current exercise drew substantially from the failed Fourth Alteration Bill, and that proposed amendments would be drafted into several Alteration Bills to avoid a situation where the rejection of one amendment could lead to the death of the entire amendments.
Earlier in his address, the National Chairman of IPAC, Hon. Mohammed Nalado, said IPAC was making efforts, with the support of the International Republican Institute (IRI), United States Aid Agency (USAID), Political Party Policy and Leadership Development Centre, among others, to faciliate electoral reforms that would guarantee free, fair, credible and transparent electoral process.
It also requested the National Assembly to consider amending the constitution to reintroduce government funding of political parties, reduction of age limit for elections, and cause persons who cross-carpet to lose their seats.