BRIEF STATEMENT BY THE SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, REP. FEMI GBAJABIAMILA AT THE RESUMPTION OF PLENARY ON TUESDAY, 21ST MARCH 2023.
Good morning and welcome back to the House of Representatives. I thank you all for being here this morning.
The 2023 general elections have effectively come to an end, with the exception of those areas where the electoral body has declared elections inconclusive or scheduled reruns. As I said two weeks ago, this has been a hard-fought election season. Expectedly, the declaration of results will not by itself suffice to assuage the passions or calm the tensions aroused by this electoral competition. For that, we need time and the deliberate efforts of political, religious, social and economic leaders acting in recognition of the fact that while elections will come and go, our highest imperative remains the progress of Nigeria and the prosperity of her people.
I wish to thank the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and all the staff of the commission for their hardwork and commitment to ensuring free and fair elections across the country. I wish to also express my gratitude to the men and women of the security agencies who ensured the worst predictions of crises and conflict did not come to pass. Any objective assessment of these elections will show marked improvements from prior outings. This is not to suggest perfection but to acknowledge evident progress in our collective efforts to ensure elections we can all be proud of.
Amendments to our nation’s electoral laws by the legislature, pronouncements by the judiciary and operational reforms by the electoral commission have significantly improved elections in Nigeria since 1999. The amendments to the Electoral Act by the 9th National Assembly have been particularly instrumental in improving the elections process through the use of technology tools to facilitate voter accreditation and transmission of results. With each new election season, we become more aware of areas requiring changes to ensure a better outing next time. This process of ongoing reform and continuous improvement must continue. As a necessary first step, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) should collaborate with stakeholders to conduct a meticulous assessment of the election process. This is necessary to inform further reforms and improvements.
The Electoral Offences Act is one area where we must take action before the culmination of the 9th House of Representatives. The Act is necessary to ensure effective enforcement against individuals and organisations whose violations of our electoral laws undermine our constitution and threaten our democracy.
A system of vigorous prosecution and punishment of electoral offenders will serve as a deterrent to others in the future and help build confidence in our elections.
When we began the constitutional review process in the 9th House of Representatives, I said this was an opportunity to achieve a constitution that resolves many issues that fracture our nation and hinder our progress. Last week, His Excellency Muhammadu Buhari, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, signed into law constitutional amendments enacted by the National Assembly and ratified by the state legislatures across the country.
These constitutional amendments include consequential reforms to the design and operations of the Nigerian state, particularly with regards to the devolution of powers to the states and strengthing the judiciary and legislature at the subnational level. Taken together, they advance the cause of our federation, bringing us closer to achieving our highest national ambitions.
Whilst these amendments represent a significant step forward for our country, the work is not yet done because nation-building is a continuum. Each new generation must build on the efforts of the past until, by our common endeavour, we achieve a just, peaceful, and prosperous society. We fell short this time in our commitment to ensuring political empowerment and representation for women and other marginalised groups in our country. In the time we have left, we will work to understand why, as a first step towards ensuring the success of subsequent efforts.
Nation-building is also a joint effort; every significant advancement is the product of collaborative efforts by numerous people acting in different capacities. I wish to thank all those who worked to facilitate these amendments. I want to especially thank my brother, the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Ahmed Idris for leading the constitutional review process with courage and determination.
Now, our national priorities must return to the issues of governance, ensuring that the institutions of government work towards the ends of development, national security and the welfare of the Nigerian people. As representatives of the people, this is our highest obligation; it is a duty that persists so long as we hold office in the government of our republic. I am confident that all of us in the 9th House of Representatives recognise this and will continue to act accordingly as we have always done.
On that note, honourable colleagues, I welcome you all back to the people’s chamber, and I thank you again for being here.