A Bill for an Act to alter the 1999 Constitution to allow for independent candidates in elective offices in Nigeria, has passed second reading at the House of Representatives.
The bill which was sponsored by the Majority Whip of the house, Rep. Mohammed Monguno (APC-Borno) scaled second reading at plenary on Tuesday.
Leading the debate on the bill, Monguno said that the current challenges in the political arena, necessitated the bill as it sought to deepen democracy by allowing every citizen irrespective of political parties opportunity to vie for political offices.
“The perception right now in the political arena is that political parties are often hijacked by a powerful few and the decide who becomes the candidate for the party in any given election.
“Some people who have genuine intention to contest elections and make meaningful contribution in office are often schemed out.
“It is against this background that I moved this bill to create space for independent candidature in our political process,’’ he said.
Rep. Sergius Ogun (PDP-Edo) supported the bill, saying that Nigeria practiced the American Presidential System of Government where independent candidature was allowed.
He said that the acceptance of independent candidature in Nigeria would go a long way to strengthening democracy in the country.
Ogun said there were many professionals who were very popular at the grassroots and were interested in contesting but the party system put them off.
However, Rep. James Faleke (APC-Lagos) said that as good as the bill was, he doubted if Nigeria and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had the capacity to accommodate independent candidates in elections.
He said that INEC would have to print more ballot papers as there would be more candidates for every elective office and that there would be more litigation in the political process.
Faleke said that conditions should be put in place to limit the number of persons that would qualify as independent candidate.
In his ruling, the Speaker, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila referred the bill to the House ad hoc Committee on the review of the 1999 Constitution for further legislative actions.