On Tuesday, the Senate instructed the Clerk of the National Assembly to send a bill to the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), which aims to establish provisions for independent candidacy in elections at various levels, from local government to the national level.

According to the bill, in order for an individual to run as an independent candidate in a presidential election, they would need to gather verified signatures from at least 20% of registered voters in each of the 36 states of the federation. It is specified that a registered voter cannot sign for more than one independent candidate for the same office.

In the case of the governorship election, the proposed bill mandates that an independent candidate must gather verified signatures from at least 20% of registered voters in each local government area of the state.

Similarly, for individuals aspiring to contest National Assembly elections, the bill stipulates that they must acquire verified signatures from at least 20% of registered voters in each local government area within the respective senatorial district or federal constituency.

The proposed bill grants the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) the authority to set administrative fees that independent candidates must pay for their participation in elections. However, the bill also requires INEC to waive 50% of the administrative fees for women candidates and others as specified.

Following the provisions of the Authentication Act, the Constitution Alteration Bill No. 58 will be sent to the President for further action.

The Clerk of the National Assembly has been instructed to send Constitution Amendment Bill No. 46 to the President. This bill aims to add the presiding officers of the National Assembly to the membership of the National Security Council.

These two proposals were included in the Constitution Alteration Bills that were sent to state Houses of Assembly for approval last year. However, they did not receive the necessary approval from 24 out of the 36 state assemblies, unlike the 35 other bills that were successfully approved.

During Tuesday’s plenary, the Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege, informed his colleagues that the Gombe State House of Assembly had approved Constitution Alteration Bill Nos. 46 and 58 and had sent its resolution to the National Assembly.

Omo-Agege, who also serves as the Chairman of the Senate Ad Hoc Committee on Constitution Review, stated that with the approval of the Gombe Assembly, the bills regarding independent candidacy and the inclusion of National Assembly presiding officers in the National Security Council members have fulfilled the requirements of Section 9(2) of the Constitution and can now proceed for passage.

Upon adopting the motion, the Senate instructed the Clerk of the National Assembly to send the bills to the President for his approval.

In response to the proposed candidacy, Victor Oye, the National Chairman of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, shared his perspective on the matter in an interview with The PUNCH on Tuesday. He regarded the proposal as a facilitator of democracy, emphasizing its potential significance if it successfully undergoes constitutional amendment scrutiny in the legislative process.

He expressed, “This provision is innovative and will require time for Nigerians to fully grasp its implications. Even in the United States of America, it has not been fully embraced, let alone in Nigeria. Nevertheless, it will contribute to the progress of our democracy and enhance our democratic process. We support it, and we believe it will not weaken political parties in any way.”

Furthermore, the National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba, commented, “Currently, it is only a proposal. It has a long way to go because for a constitutional amendment to be passed, it requires a two-thirds majority vote from the states of the federation. That has not occurred yet, so discussing its potential impact on political parties is premature.”

Wale Egbeola-Martins, the National Publicity Secretary of the Young Progressives Party, expressed his views, stating, “This is a positive development, and it will not undermine the strength of political parties in any manner.”