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A pro-democracy group, National Executive Council of the Parliamentary Advocacy Network (PAN, Nigeria) has advised the leadership of the All Progressives Congress to shelve its zoning template for the leadership of the 10th National Assembly.

PAN offered the words of caution on Thursday at a press briefing in Abuja. The leadership of both chambers of Parliament is expected to emerge on June 13 after the proclamation by the President-elect, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

The ruling party had since released its zoning arrangement and favoured candidates for the Senate and the House of Representatives with Senator Godswill Akpabio and Honourable Tajudeen Abass as anointed candidates for the President of the Senate and Speaker, House of Representatives from the South-South and North-West geo-political zones, respectively.

Further checks revealed that the same North West will produce the Deputy Senate President while Benjamin Kalu representing Bende Federal Constituency of Abia State in the Southeast will take the slot of Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives.

But addressing journalists, National Coordinator of PAN, Prince Anderson Osiebe, declared that what the APC was about giving Nigerians and the federal lawmakers, was the imposition of favoured candidates, not zoning. He raised the alarm that the polity could be thrown into chaos if the legislators were not allowed to choose their leaders as vested in the Constitution.

He said: “What the party did isn’t zoning but they micro-zoned to individuals from those zones. That’s not zoning. National Assembly is an arm of government and it is an interference in the independence of the legislature. We believe that their independence will deepen democracy. The strength of character of lawmakers should determine who leads them.

People should emerge based on their experience, not imposition. “They should not allow the party to impose leadership on them. That will cast doubt on their independence.

The Constitution vests the powers to elect the members. It will help to deepen democracy.”
The PAN further noted that apart from the APC national secretariat, state governors were also scheming to impose leadership for the state Assemblies.

The resolutions of the group read in part:” Rising from our meeting held all through yesterday here in Abuja, through which our group took time again to undertake an in-depth analysis of all that has played out in the process of choosing the leadership of the two Chambers of the National Assembly and, indeed, the legislature across our States, the Network, therefore;

Condemns in its entirety the interference and many glaring attempts of members of the Executive at both the National and State levels to choose Presiding Officers for members of the Legislature in these aforementioned jurisdictions;

“Notes that the Legislature is a different and an independent arm of government recognized as so by our Constitution and calls on members to resist by every legitimate means, including legal actions, all attempts by the Executive or their proxies at the Federal level and the States to inelegantly interfere in their affairs or make an attempt to bend or break the rules of such a legislative House or Houses in order to accord undue advantage to anyone among their members in the bid to choose a leader or leaders being favoured by the members of the Executive or their proxies;

“Affirms that, after 24 years of practising our kind of Constitutional democracy, the legislature has come a long way and, therefore, retains at all levels its independence and financial autonomy accorded to it by our statute books and, therefore, urges lawmakers-elect never to be intimidated or muscled by any threats emanating from any Executive quarters or from their proxies;

“Again condemns the inherent loopholes in the so-called zoning arrangements of Presiding Officers’ positions in our National Assembly allegedly done by the ruling APC and the President-Elect, which have thrown the entire lawmakers-Elect, their political parties and the nation at large unto an avoidable collision course.

We, therefore, urge lawmakers-elect to take the destiny of the National Assembly as freely entrusted to them by Nigerians in their own hands, jettison the vexed issue of the ill-advised zoning arrangements in favour of a wholly open contest that will favour popularity, leadership zeal, competence as well as True Nationalistic Characters and Fervour of all candidates for various positions.”

PAN further “Calls on all lawmakers-Elect across the country to permanently remain resolute and committed to the complete independence of the Legislature and to continue to do everything to uphold same during the pendency of the 10th National Assembly and the various Assemblies in the States and reminds them that they can at all times count on the support of the people and the protection of the law.”

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