The amendment is necessary for improved management of the electoral system in Nigeria.
The Senate on Thursday passed the amendments to the Electoral Act 2010 to provide for tenure of Office of Secretary, Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
The amendment also specified that the Chairman and members of the Area Council Election Appeal Tribunal should be appointed by the Chief Judge of the Abuja High Court.
The passage of the Bill was sequel to the presentation of the report of the Joint Committees on the Review of the 1999 Constitution and INEC on amendment of the Electoral Act 2010.
Presenting the report, the Senate Leader, Victor Ndoma-Egba, noted that the amendment became necessary for improved management of the electoral system in Nigeria.
“It has been observed that more needs to be done to strengthen the commission and enhance the entire electoral process. The Bill seeks to improve the legal framework for the electoral process in such a manner that the election management body will handle its responsibilities effectively,” he said.
The Bill, among others, provides N500,000 penalty or 12 months imprisonment or both for any polling officer, political party or party agent who conspires to falsify election results.
The Bill also empowers INEC to determine the procedure for voting at an election, thereby removing the previous prohibition of electronic voting.
However, the Senate rejected the proposal for INEC to conduct all elections on the same day, as the committee noted that the commission lacked the capacity to manage large scale elections in a single day.
The Senators also voted against the proposal to make presidential debates mandatory before an election, arguing that election debates should not be made a constitutional matter.
The Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, who presided over plenary, congratulated his colleagues for passing the Bill. He said the National Assembly was committed to supporting INEC to achieve successful elections.
Mr. Ekweremadu expressed optimism that the amendment of the Electoral Act would help to improve the management of future elections in the country.
“I’d like to congratulate all of us for providing for INEC with the necessary legislative infrastructure that will enable it improve on the quality of electoral management in this country. We believe that with this and having helped INEC to ensure the passage of this Bill, the 2015 election would be much better than the previous elections.
“If there are any other ways we need to support INEC to ensure a free, fair and successful elections in 2015, this Senate and indeed the National Assembly would be more than willing to support INEC,” Mr. Ekweremadu added.