The National Assembly has commenced amendments to the Electoral Acts 2010 as it held a public hearing on Wednesday.
The hearing was organised by the joint committees on INEC and Electoral Matters.
The bill, among things, seeks to resolve issues concerning INEC’s introduction of modern technologies into the electoral process, particularly accreditation of voters.
Efforts to get the bill signed into law by the 8th National Assembly were futile with President Muhammadu Buhari rejecting it three times.
His first rejection was in March 2018 where he said the proposed law would usurp the constitutional powers of INEC to decide on election matters, including fixing dates and election order.
In 2018, he rejected it again citing “some drafting issues” that remain unaddressed following the prior revisions to the Bill. And in December 2018, when the bill was rejected, Mr Buhari said passing a new bill with elections close by could ‘create some uncertainty about the legislation to govern the process.”
The ninth Senate, however, reintroduced the bill and it passed first and second reading.
At the hearing, stakeholders were given the opportunity to make recommendations to Sections of the bill that needed amendments.
However, prior to that, the chairperson of the Senate committee on INEC, Kabiru Gaya, in his welcome address, explained that the legislation prescribes the establishment of an Electoral Offences Commission, inclusion of women, youth and Persons With Disabilities as well as autonomy for the country’s electoral umpire, INEC.
The chairperson of the House Committee on Electoral Matters, Aisha Dukku, gave a review of the proposed amendments.
The bill, she said, will be amended to make provisions for the restriction of the qualification for elective offices to relevant provisions of the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended;
To allow the use of card readers and other technological devoices in elections ad political party primaries and;
To provide a timeline for the submission of list of candidates, criteria for substitution of candidates, limits of campaign expenses and address the omission of names of candidates or logo of political parties.
“One issue all Nigerians agree on is that of improving and strengthening our electoral legal framework. We have enough experience to show a strong correlation between an efficient and effective electoral legal framework and the conduct of a free, fair and credible election.
‘We also have concerns that the electoral legal framework of certain issues should be well settled ahead of the 2023 elections such as the use of technological devices like the card reader and electronic voting system, criteria for substitution of candidates, disclosure of source of funds, contributued to political parties, replacement of lost or destroyed Permanent Voters Card, penality for the possession of fake PVC, dates for conducting primary elections shall not be earlier than 150 days and not later than 120 days before the date of election etc.”
The bill, which seeks to repeal the Electoral Act 2010, addresses many loopholes in our electoral system by way of amending over 300 clauses which includes new provisions, she said.
On his part, the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, vowed that the National Assembly will pass the bill before the end of March 2021.
He said the aim of the ninth assembly is to achieve all the targets set in the legislative agenda and the Electoral Amendment bill is part of it.
The lawmaker said there is nothing more important to any country than electing its leaders in a very free, transparent and accountable manner.
“The integrity of the elections makes even the loser to accept loss without any grudge and then those in office will enjoy legitimacy and even respect from opposition.
“We will work to make sure the political environment remains neutral. And not a monetised or militarised environment.
”A free fair and credible election in 2023 is doable, we just have to remain focused.”
The representative of YIAGA Africa, Cynthia Mbamalu, advised that masculine dictions in the Act should be amended to ‘him, her, he she, himself, herself’ and that way, we do not just have ‘he’ to represent men and women.
For Section 31 that talks about candidate’s lists, she proposed that political parties be mandated that as they submit the list, they should ensure that it includes women, young persons and persons with disability especially for women, that there is at least 35 per cent submitted as candidates to the electoral commission.
For Sections 43 and 52 which empowers INEC to deploy smart card readers or other technology for electronic voting, she said a lot of civil society partners and the media do not vote on elections day because they work.
She therefore recommended that Sections 25 be amended to empower INEC to use early voting for election day workers, such as accredited observers, media, security personnel.
YIAGA Africa also proposed limitations for cost.
“We are saying the maximum cost for nomination for president should be N5 million and further reduce it so that women, and young persons and persons with disabilities can also afford to contest at primaries level.
“Also, introduce gender balance for delegates in primaries. For nominations of commissioners for INEC, there should be atleast 35 per cent of women nominated.”
Jake Epkele of Albinos Foundation said Section 10(3) should allow for disability status and type to be captured during the exercise, and Sections 26(8), 27(4), 30(4) should be given attention.
“Section 56 is draconian because it simply says INEC ‘may’ include us. It should be changed to ‘shall’,” he added.
While the representative of Nigerian Immigration Service, proposed border closure during general elections and wants defaulters penalised.
They also sought power to stop non-Nigerians from obtaining PVCs and want the law to legitimise withdrawing PVCs from them.
This is even as they called for commencement of diaspora voting.
The lawmakers promised to review recommendations made by stakeholders and input them where necessary before the amendment is passed.
Support PREMIUM TIMES' journalism of integrity and credibility
Good journalism costs a lot of money. Yet only good journalism can ensure the possibility of a good society, an accountable democracy, and a transparent government.
For continued free access to the best investigative journalism in the country we ask you to consider making a modest support to this noble endeavour.
By contributing to PREMIUM TIMES, you are helping to sustain a journalism of relevance and ensuring it remains free and available to all.
TEXT AD: To advertise here . Call Willie +2347088095401...