Electoral Act: House of Representatives approve card reader

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In a bid to reform the country’s electoral process, the House of Representatives yesterday read for a second time an amendment bill of the Electoral Act, No. 6, 2010 to make the card reader a credible means of voting amongst others.

If adopted at the committee of the whole, accreditation of voters will solely be by the card reader in the absence of technical hitches.

Titled, a bill for an act to amend the provisions of the Electoral Act to further improve the electoral process and for related matters (HB.1425) is co-sponsored by Hon. Aishatu Jibril Dukku, Hon. Ahmed Babba Kaita and Hon. Eucharia Azodo.

Leading the debate, Hon. Dukku stated that the bill was an amendment and consolidation of ten individual bills aimed at consolidating on the gains of the 2015 general elections and ensure improved electoral process in the country.

She said “among the amendments proposed by the bill include clarifying the status of candidacy of an aspirant that dies before the election process is concluded, what happens in the case a winner of an election is later disqualified on genuine grounds, strengthening internal democracy within political parties, to clarify the status of voting for Nigerians living in the diaspora, to sanitize the conduct within the process of the Electoral Tribunal etc.

Speaking in support of the bill, Hon. Tahir Mohammed Monguno noted the existence of a lot of lacuna in the Electoral Act as it is now, and the amendments are aimed to bring the act to the standard of the current times.

But Hon. Onyejeocha Nkeiruka spoke against some aspects of the bill, citing the clause that stipulated that a winner can be disqualified if the electoral process is flawed, asking “who proves the violence was caused by the winner?”

In her contribution, Hon. Hon. Nnenna Ukeje stressed the importance of the bill hence the need to not pass it trivially.

Ukeje cited some aspects she opined vague, especially the aspect that deals with diaspora voting as even INEC confesses not to have the capacity to handle diaspora voting, especially as the Embassies agree that they do not have the database of Nigerians living abroad.

On his part, Hon. Ossai Nicholas Ossai opposed the bill on the ground that it contradicts the ECOWAS Convention that stipulates that there should not be any amendment to an Electoral Act or process six months before general elections.

But Speaker, Yakubu Dogara stated that there must be an Electoral Act in place before elections. Dogara said that the house had ample time to correct any abnormalities during the Public Hearing stage. The Bill was put to a vote, passed for second reading and referred to the House committee of the whole.

The bill, which was referred to the committee of the whole for final consideration is seeking to amend section 33 and 36 of the Electoral Act to provide a framework that will enable a vice presidential candidate or deputy gubernatorial candidate to conclude the poll where the nominated candidate for a political office of president or the governor of a state dies.

Other amendments approved include providing that a political party can conduct fresh elections for any of the legislative houses of the federation if during the commencement of a poll but before the conclusion of an election, a candidate nominated and sponsored by a political party dies.

Also, the bill further amended section 33 of the principal act by inserting a provision to enable a party choose the running mate of a nominated candidate who dies before the conclusion of a gubernatorial election to replace the deceased governorship candidate.

“However, the party may choose another candidate as replacement in the event the running withdraws from the election”.

Speaking further on the bill, the House spokesman, Hon. Abdulrazaq Namdas, confirmed that the approved bills were different from the contentious election reordering bill.

He however informed that a bill on the election sequence will be re-introduced in due time.

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