By Musa Adamu
Efforts by the National Assembly to get a new electoral legal framework for Nigeria ahead of the 2023 General Election received a major boost on Wednesday as the Electoral Act Amendment Bill passed Second Reading in the Senate.
The bill titled: “A bill for an Act to amend the Electoral Act No. 6 2010 and for other related matters, 2019 (SB. 122)” is sponsored by the Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege (APC, Delta Central) and cosponsored by Senator Abubakar Kyari (APC, Borno North).
Recall that the proposed legislation was read for the first time on the floor of the upper legislative chamber on October 29, 2019.
The bill seeks to compel the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to accommodate new technologies in the accreditation of voters during elections, reduction of nomination fees charged by political parties as well as granting party agents the right to inspect original electoral materials before the commencement of polls.
Other highlights include mandating the electoral body to suspend an election in order to allow a political party that lost its candidate before or during an election to conduct a fresh primary to elect a replacement or new candidate; prohibiting members of political parties from taking up employment in INEC; compelling INEC to publish the Voters Register for public scrutiny at every Registration Area and on its website at least seven days before a general election among others.
In his Lead Debate, Senator Omo-Agege pointed out that the bill was in fulfilment of the Legislative Agenda of the Ninth Senate in the area of electoral reforms.
According to him, the proposed law will not only strengthen the nation’s electoral process in line with global best practices but also remove the lacuna in the current electoral law.
“Mr President, electoral reform is a major part of the Legislative Agenda of this 9th Senate. Before the Legislative Agenda came to be, you made an admirably patriotic case for electoral reform before your popular election as the President of this 9th Senate. This Bill is therefore a part of the process of fulfilling that promise to the Nigerian people. It is a bill of great significance to be considered with utmost patriotism.
“Mr. President, this Bill proposes comprehensive amendments to the principal Act. It is a response in part to a plethora of Supreme Court decisions directly or indirectly calling upon the National Assembly to act. The apex Court has persistently done this regarding INECs introduction of modern technologies into the electoral process, especially accreditation of voters,” he said.
In their separate contributions, senators who supported the bill included: Michael Nnachi (PDP, Ebonyi South), Abba Moro (PDP, Benue South) and Ibikunle Amosun (APC, Ogun Central).
They stressed the need for the Ninth Assembly to fast track approval of the bill and not repeat mistakes of the Eighth Assembly where it was passed on the eve of the last General Election, hence did not receive presidential assent.
President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan who presided over the session, put the question to voice vote and it was unanimously approved.
He thereafter referred the bill to the Committee on INEC, to report back in four weeks.