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Published On: Tue, Sep 30th, 2014

Electoral Act amendment: Reps give INEC power to deploy troops

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INEC-Attahiru-JegaBy Umar Muhammad Puma and Ikechukwu Okaforadi

The House of Representatives yesterday granted the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) the exclusive powers to request for deployment of military during elections by amending section 29 (1) of the Electoral Act.

   The decision was taken during the consideration of report on amendment to the Electoral Act.

If this amendment, as passed by the House, is signed into law, deployment of military during elections can only be done with the request from INEC.

The amended  section 29 (1) reads: “ Notwithstanding the provisions of any other law and for purposes of securing the vote, the Commission shall be responsible for requesting for the deployment of relevant security personnel necessary for elections or registration of voters and shall assign them in the manner determined by the Commission in consultation with the relevant security agencies.

“Provided that the Commission shall only request for the deployment of the Nigerian Armed Forces only for the purpose of securing the distribution and delivery of election materials and protection of election officials.”

However, this created a heated debate between PDP and APC lawmakers as the PDP led by the deputy House leader, Rep Leo Ogor (PDP Delta), argued vehemently that the proposed amendment be deleted out rightly to deny INEC the powers to request for deployment of armed forces.

Ogor’s position was countered by the minority leader, Rep Femi Gbajabiamila (APC Lagos), and Rep Simon Arabor (PDP Kaduna), who submitted that the clause could not be deleted at that stage and should be put to vote.

When the deputy speaker put it to question, the ayes overwhelmed the nays and the motion to delete the amendment was defeated.

However a point of order was raised by a member of the electoral matters committee, Rep Simon Arabor who argued that an amendment proposed and agreed to at the public hearing was visibly missing from the report.

Arabor complained that the amendment to section 31 to delete the proviso to clause 9, which stipulates that INEC cannot reject any candidate presented by a political party was not included in the report on the bill.

When called upon by the deputy speaker to react to the observation, chairman of the committee, Rep Jerimon Manwe (PDP Taraba), apologized and admitted that it was an omission because the committee was under pressure to submit its report.

In his ruling, the deputy speaker noted that “it is obvious by admission of the omission of the chairman of the committee (Manwe), I want to rule that we suspend further consideration of the report.”

No date was however fixed for the resumption of consideration of the report even as the House adjourned plenary till October 14 to enable members observe independence and Eid el Kabir celebrations.

The Senate has however threatened to pass resolutions against the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), if it failed to rescind the proposal to create additional 30,000 polling units ahead of the 2015 general election.

The Chairman, Senate Committee on INEC, Andy Uba, made this threat while fielding questions from journalists yesterday in Abuja.

“We have sent a letter to the INEC Chairman, Attahiru Jega, and we expressed our reservations over the planned creation of additional polling units across the country. What he is doing is good but the timing is wrong.

“We are close to an election year and we have so many displaced people in the North eastern part of the country. So where will the INEC put the new polling units? Wuse 2 where they have 4000 registered voters.

On what the Senate committee would do if the commission continues, Senator Ubah said “If they continue with it, we will pass on our resolutions, that will mean he doesn’t care and there are consequences.”

He said that a meeting has been held with the INEC boss and also sent him a letter to this effect. This is just as the electoral commission has vowed to sanction any political party or its allies which indulge in early campaign, warning that the electoral act should be respected.

Briefing leaders of political parties in Abuja yesterday, the INEC boss said that Section 99 of the Electoral Act 2010 (As Amended) prohibited broadcast and political campaign earlier than ninety (90) days before polling day.

Meanwhile, Minister of finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Chief of Army Staff, Lt General Kenneth Minimah yesterday shunned the meeting of joint committees of the House of Representatives on the $1 billion loan request by President Goodluck Jonathan to buy security arms.

The duo who were billed to appear before the committee on loans and debts as well as that of finance, did not show up and neither sent any representatives, a development that forced the two committees to put the meeting on hold.

A source at the committee told Journalist that Okonjo-Iweala and General Minimah did not send any letter informing the committees of their absence nor did they send any representative.

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