•Passes Electoral Act amendment Bill
By Ikechukwu Okaforadi and Musa Adamu
Senate has again passed the 2010 Electoral Act amendment Bill after it was rejected three times by President Muhammadu Buhari, who raised various observations and issues which he urged the lawmakers to address.
This is just as the red chamber passed Bill, barring the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from conducting manual voting where the card readers fail or malfunction during the 2019 general elections.
This was sequel to the consideration and adoption of the report of the Senate Committee on INEC which was presented by the chairman, Suleiman Nazif (Bauchi, North), who told the Senate that all issues raised by President Buhari, while declining assents to the Bill as earlier passed, have been captured and addressed.
“Where a Smart Card Reader deployed for accreditation of Voters fails to function in any polling unit and a fresh Card Reader is not deployed 3 hours before the close of the election in that unit, then the election shall not hold but be rescheduled and conducted within 24 hours thereafter, provided that where the total possible votes from all the affected card readers in the unit or units does not affect the overall result in the constituency or election concerned, the commission shall
notwithstanding the fact that a fresh card reader is not deployed as stipulated, announce the final results and declare a winner,” the Senate stated.
In the latest amendment, the Senate also upheld the sequence of 2019 as suggested by the President.
Recall that after the disagreement between the Legislature and the Executive on the sequence of the election, the lawmakers jettisoned its amendment on Section 25(a), which had placed the presidential election last in the sequence.
It pointed out that this is in observance of the economic consequences of staggering the elections into three, given the economic realities in the country.
The red chamber also amended Clause 24 of the Principal Act which deals with the issue of deadline for primary election, to state that the dates of the primary elections shall not be earlier than 150 days and not later than 90 days before the date of the election to the elective offices.
The same section also stipulates a specific period within which political party primaries are required to be held since the unintended consequences of leaving lNEC with only 9 days to collate and compile lists of candidates and political parties for the various elections.
“This is because the earlier Electoral Act Amendment Bill did not properly amend Sections 31, 33 and 85 of the principal Act that stipulate times for submission of lists of candidates, publication of lists of candidates, notice of conventions and congresses for nominating candidates for elections,” the Senate explained in its resolution.
In section 91 of the passed Bill, the Senate said that campaign expenses for the Presidential election shall now be increased from one billion naira to five billion naira, while that of governorship shall be increased from two hundred million naira to one billion naira.
It further increased the campaign expenses for the senatorial seats from one hundred million naira to two hundred and fifty million naira, while that of the House of Representatives is increased from seventy million naira to one hundred million naira.
The penalty for any candidate of a political party who exceeds these amounts is either to pay one percent of the money to INEC or twelve months imprisonment or both, as the case may be.
The Senate said in the case of omission of name of a candidate or logo of a political party, if at the point of display or distribution of ballot papers by the INEC, a candidate or his agent discovers that his name, the name or logo of his party is omitted, a candidate or his agent shall notify the commission and the commission shall postpone the election to rectify the omission and appoint
another date to conduct the election not later than ninety days.
The red chamber also stipulated that where an election is postponed due to omission of a political party name or logo, the commission’s officer responsible for such printing of party names or logo commits an offence and is liable on conviction to imprisonment for two years or a fine of two million naira or both.
Moreover, the Senate, in the passed Electoral Act, said where there is a death or withdrawal by a candidate of a political party before the conclusion of an election, the political party concerned shall not replace any candidate but shall conduct a primary election to elect a new candidate within seven days in case of death and ten days in case of withdrawal, and submit same to the INEC if it wishes to continue with the elections.