By Emmanuel Aziken
ABUJAâ€”THE Senate, yesterday, voted by two-third majority to push through 36 amendments to the 1999 Constitution to alleviate the nationâ€™s electoral system.
The constitutional amendment proposals articulated by the Senate Committee on Constitution Review relate to the reform of the electoral system and include the financial autonomy of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, and the National Assembly.
The provisions also stipulate generous time frames for the conduct of elections and disposal of election petitions.
The vote on the 36 clauses was done by electronic voting, the first time the electronic score board was used by the Senate since the advent of the Fourth Republic.
Its use was hailed by senators who canvassed the use of electronic voting as a means of overcoming inconsistencies arising from voice voting.
Preceding the vote, Senators Sahabi Yaâ€™u and Hassan Gusau, formerly of the All Nigeria Peoplesâ€™ Party, ANPP, decamped to the Peoplesâ€™ Democratic Party, PDP, a development that was underlined by the Senateâ€™s overwhelming endorsement of the deletion of provisions barring the change of political parties by legislators.
The two senators cited the factionalization of the ANPP in Zamfara State for their action.
The Senate, however, stopped short of passing the 36 clauses at the third reading following observations that section 109 eliminated constraints to cross carpeting by members of the State Houses of Assembly.
Among the sections of the constitution adopted for amendment were the deletions of Sections 66 (d) and 137 (i) stipulating the disqualification of candidates indicted by judicial commissions of inquiry and administrative panels of inquiry from participating in elections. Senators had alleged that the provisions were susceptible to misuse.
Yesterdayâ€™s voting proceeded almost uneventfully until Senator Jibril Aminu, PDP, Adamawa Central, raised objections to the procedure of whole adoption of sections which he said prevented senators from raising their observations on sub-sections where they had reservations.
He spoke in reference to the uniform adoption of Section 131 (1) and (2) and its other sub clauses stipulating qualifications for the President. Senator Aminu had championed opposition to the provision of a tertiary education for election to the Presidency.
Following his complaint, the President of the Senate, Senator David Mark who presided at the session agreed to separate voting for the sub-clauses in the report earlier submitted by the Senator Ike Ekweremadu led SCRC.