By Henry Umoru
Passes amendments to Electoral Act 2010
•Empowers party to conduct fresh primaries in ‘Audu scenario’
ABUJA — AHEAD of the 2019 general elections, the Senate, yesterday, passed amendments to the 2015 Electoral Act empowering the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to use electronic voting for conduct and transmission of results in future elections.
The Senate also legalised the Card Reader introduced by INEC for voters’ accreditation in the 2015 general election, and gave INEC powers to modify the voting process if there was any challenge.
The Senate also made provisions to guide voting in the event of the death of a candidate in the course of an election as happened in the Kogi State governorship election in November, 2015.
Under the passed bill, a limit has been placed at what political parties can charge their members for nomination forms for different political offices. The sale of forms for the presidency has been capped at N10 million under the bill.
The card reader innovation used by INEC in the 2015 general election, was legalised by the Act under section 49 which deals with accreditation of voters, transmission of accreditation data etc.
Specifically the Act under section 49 subsection 2 states: “The Presiding officer shall use a smart card reader or any other technological device that may be prescribed by the commission from time to time for the accreditation of voters, to verify, confirm or authenticate the genuineness or otherwise of the voter’s card.”
The Senate also approved a provision to enable INEC transmit the result of elections electronically in an encrypted and secured manner to prevent hacking.
The decisions of the Senate followed the consideration of the report of the Senate Committee on the Independent National Electoral Commission on a Bill for an Act to amend the Electoral Act No. 6, 2010 and for other related matters (SB 231 and SB 234).
According to the passed Bill, if such a scenario occurs, INEC should suspend the elections for 21 days during which the affected political party will conduct fresh primaries to choose a new candidate within 14 days of the death of its candidate and submit a new candidate to the Commission to replace the dead candidate.
The Act under sections 36 (3a, b and c) makes provisions for tackling such an emergency.
The section states: “If after the commencement of poll and before the announcement of the final result and declaration of a winner, a nominated candidate dies, (a) the Commission shall, being satisfied of the fact of the death, suspend the election for a period not exceeding 21 days;
(b) the political party whose candidate died may, if it intends to continue to participate in the election, conduct a fresh direct primary within 14 days of the death of its candidate and submit a new candidate to the Commission to replace the dead candidate; and
(c) Subject to paragraphs (a) and (b) of this subsection, the Commission shall continue with the election, announce the final result and declare a winner.”
In the bill, the electronic voting provisions of the Act is contained in section 52 sub section 2 which states: “The electoral commission shall adopt electronic voting in all elections or any other method of voting as may be determined by the commission from time to time.”
The section however gives INEC discretion to use other methods of voting if it is impracticable to use e-voting in any election.
The passed legislation also prescribes a punishment of a 5 year jail term or N5, 000,000.00 fine or both for officials of INEC who are found to be members of a political party.
Section 87 that deals with nominations of candidates by parties for election from councillorship to presidency with pegging of the amounts that should be collected from them by their various political parties.
The Act states that monies collected from aspirants by political parties for councillorship election should not exceed N150, 000.00, Local Government Chairman, N250, 000.00, State House of Assembly member N500, 000.00, House of Representative member N1,000,000. 00, Senatorial aspirant N2, 000,000.00, Governor of a State N5, 000, 000. 00 and N10, 000,000.00 from a presidential aspirant.
The Act also limits the powers of the courts to stop the conduct of political party primaries for elections.
“Notwithstanding the provisions of this Act or rules of a political party, an aspirant, who complains that any of the provisions of this Act or rules of a political party has not been complied with in the nomination of a candidate of a political party for election, may apply to the Federal High Court or the High Court of a State or the FCT for redress.
“However, nothing in this session shall empower the courts to stop the holding of ad-hoc delegates elections, primaries or general election or the processes thereof under this Act pending the determination of the suit.”
In his remarks after the adoption of the report by the lawmakers, Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki who presided, thanked his colleagues for a job well done and expressed optimism that the Bill would further improve the nation’s electoral system and also contribute to good governance.
Saraki said: “Distinguished colleagues, let me thank all of you for this job well done. I want to particularly thank the members of the Committee on INEC and particularly the former chairman of the Committee, Abubakar Kyari; Senator Ovie Omo-Agege and all the members of the committee, who worked very hard to ensure the passage of this very important bill, which addresses our electoral process and goes on to strengthen our democracy.
“We have touched on new areas which I believe will improve the credibility of our elections and by so doing, definitely improve our democracy and good governance.
“Most important, I think, are some of the new sections we have added, in the areas of technology, the smart card reader, and collation, which has been an area of great concern.
“Collation of results after the polling units and some of the additions we put on the electronic way by which the compilation of results can be done, I think, will go a long way to reduce some of the irregularities we have seen before.
“This is a great work you have been able to put together today and I want to commend everybody. I am also happy that we have passed the amendments very early. My concern has always been that if we don’t do it now, it will get more difficult as we get near to the 2019 elections.”
The Senate is expected to transmit the bill to the House of representatives for concurrence.