By Henry Umoru & Emman Ovuakporie
ABUJA — AHEAD of the 2019 presidential and general elections, the National Assembly, yesterday, adopted the fourth Electoral Amendment Bill which seeks to strengthen the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, and ensure free, fair and credible elections.
Consequently, the National Assembly has agreed with observations raised by President Muhammadu Buhari, following the consolidation of the first, second and third into one document.
The Joint Committee of the Senate and House of Representatives on Electoral and Political Matters, yesterday, met in Abuja to amend and adopt the 14 clauses in the 2018 Electoral Amendment Bill.
Disclosing this, yesterday, at a media briefing in Abuja, Chairman of the committee, Senator Suleiman Nazif, PDP Bauchi North, expressed optimism that the fourth amendment bill had addressed all controversies raised by the Executive, leading to President Buhari withholding assent to the bill thrice.
Rising from the meeting, Nazif enumerated the 14 consolidated amendments to include sections 9(1A), 9(B5), 18(1.4), 19(4), 30(1), 31(1.1), 31(7), 34(2-4 deleted) and 36(3) as amended.
Others are; 44(3,4), 67(a, b, c, d 6-9), 87(2), 87(14) and 112(4).
The explanatory memorandum read: “This Bill seeks to amend the Electoral Act No.6, 2010 to make provisions for the restriction of the qualification for elective office to relevant provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended); use of Card Readers and other technological devices in election and Political Party Primaries, to provide a time line for the submission of list of candidates, criteria for substitution of candidates, limit of campaign expenses, and address the omission of names of candidates or logo of political parties.”
Meanwhile, Section 9(1A) deals with the commission keeping the Register of Voters in electronic format in manual form, printed paper-based record or hard copy format in its central database, just as Section 9(B5) has to do with the register of voters, updating and revision of the register of voters which shall stop not later than 30 days before any election covered by the Act.
Section 18(1) deals with loss of Voter’s card and replacement, just as Section 36(3) has to do with, if after the commencement of poll and before the announcement of the final result and declaration of a winner, the leading candidate dies, the Commission shall, being satisfied of the fact of the death, suspend the election for a period not exceeding 21 days.
Nazif, who explained that the joint committee came up with additional amendments, based on the draft submitted by the executive arm, however, stressed that the first Electoral Amendment Bill which addressed the issue of sequence of elections, also made provision for card reader as well as the powers of the National Assembly to legislate for local government councils, which the President declined assent.
He said also that the card reader had never been the issue, as it was never deleted from the Bill, stressing that the entire process was designed to strengthen the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, as well as deepen the nation’s democracy.
It would be recalled that as part of moves to provide for an electoral law that would guide the conduct of the 2019 polls, the National Assembly has set another machinery in motion to repackage a new one for presidential assent.
The fresh move by the National Assembly became imperative, following the failure of three earlier documents to get President Buhari’s assent.
Speaking further, Senator Nazif noted that the second electoral amendment bill, which was concluded on June 26, 2018, addressed all the issues raised by the Executive arm on the sequence of elections which the National Assembly resolved to delete in the second amendment.
“I want you to know that the National Assembly, INEC and the Executive are on the same page, Nazif added.
He said the third Electoral Amendment Bill had the card reader but noted that the President, withheld assent on July 26, 2018, which coincided with the day the House of Representatives embarked on annual recess, followed by the Senate two days later.
He said further: “The third bill is supposed to be an addendum to the second one which has 41 amendments. The third bill, which had 14 clauses and 15 citations, was aimed at strengthening the second amendment.
“What we wanted in the third bill was to strengthen the second one which was to make INEC work easier, hence we did not include the card reader.
“Now, what the Executive wanted is the merger of the second and third. We want to strengthen INEC and make sure 2019 polls are free and fair, so we have come up with the fourth version.
“What the committee did was to give opportunity to all the members to take a look at all of these. This one addressed all the issues raised by the Executive.”