The Senate has passed the fourth version of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill following the thrice rejection of the bill by President Muhammadu Buhari. It made the use of card readers compulsory for all elections in the country.
Buhari had rejected the bill three times over observed lapses in some of the sections of the amendments and advised that they be addressed.
In the new bill passed on Monday by the Senate, Clause 14 was introduced to amend Section 49 (4) of the principal Act which deals with failure of a card reader.
The report of the Senate Committee on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) chaired by Senator Suleiman Nazif, said: “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 three 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 do 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.”
Clause 24 was also introduced to amend Section 87 (13) of the principal Act that deals with the issue of deadline for primary election.
“The dates of the primaries 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 nine 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 adopted report said.
The Senate introduced Clause 32 to amend Section 140 (4) of the principal Act which deals with omission of the name of a candidate or logo of a political party.
It stated that “if at the point of display or distribution of ballot papers by the commission, 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 90 days.
‘Where the election is postponed due to the omission of a political party’s 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 N2,000,000 or both.”
The main objectives of the amendment of the bill, according to the lawmakers include “to provide for the use of Card Readers and any other similar technological devices in conducting elections; to provide a time line for the submission of list of candidates as rightly captured in Section 31 (6) and 85 (l) of the Bill; to identify criteria for substitution of candidates, limit of campaign expenses; and to address noticed problems related to the omission of names of candidates or logos of political parties.”
Nazif, however, said that all the issues raised by President Buhari had been addressed in the adopted report.
The Senate also limited the expenses for presidential election to N5 billion, gubernatorial candidate N1 billion, while Senatorial candidate is limited to N250 million, House of Representatives is N100 million, State House of Assembly candidate, N30 million, chairmanship of Area Council, N30 million, while the councillorship candidate must not go beyond N5,000,000.
According to the amendment, no individual or other entity shall donate to a candidate more than N10 million, just as section 91(10) stipulates that “a candidate who knowingly acts in contravention of this section, commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine of one per cent of the amount permitted as the limit of campaign expenditure under this Act or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or both.”
In his contribution after the presentation of the report, Senator Emmanuel Bwacha said that he hope the President will not send the bill back “to us again, everything that needs to be done has been done. It involved both the PDP and the APC, anything that will not make the bill to be assented to will be sending a bad signal.”
The Senate, after passing the Bill into law, commended Nazif and his committee, adding that it is waiting for Buhari to assent the proposed law.
In his remark, the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, congratulated the committee for a job well done, adding, “this will go a long way to improving our elections and I am sure Mr. President will assent this bill.” (The Authority)