Senate passes electoral bill, empowers NCC, NASS on e-voting process

Senate gets Buhari’s request to confirm Nwoha as NASC Commissioner
Senate

The Senate on Thursday passed the Electoral Act Amendment Bill 2021.

The passing of the bill followed a clause-by-clause consideration and adoption of recommendations of report of the Joint Committee on INEC at plenary on Thursday.

It amended clause 52(3) of the bill to empower the Nigerian Communication Commission, NCC, to determine suitability of network for electronic voting procedures with approval of the National Assembly.

Clause 52 (3) of the bill had prescribed that INEC may adopt electronic voting and electronic processes where practicable.

The clause, which had provided for INEC to determine electronic voting process where practicable was however, amended to empower NCC to determine suitability of network to conduct electronic election processes with approval of National Assembly.

The amendment was sought by Sen. Sabi Abdullahi (APC-Niger), while President of Senate, Ahmad Lawan, gave his approval after a voice vote.

Sen.Bassey Akpan (PDP Akwa-Ibom), however, called for an amendment to retain the initial recommendation of clause 52(3) on the bill that was amended.

Akpan’s call resulted in a round of heated argument among the legislators.

The approval of Sen. Sabi’s amendment proposal did not go down well with some senators.

A rowdy session soon ensued.

Senate President Ahmad Lawan then called for a close session, which lasted almost 10 minutes.

Sen. Enyinaya Abaribe (PDP-Abia) at the end of the session called for division, having cited order 73, which allowed senators to contest the ruling of President of Senate.

Senators then took turn to vote “Yes or No” on the retention of the clause for electronic voting process as earlier recommended on the bill.

At the end of the voting process, Senators who voted for the amendment of the clause carried the day.

The senators who voted for in favour of Sen. Sabi’s call for amendment were 52 while those who supported Sen Akpan that there should not be an amendment were 28.

28 senators were absent.

Earlier, while presenting the report, chairman of the committee,  Sen. Kabiru Gaya (APC- Kano) said the bill was designed to holistically address all issues affecting the conduct of free, fair and credible elections in the country.

He said the National Assembly had made several attempts at amending the Electoral Act No. 6, 2010, but the bill was not assented to by President Muhammadu Buhari.

He, however, said the National Assembly was poised to give Nigerians a new electoral act, thus forming a legislative agenda for the ninth Senate.

“Owing to the challenges experienced in the eight National Assembly as it relates to the amendment of the Electoral Act, the ninth National Assembly decided to adopt all-encompassing approach in the 2021 Amendment process .”

He said the bill with 158 clauses sought to regulate conduct of Federal, State and Area Council elections, to make provisions for restriction of qualification for elective offices to the relevant provisions of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999.

“The bill also provides for use of card readers and other technological devices in elections, political party primaries as it relates to a time line for the submission of list of candidates.

“It also provides for criteria for substitution of candidate, limit of campaign expenses among others.”

He also said that the bill addressed the omission of names or candidates or logo of political parties in an election and its resultant consequences.

“There are also provisions on guidelines on replacement of lost or destroyed permanent voters card; dates for conducting primary elections shall not be earlier than 180 days before the date of election,” Gaya said.

Lawan, after passage of the bill said: “We have gone through probably the most rigorous process we ever had.

“We had at a point had to go through a division, but that is democracy.

“No hard feelings and I’m sure that Nigerians will appreciate the debt of concern by all of us here.

“Those who voted for amendments and those who voted against, each one of us did so out of conviction for what we believe will be better for this country.

“In this case the Electoral Amendment Bill has now been passed by the Senate and we expect that the House of Representatives, our counterparts, will do the same.

“In any case, even if it’s a single difference between our version and theirs, there will be a committee to harmonise – the conference committee.

“If, however, there is no difference between what we have passed here and what they would have passed in the House, this Bill will now be sent to Mr. President for his assent.

“But I want to assure all Nigerians that what the Senate did was to show serious concern and care about the divergent views of Nigerians on the election process in this country.

“All of us want to see an election process that is all inclusive, that is fair, that is equitable and just to everyone, whether someone is in the city or in the villages or in the hamlets.

“We pray that this bill will guide the 2023 general elections well.

“And we hope to have a better and more improved election process in 2023.”