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NASS Transmits Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill To PMB For Assent



Indication has emerged that ahead of 2019 general elections, the National Assembly has eventually transmitted the 2010 Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill 2018 which was passed by both chambers last month for assent by President Muhammadu Buhari.

A credible source in the senate told LEADERSHIP that the transmission was made last week Monday, the 25th of June, 2018.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has earlier warned that it would only comply with the amendments to the Electoral Act 2010 if it is passed into law six months before the next general election.

Prof. Okechukwu Ibeanu, who represented the National Chairman, Prof, Mahmood Yakubu, during a function at the Electoral Institute in Abuja on January 29, 2018 said that there was a six-month timeframe for amendments to the Electoral Act.

Meanwhile, the amendment bill if signed into law by President Buhari, will be known as 2018 electoral Act, provisions of which will serve as guidelines for conduct of the 2019 general elections by INEC.

This is coming three months after the rejection of earlier one forwarded to the President for assent.

President Buhari had in vetoing  the earlier one sent to him in February this year,  cited  three different reasons for doing so, one of which was the new sequence of elections included in the bill through section 25(1).

The President in his rejection said the inserted section in the electoral act violates the provisions of section 72 of the 1999 constitution which empowers the Independent National Electoral Commission ( INEC) , to fix dates of elections and see to its conduct in all ramifications.

But both chambers of the National Assembly in the new bill deleted all the controversial provisions kicked against by the President.

Presenting  report on the new bill on the day of passage in Senate last month, Chairman of the Committee on Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Sen. Suleiman Nazif (APC: Bauchi North),  informed lawmakers that the Bill was re-introduced following President Muhammadu Buhari’s decision to withhold assent to the Bill due to the following observations:

That the amendment to the sequence of the elections in Section 25 of the Principal Act may infringe on the constitutionally guaranteed discretion of INEC to organise, undertake and supervise all elections in Section 15 (a) of the Third Schedule of the Constitution;

That the amendment to Section 138 of the Principal Act to delete 2 crucial grounds upon which an election may be challenged by candidates unduly limits the rights of candidates in elections to a free and fair electoral review process; andThat the amendment to Section 152 (3)- (5) of the Principal Act may raise constitutional issues over the competence of the National Assembly to legislate over Local Government elections.

In line with aforementioned observations, Sen. Nazif explained that the Committee resolved to:

Delete Sections 25 and 152 (3)-(5) in the proposed Bill based on the President’s observations;Retain Section 138 (c) and (d) as contained in the Principal Act;Further amend Section 49 by including a new subsection (3) which provides that “ Where a Smart Card Reader deployed for accreditation of voters fails to function in any unit and a new card reader is not deployed, the election in that unit shall be cancelled and another election shall be scheduled within 24 hours”; andAmend Section 140 to include a new subsection (c) which states that “Where the election is postponed due to omission of a political party’s name or logo, the Commission’s Officer responsible for such printing of party names or logos commits an offence and is liable to a fine of Two Million Naira (N2, 000,000) or imprisonment for 2 years or both”.

In addition, Sen Nazif noted that although INEC had submitted its observations for consideration, the Committee unanimously agreed to deliberate on the Commission’s remarks in any subsequent amendment as the Senate and the House had already harmonized positions on the Bill. However, the Deputy Senate President, Sen. Ike Ekweremadu, who chaired the session, mandated the Committee to make copies of INEC’s observation available to lawmakers for their scrutiny.

However, the new electoral law which is silent on convicts of electoral offences returning to electoral politics; requires instant transmission of accreditation data and results from polling units to various collation centers.

It provides clear process for replacing candidates who dies after commencement of election and before result declaration, this is just as it introduces biometric accreditation of voters, an electronic register of voters which must be published 30 days before a general election.