The House of Representatives yesterday passed for a second reading, an amendment bill to the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended).
The amendment seeks to bar electoral officers from engaging in partisan politics within five years of retirement, resignation and official relief of duties.
Chairman, House Committee on House Services, Hon. Olawale Raji, who sponsored the bill expressed optimism that the amendment would checkmate the observed lacuna in the Principal Act and in turn strengthen the nations democratic principles.
In his lead debate, Raji proposed amendment to the Electoral Act by creating a new sub-section 2 in Section 146, which provides that: (2) “a person who holds or has held office as a member of the Commission appointed by the President by virtue of the 3rd Schedule, Part 1(F) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and Resident Electoral Commissioner appointed under the Act shall not, until after a period of five years immediately after retirement, resignation or official relief of duties, be qualified for any elective office in Nigeria.”
While stressing the need to cure the lacuna created in Section 40 of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria which stipulates that “every Nigerian is free to belong to any political party, trade union or any other association for the protection of his/her interest, Raji argued that, “the import of the above provision is to the effect that every Nigerian adult has the inherent/Constitutional right to participate freely during an election and cannot be disenfranchise unduly.”
“However, by virtue of Section 45(1) of the 1999 Constitution as amended, it provides that nothing in Section 40 of the Constitution shall invalidate any law that is reasonably justifiable in a democratic society, with respect to the interest of defence, public safety, public order, public morality or public health or for the purpose of protecting the rights and freedom of other persons”.
“The import of the above is to the effect that the provisions of section 40 of the Constitution will not invalidate any law of the National Assembly that is tailored towards the protection of public order and morality”.
“In the light of the above, I submit that the level of information available to a National Electoral Commissioner and the Resident Electoral Commissioner respectively, during their period of service as electoral staff, of which the general public is not privy to especially the methods and the procedures on how elections are conducted, it has become imperative to restrict them from taking part in aspiring for elective positions in government for a period of at least five years of their disengagement from the commission. This is to ensure that such officers have lost touch with recent events in the Electoral commission.”