The Senate on Wednesday has adopted the conference committee report of the National Assembly on the 2010 Electoral Act as amended, including the section that puts the presidential poll as the last in a general election.
This followed the consideration of the report on a Bill for an Act to amend the Electoral Act No. 6, 2010 and Electoral Act (Amendment) Act 2015.
Among other provisions adopted are the timeline for submission of list of candidates, political party primaries and use of technological devices among others.
Chairman of the Joint Committee on Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Sen. Suleiman Nazif presented the report.
He said “the Conference Committee recommended that the Senate and the House of Representatives do consider and approve the conference committee report on a bill for an act to amend the electoral Act No. 6, 2010 and electoral (Amendment) Act 2015.”
According to Nazif, the Electoral Act No 6, 2010 amendment bill 2017 was passed by the senate on March 30, 2017 and in the House of Representatives on Feb. 1, 2018.
“However, some differences were noticed in the two versions of the bill as passed by both chambers.
“Consequently, a conference committee was constituted in the Senate on Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2018 and the House of Representatives also on Wednesday Jan. 24, 2018 to reconcile areas of difference that appeared in the two versions.
“The committee met and deliberated on the two versions of the bill. After exhaustive deliberations, the committee noticed noticed seven areas of differences in section 36 (3), 49(2), 53(2), 63(4), 78(4),” he said.
The lawmaker further explained that the committee in considering the House version in sections 25(1) and 8 (9A, a and b) dealing with sequence of elections and political parties primaries, “unanimously adopted the provisions in its entirety to ensure orderliness.”
Contributing, Sen. Kabiru Gaya (APC-Kano) said “ we appreciate your concern on the opinion of both sides.
“I will like to raise this issue on point of order 87(c) which stipulates that the conference committee shall deliberate only between the Senate and the House of Representatives.
“The conference committee shall not insert in its report, any matter not committed to it by either the Senate or the House of Representatives.
“Mr President, this report on sequence of elections was never discussed in the Senate. So why are we bringing it here,” Gaya said.
Similarly, Sen. Abdullahi Adamu (APC-Nasarawa) raised a a Constitutional Point of Order.
“Section 76 of the constitution with reference to the matter in discussion stipulates that election to each houses of the National Assembly shall be held on the date to be appointed by INEC,” he said.
In his remarks, the President of the Senate Dr Bukola Saraki said “as I keep on emphasising, institutions are what are important.
“As senators we have to finish our time and go, we must continue to strengthen institutions and by so doing we must follow the procedures that are also laid at all times.
“For conference report, it has been the procedure and as such with all due respect I have to rule you out of order.
“I know, every politics is local. As much as it is local, we also have to maintain the integrity of these institutions,” Saraki said.
Eight Amendments to the Electoral Act:
1. INSTANT TRANSMISSION OF RESULTS: The overarching objective of this new electoral act is to reduce human interference in the electoral process and minimise corruption. In this regard, the Electoral Act amendment mandates the immediate transmission of voting results from polling units to collation centres. This will help to give real-time results and updates and end election malpractice.
2. ONLINE PUBLICATION OF VOTER REGISTERS: This amendment provides a fair and more level playing ground for all contestants by mandating INEC to publish all voter registers 30 days before the election. This will end the manipulation of voter registers. In the case of missing names on the voter register, voters have 30 days to complain to INEC.
3. FULL BIOMETRIC ACCREDITATION: The Electoral Act amendment gives INEC powers to utilise full biometric accreditation of voters with smart card readers and/or other technological devices, as INEC may introduce for elections from time to time.
4. RESTRICTION OF ARBITRARY QUALIFICATIONS: The Electoral Act amendment ensures that political parties can no longer impose arbitrary qualification criteria on candidates. This will encourage younger voters to contest, promote competition in the process, and make elections more free and fair.
5. CONFLICT RESOLUTION MECHANISMS: The Electoral Act amendment sets out a more rigorous process for the determination of candidates, as well as creates dispute resolution mechanisms that will allow those who are aggrieved to petition quickly.
6: MAXIMUM EXPENSES: The Electoral Act amendment sets out the maximum expenses that can be incurred by every politician who is seeking election, as well as designates the fees that aspirants will pay to political parties to purchase forms. This means that our elections will no longer be about money and politics, but about competence.
7. SUBSTITUTION, RESIGNATION & REPLACEMENT: The Electoral Act amendment ensures that the names of candidates must be submitted not earlier than 90 days before the election, and not later than 60 days before the election. Additionally, candidates can only be substituted not later than 30 days before the election. Additionally, in the case of resignations, the person who is resigning must do so physically (in-person) — and his/her resignation letter will be transmitted to INEC.
8. DEATH: The Electoral Act amendment specifies that in the case of a death occurring before an election, such election will be suspended for 21 days and a replacement will be done within 14 days — the remaining the 7 days will be used for campaigning.