Damilola Oyedele in Abuja
A bill to make provisions to cover the vacuum in the event that a governorship candidate dies before the conclusion of elections, thursday passed second reading in the House of Representatives.
Sponsored by the Majority Leader, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila and six others, the bill seeks to amend the Electoral Act 2010 to empower election tribunals and courts to declare the deputy governorship candidates as winners in the event of death of the governorship aspirant.
It also seeks the declaration of the candidate with the second highest vote as winner, if the tribunal finds that the winner of the election is not unqualified ab initio.
The bill is intended to address issues such as the thrown up when the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr. Abubakar Audu, died before the conclusion of the last governorship elections in Kogi State, making Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) the election inconclusive.
The Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Mr. Abubakar Malami, had posited that the APC can substitute the late Audu with the second placed candidate in the party primaries, now Governor Yahya Bello.
The deputy governorship candidate to Audu, Hon. James Faleke who is currently in court challenging Bello being picked as Audu’s replacement, was absent from plenary.
The sponsors of the bill also seek the inclusion of use of the card reader into the Electoral Act, and the elimination of all forms of discrimination in political parties.
Gbajabiamila in his argument, said the inclusion would codify what is already part of the process.
“The courts have insisted that the card reader is an in-house regulation of the electoral umpire, INEC and that it’s not embedded in the Electoral Act. And for that reason the Supreme did not recognise it as law,” he said.
“It is for this reason that this part of our law that can be amended by this amendment bill that says accreditation can be with the use of a card reader, and that anyone who cannot be accredited by the electronic card reader, shall not be eligible to vote. And then it goes further to say that provided that when the electronic card reader malfunctions and incidence form shall be filled and subsequently the person shall be allowed to vote,” the majority leader added.
The Minority Leader, Hon. Leo Ogor, also harped on the need for a clearly articulated electronic voting system.
The House also passed through second reading a Bill for an Act to Alter the Third Schedule of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, to provide for Electronic Voting and for Other Related Matters.