James Emejo in Abuja
The House of Representatives Thursday considered the report on a bill for an Act to Amend the Provisions of the Electoral Act, to improve the electoral process and other related matters.
Though the report could not be passed as a whole owing to some grey areas which needed to be addressed, several other recommendations were backed by members at the Committee of Whole chaired by the Deputy Speaker, Hon. Yussuff Lasun.
The lower House supported the use of smart card reader for the purpose of accreditation of voters during elections but backed down on the use of electronic voting for the 2019 elections as many believed the time was not yet ripe for its deployment.
The 41-clause bill, Hon. Aishatu Jibril Dukku, Hon. Ahmed Babba Kaita and Hon. Eucharia Azodo, essentially seeks to address gaps witnessed in the 2015 general elections.
The lawmakers further tweaked the Electoral Act to ensure that where there are established infractions on the part of a candidate, such individual, rather than the party ,is disqualified from the race.
In that regard, a candidate who made false affidavit is sanctioned by law rather than the political party.
Hon. Kingsley Chinda (PDP, Rivers) had proposed an amendment to suspend an election in any polling unit should the card reader fail to function, some lawmakers raised eyebrow over this.
The amended clause states that â€œThe presiding officer shall use the smartcard reader for accreditation of voters. Where the smartcard fails in any unit, the election in that unit will be suspended and conducted within 24 hours.â€
Lasun had expressed fears the clause could delay election results.
But Chinda argued that the effect will be minimal in a polling unit except when it affects an entire electoral ward.
According to him, â€œIf that unitâ€™s result will not affect the entire outcome, INEC doesnâ€™t have to go back. But if it will affect the outcome, INEC policy is that they must go back to do the accreditation with a card reader and conduct the election.â€
The amendments also sought huge financial punishment on parties whose candidates tender fake documents for election purposes, recommending up to a fine of N1 million against the affected party.
Lasun quipped that such financial burden to run a party aground where many candidates are found to be dishonest in their filings. He said it would be a great deterrent nevertheless.
All dark areas in the amendment bill is expected to be cleared before itâ€™s eventually passed for third reading and sent for concurrence with the Senate before being