•Allay fears over card reader
Deji Elumoye, Shola Oyeyipo and Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja
The National Assembly Joint Committee on Electoral Matters yesterday allayed the fears of the public over the use of card reader during the February 2019 general election in the country.
The Chairman of the committee, Senator Suleiman Nazif, while briefing newsmen on the outcome of the committee’s two-day executive session, said 14 clauses in all were recommended for amendment while one clause would be expunged.
Nazif said at no time was the use of card reader expunged from the provisions of the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill.
According to him, the first electoral bill transmitted to the executive in February contained provisions for the use of the card during the February 2019 polls and was never tampered with in the other two versions sent to the presidency in June and July.
The committee Chairman said the amended 14 clauses of the bill include, Section 9 (1)(8); Section 9 (b)(5); Section (18)(1)(4) ; Section 19 (4); Section 30(1) and Section 31(1).
Other amended sections, he said, are Section 31(1); 31(7); Section 36(3); 44(3 and 4); Section 67(a, b, c, d); Section 87(2); Section 87(14) and Section 112(4).
Section 36(3) of the bill as amended made provision for a party, whose candidate that is leading in the course of an election dies, and gives INEC maximum of 21 days to suspend the election for the affected party to replace the candidate and continue with the election.
This clause is to guide against the constitutional vacuum the death of Alhaji Abubakar Audu, the APC governorship candidate in Kogi State almost created in the course of the poll in November, 2015.
He said the committee deleted section 34(2-4), which makes provision for a candidate whose party’s name is missing on the ballot paper to notify INEC about the commission within 28 days.
Nazif assured Nigerians that with the amendment the legislature and the executive are now on the same page over the Electoral Act Amendment Bill.
He said, “I also want to use this opportunity to assure Nigerians and indeed everyone here that the National Assembly, and indeed the executive, is on the same page with respect to this amendment bill.
I am sure you must have heard different versions but I will put everything in a very clear picture so that Nigerians will know that all of us are working towards strengthening INEC and in ensuring that 2019 is done in a free and fair electoral process. I like to assure Nigerians that we are working very hard and we have come to the conclusion.”
The chairman further assured Nigerians that this joint committee is committed to ensuring that it strengthens INEC and at the same time, the National Assembly is committed to ensuring that it deepens democracy in Nigeria.
Commenting on the third version of the bill, Nazif declared, “What we wanted to achieve with the third bill was to strengthen the second one so that it will address all those issues so that we can make INEC’s work easier.
“What we exactly wanted was a merger between the second one and the third one. We want to make sure that the 2019 election is free and fair, and credible at the same time.
He added, “We have come up with the fourth version now after the president had withheld assent to the third one.
“So, this is the fourth one, which supposes to put together the second one and the third one. And what this committee did was to at the end of the day give opportunity to every member of the committee to look at it once again and that was why yesterday (Monday) we took the whole day to allow them to go through it and this morning when we resumed we went through it again to have one solid document.”
The latest amendment, the chairman said, addressed all the issues raised by the executive.
He said, “This one has also addressed all the issues that will make INEC more comfortable and efficient. Therefore, this is what Nigerians are expecting and I want you to know that all of us have worked on this document. As a committee, we have gone through it section by section, clause by clause and we have come up with additional amendments based on this draft.”