House Concurs with Senate, Passes Electoral Act Amendment Bill

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  • APC, PDP commend passage

Adedayo Akinwale and Shola Oyeyipo in Abuja

The Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill 2018 scaled the final hurdle at the National Assembly wednesday as the House of Representatives concurred with the Senate and passed draft legislation aimed at making the nation’s electoral process cleaner and more transparent.

The Senate had passed the alteration bill on Tuesday and awaited the House’s concurrence, which was done wednesday.
It would now be transmitted to President Muhammadu Buhari, who had returned it thrice, for assent.

The two leading parties in the country, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), were full of praises for the federal legislature for the passage of the bill, saying it was a commendable act.
The PDP, however, urged the president to assent to the bill without further delay.

The House considered and adopted the bill after adopting the report by the joint Senate and House Committee on the bill presented by the Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Electoral and Political Party Matters, Hon. Aishatu Dukku.
Hon. Orker Jev moved the motion for the consideration and it was seconded by Dukku. The motion was voted on and passed.

The House, however, deferred further consideration of the remaining clauses of the bill. Some of the sections of the original electoral act amended were; 31, 33, 34, 38, 44, 67, 76, 78, 82, 85, 87,91, 99, 112, 120,138, 143, 151, and the Schedule.

Buhari had declined assent to the bill thrice, referring drafting issues as well as inclusion of clauses that might amount to infraction of the 1999 Constitution as amended.
The joint committee had considered all the issues raised by the president on the returned bills and reflected the correction in the new bill.

Dukku told the House that the bill made provision for the use of card readers and any other technological devices in conducting elections and that the timeline for the submission of lists of candidates was captured in Section 31(6) and 85(1) of the bill.

The amended bill is meant to identify criteria for substitution of candidates, limits of campaign expenses as well as address problems related to the omission of names of candidates or logo of political parties.
According to her, “Clause 4, amends Section 18 of the Principal Act, which deals with erroneous cross-references made in the bill that was sent earlier for assent. Clause 10, amends Section 36 (3) of the Principal Act that deals with qualifying language.

“Clause 14, amends Section 49 (4) of the Principal Act that deals with where a smart card reader deployed for accreditation of voters fails to function in any polling unit and a fresh card reader is not deployed three hours before the close of the election in that unit, then the election shall not hold but be rescheduled and conducted within 24 hours, thereafter, provided that where the total possible votes from all the affected card readers in the unit or units does not affect the overall result in the constituency or election concerned, the commission shall notwithstanding the fact that a fresh card reader is not deployed as stipulated, announce the final results and declare a winner.

“Clause 24, amends Section 87 (13) of the principal act that deals with the issue of a deadline for primary election. The dates of the primaries shall not be earlier than 150 days and not later than 90 days before the date of the election to the elective offices.”

Dukku said this is because the earlier Electoral Act Amendment Bill did not properly amend Sections 31, 33 and 85 of the principal act that stipulate times for submission of lists of candidates, publication of lists of candidates, notice of conventions and congresses for nominating candidates for elections.
Clause 32 amends Section 140 (4) of the principal act that deals with the omission of the name of a candidate or logo of a political party.

The House also set campaign spending limits for presidential elections at N5bn, governorship at N1bn, senate 500m and House of Representatives N250m.

Responding to the passage of the bill, the PDP described it as a welcome development.
The party’s National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, while speaking with THISDAY on phone yesterday, said the president should immediately sign the bill into law in view of its urgency, adding that the general election was around the corner.

According to him, “It is a welcome development, we just hope that the president will sign it. We have election in February, so the president should sign it without further delay.”
The APC was similarly persuaded, saying it would support any amendment to the country’s electoral law that could improve the conduct of elections.

The party’s National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Lanre Isa-Onilu, who reacted to the passage of the bill yesterday said the party would be happy if the amendment could help to make elections more free and fair.
Isa-Onilu who spoke to THISDAY on telephone said, “We welcome the passage of the bill and we will be happy if at the end of the day, it represents what is in the best interest of the country.

“Any such bill that will enhance the capacity of INEC to hold a free and fair election, we will be happy about it. However, we will have to study the bill passed and then we will have a comprehensive reaction on it.”

On whether APC would want the president to sign the bill into law as passed, the spokesman said, “The party cannot be separated from the president; it is the ruling party. The question of whether we will ask him to sign the bill or not does not arise. Whatever action taken by the president is in the best interest of the country and that is on behalf of the ruling party.”