House Revisits, Amends Electoral Amendment Bill 2018

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Shola Oyeyipo in Abuja

The House of Representatives yesterday revisited the gray areas identified by President Muhammadu Buhari as reasons for withholding his assent to the Electoral Act Amendment Bill 2018 and amended the clauses to suit the president’s desires.

The Chairman, House Committee on Rules and Business and member representing Jos South/Jos East federal constituency of Plateau State, Hon. Edward Pwajok (SAN) had last Tuesday, moved a motion urging his colleagues to revisit the amendment bill in the interest of Nigeria.

The amendments were later carried out yesterday at the Committee of the Whole chaired by Speaker Yakubu Dogara.

According to Pwajok, the amendments were important because Buhari opted to withhold his assent last December 2018, on the grounds that there were some drafting issues that needed to be corrected.

He, therefore, implored his colleagues to consider looking at the clauses the president pointed out in the bill that required reconsideration.

Some of the areas the president noted in the amendment bill were Section 5, amending section 18 of the Principal Act, which he said should indicate the subsection to which the substitution of the figure ‘30’ for the figure ‘60’ is to be effected.

“B. Section 11, amending Section 36 should indicate the subsection in which the provision is to be introduced.

“C. Section 24, which amends Section 85(1) should be redrafted in full as the introduction of the “electing” to the sentence may be interpreted to mean that the political parties may give 21 days’ notice of the intention to merge, as opposed to the 90 days provided in Section 84(2) of the Electoral Act, which provides the provision for merger of political parties.”

“D. The definition of the term “Ward Collection Officer” should be revised to reflect a more descriptive definition than the capitalized and undefined term “Registration Area Collation Officer.”

If the amendment receives presidential assent, the scenario in Kogi State when former Kogi State governor and All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate in the November 21, 2015, governorship election, Prince Abubakar Audu, who died 22 November while the electoral process was still on, paving the way for incumbent Governor Yahya Bello, will never reoccur.

If a party loses its candidate, who is leading in an election before the result is declared, fresh primary would have to be conducted to elect a new candidate within seven days of the death and the name must be submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

Another aspect of the amendment is that INEC would no longer have the power to declare result in an election where a candidate dies before the conclusion of the process. The electoral umpire would have to suspend the election for a period not more than 21 days.

While considering the report, the lawmakers also adopted three new clauses, subsection 1 of Section 18 of the Principal Act. This amendment seeks that any electoral officer apprehended for issuing a Permanent Voter Card (PVC) to any voter less than 30 days before election will be liable to five years imprisonment or a fine of N5million or both.

The new subsection (2) proposes: “If the Electoral Officer or any other officer is satisfied as to the circumstances of the loss, destruction, defacement or damage of the Voters‘Card, he shall issue to the voter a replacement of Permanent Voter Card.

New subsection (3) states: “No person shall issue a replacement of a permanent voters’ card to any voter on polling day or less than thirty (30) days before polling day.

The new subsection (4) says: “Any person who contravenes subsection (3) of this section commits an offence and is liable on conviction to 5 years imprisonment or a fine of N5, 000,000.00 or both”.

Section 36(1) of the Principal Act was also amended by (3) inserting after the word “days” and “proviso.”