By Udora Orizu
Ahead of 2023 general election, the House of Representatives yesterday passed for second reading the Electoral Act Amendment Bill, 2020, which seeks to reduce excessive campaigns’ expenses, ensure the strict use of card readers, ban the substitution of candidates by political parties, and end late releases of polling funds to the Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC).
The legislation entitled, “A Bill for an Act to Repeal the Electoral Act N0. 6, 2010 (As amended 2015) and enact the Independent National Electoral Commission Act 2020, to regulate Conduct of Federal State and area Council Elections and for related matters, 2020,’’ was sponsored by Hon. Aisha Dukku.
Dukku, leading the debate said the amendment has become necessary because of the flaws observed in the electoral system.
She explained that Act when amended, the maximum election expenses to be incurred by a candidate at the presidential election shall not exceed N5 billion; governorship, N1 billon; senatorial, N100million; House of Representatives, N70 million; state assembly, N30 million, chairmanship for area councils in the case of the FCT, N30million and councilors, N5 million.
She said there are several clauses, which need amendment, including the title bill, adding that the bill has the input of INEC, Senate and the Federal Ministry of Justice.
She said, ‘’It is no longer news that our electoral experiences since 1999 show a strong correlation between an efficient and effective electoral legal framework and the conduct of free, fair and credible elections. In fact, amendments of our electoral laws were long identified as priority legislation by the National Assembly because of the need to consolidate on the gains of our democratic achievements and to also address the lacuna identified in the electoral legal framework.
“A typical example is the case of the Kogi State Governorship election in 2015 where a leading candidate died after the commencement of polls but before the declaration of results. In addition to this are concerns that the legal framework on certain issues should be well settled ahead of the 2023 elections such as the use of technological devices like the Card Reader and electronic voting system, criteria for substitution of candidates, disclosure of source of funds contributed to political parties, replacement of lost or destroyed permanent voters card, penalty for the possession of fake voters’ card, dates for conducting primary election shall not be earlier than 150 days and not later than 120 days before the date of election, etc.
“The Bill therefore seeks to address many loopholes in our electoral system by way of amending over 300 clauses (including new provisions) of the Electoral Act 2010. These amendments include sections of the Electoral Act 2010 amended by the 8th National Assembly, which was not assented to by the President due to some typographical errors observed in the Bill and a draft proposal from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
‘’This is to avoid what happened in the eight assembly, when the amendment kept going back and forth. And so everybody is carried along. All of these issue needs to be settled before the 2023 general elections. When are we expecting a clean bill? You know it has processes.’’
In his contribution, the Speaker of the House, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila said that there must be a strict usage of the card reader, without the application of other technological devices in all polls.
On his part, the Minority Leader of the House, Hon. Ndudi Elumelu also canvassed strongly, for the reduction of statutory campaign funds for councillorship, chairmanship and House of Assembly candidates, if the candidates for those offices were found to be cerebral and resourceful.
The House adopted and passed the Bill for a Public hearing and subsequent third reading.