Senate: New Electoral Act Ready By March 2021

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Postponement of 2019 elections my greatest challenge, says Yakubu

Deji Elumoye in Abuja

The Senate yesterday declared that a new

Electoral Act, which will holistically address all issues affecting free and fair elections in the country would be ready by March next year.

This was just as the INEC Chairmanship nominee, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu claimed it was painful postponing the 2919 general polls by one week.

Chairman of the Senate Committee on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Senator Kabiru Gaya, made this disclosure yesterday when his committee screened Yakubu for reappointment as INEC Chairman.

Gaya who spoke with journalists after the screening, assured that the National Assembly would present a new Electoral Act to Nigerians before the end of March 2021.

According to him, there was already a synergy between both chambers and that the amended legislation would be worked on by a joint committee of INEC of both chambers.

He said arrangements had been concluded to conduct the Public Hearing on the Electoral Act amendments by December 9, 2020.

“We are going ahead of that time. On the 9th of December, we are doing public hearing, so that we can fast track the passage of the electoral Act by March next year.”

The former governor of Kano state also said the list of the four other nominees of Buhari as Resident Electoral Commissioners, including a media aide of the President, Lauretta Onochie, has not been forwarded to his Committee.

He said, “Those other REC nominees from the various states, as soon as we receive them, when the names come to our committee, we will work on them”.

Speaking earlier while appearing before the committee, Yakubu said the postponement of the 2019 general elections by one week was his most painful decision in his first tenure at the

Asked by members of the Senate Committee for his most difficult challenge, the nominee said “it was having to postpone the 2019 general election for a week. It was a most painful decision.”

He however told the lawmakers that INEC has since surmounted its logistics challenges, citing the seamless conduct of Edo and Ondo states’ governorship elections.

“But learning from that, we are working very fast to ensure that it doesn’t happen again as we approach 2023. We have learnt a lot and elections are getting better.”

Yakubu said he was determined to ensure that the electoral process was transparent and credible in Nigeria to earn the trust of the electorate.

He tasked both chambers of the National Assembly to ensure speedy amendment of the Electoral Act.

“We have to be open and transparent in the way we manage public trust. My hope and commitment is for Nigerians to believe that their votes will count. I want to see how the electoral process will benefit from the use of technology.

“We can’t continue to work in an environment of uncertainty. So, I urge the National Assembly to expedite action on amendment to the electoral act and I am confident that the House of Representatives and Senate will do it expeditiously. I hope you will give us a brand new Electoral Act by the first quarter of next year.”

Responding to Senator Opeyemi Bamidele’s request for Diaspora Voting, Yakubu said it has been a recurring decimal but maintained that INEC could only operate within the confines of the Electoral Act and the Constitution and noted that both documents have no provisions for Diaspora voting.

“I think Nigerians living temporarily outside the country who are working in Embassies should be allowed to vote, including the media and Civil Society Organisations. The ball, like I said is in the Court of the National Assembly.”

Yakubu however said the issue of low voters turn out for elections is not made serious because of lack of law specifying certain percentage of registered voters that must participate in election for it to be considered valid as obtainable in some other countries of the world.