N’Assembly Pledges to Legalise SCR as Yakubu Begins Second Term

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•To pass electoral act amendment bill Q1 2021

By Chuks Okocha

Prof. Mahmood Yakubu yesterday began his second and final tenure as chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) with a pledge to improve on the nation’s electoral processes, with a view to delivering better elections.

Yakubu took his oath of office before President Muhammadu Buhari as part of activities of the 27th virtual Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting, which held in Abuja.

His pledge to give the nation better elections coincided with the National Assembly’s commitment to provide the legal framework for the deployment of smart card readers in future elections.

Buhari had reappointed Yakubu as INEC chairman for another five-year term on October 27, making him the first incumbent to get a second term after the Senate ratified his nomination on December 1.

Speaking after he was sworn in, Yakubu, who will take over from Air Vice Marshal Ahmed Mu’azu, who held forth at the expiration of his first term, urged Nigerians to expect better elections in his second term.

His first term had come under criticism, especially for the spate of elections declared inconclusive under his watch.

He said: “We have clearly demonstrated in recent elections that elections are getting better and they will continue to get better.

“The National Assembly is holding a public hearing on the amendment of the electoral legal framework. This is important and this time around, working with the National Assembly, we’ll ensure a speedy passage of the amendment bill and once it is assented to, it will help us enormously in confronting the challenges ahead.

“The preparations for 2023 general election have proceeded in earnest, we need certainty and, therefore, the electoral legal framework is fundamental, without which we cannot formulate our regulations and guidelines. Without our regulations and guidelines, we cannot conclude work on the manual for the training of ad-hoc staff for the elections.”

N’Assembly Commits to Legalising Smart Card Reader

Also yesterday, the National Assembly expressed its commitment to speed up the passage of the amendment to the Electoral Act to make the use of functional card readers for elections in each of the 8,803 polling units in Nigeria compulsory.

It vowed to complete legislative work on the new Electoral Act before the end of the first quarter of 2021.

Card readers, an electronic device for accreditation of eligible voters at each of the polling units before voting was introduced in the 2015 general election, but not made compulsory for an election to take place in the event of malfunctioning.

The 2010 Electoral Act, as amended in 2015, gave room for the use of manual voters’ registers after filling of index form.

But in the new Electoral Act in the works, the use of functional card readers for accreditation of voters will be made compulsory in future elections.

Explaining the new provisions, the Chairman, House Committee on Electoral Matters, Hon Aishatu Dukku, said at a joint public hearing held on the two different legislations being worked upon for the conduct of future elections, that the new provisions are contained in the amendments being made to section 49 of the 2010 Electoral Act.

According to her, a new subsection(3) is introduced, which provides thus: “Where a smart card reader deployed for accreditation of voters fails to function in any unit and a fresh card reader is not deployed, the election in that unit shall be cancelled and another election shall be scheduled within 24 hours.”

She added that new amendments are also being sought to sections 52(2), and 63 of the proposed bill.
The proposed amendment in section 52(2) states: “In 2015, this section was amended to give INEC the discretion to determine the procedure for voting.

“Now it seeks to further amend the provision to allow the commission to conduct elections by electronic voting or any other method of voting as it may seem fit.”

Section 63(4) of the proposed laws makes provision for transmission of election results conducted at each of the polling units to the first level of collation of results to which the polling unit belongs in the constituency where the election is held.

Other new provisions in the bill titled “Repeal of the Electoral Act No.6 2010 (amendment bill) 2020” are that date for the conduct of primary elections by political parties for their candidates must hold between 120 and 150 days to the date of the election.

Others are that expenses to be made by any presidential candidate should not exceed N5 billion, gubernatorial candidates N1 billion, senatorial candidates N100 million and House of Representatives candidates N70 million.

Others are state Assembly membership candidates N30 million, local government chairmanship candidates N30 million and N5 million for councillorship candidates.

In his remarks, while declaring the public hearing open, the President of the Senate, Dr. Ahmad Lawan, said the proposed bills, which are repealing the Electoral Act No 6. 2010 for a more comprehensive one and enacting Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Act 2020 will be passed before the end of the first quarter of 2021.

According to him, more than 85 requests were made by various stakeholders for amendments, which will be critically looked into to give Nigerians more credible electoral process.

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, also said the proposed amendments to the electoral laws are important for both politics and governance in Nigeria.

“Until we fix the way we do politics in Nigeria, we cannot fix the way we run the government,” he said.