OrderPaperToday – The Senate has empowered the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) in conjunction with the National Assembly to determine electronic voting process and transmission of results.
The Senate at its plenary on Thursday, accordingly passed the Electoral Act Amendment Bill, 2021.
The passage of the bill followed clause by- clause consideration and adoption of recommendations of report of the Committee on Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The Upper chamber amended clause 52(3) of the bill to empower the NCC to determine suitability of network for electronic voting procedures with approval of National Assembly.
Clause 52(3) of the bill had prescribed that INEC may adopt electronic voting and electronic processes where practicable.
The clause was however, amended to empower NCC to determine suitability of network to conduct electronic election processes with approval of NASS.
The amendment was proposed by Sen. Sabi Abdullahi (APC, Niger North) and seconded by Ali Ndume (APC, Borno South).
Sen. Bassey Akpan (PDP, Akwa-Ibom North), however, called for an amendment to retain the initial recommendation of clause 52(3) on the bill that was amended.
Akpan’s call, however resulted into rowdy session accompanied by heated verbal arguments amongst senators for over 15 minutes.
The President of the Senate, Ahmed Lawan, however, adopted Sabi’s amendment.
The approval of Sen. Sabi’s amendment proposal, however did not go down well with some senators, who were against the amendment to the clause.
Senate President Ahmad Lawan, then called for a close session, which lasted for almost 10 minutes, given the reverberating exchange of words amongst senators.
Sen. Enyinnaya Abaribe (PDP, Abia), at the end of the closed doors session, called for division, having cited order 73, which allowed senators to contest the ruling of President of Senate.
Senators then took turn to vote “Yes or No” on the retention of the clause for electronic voting process as recommended in the Committee’s report.
At the end of the voting process, senators who voted for the amendment to the clause carried the day given the highest number.
The senators who voted for Sen. Sabi’s amendment were 52 while that of Sen. Akpan were 28 while 28 senators were absent.
Earlier, Chairman of the committee Sen. Kabiru Gaya (APC, Kano South) said the bill was designed to holistically address all issues affecting the conduct of free, fair and credible elections in the country.
He recalled that the National Assembly had made several attempts at amending the Electoral Act No. 6, 2010, but the bill was not assented to by President Muhammadu Buhari.
While presenting the report, he said Electoral Amendment Bill formed part of the legislative agenda for the Ninth Assembly.
“Owing to the challenges experienced in the eight National Assembly as it relates to the Amendment of the Electoral Act, the ninth National Assembly decided to adopt all-encompassing approach in the 2021 Amendment process”, Gaya said.
He explained that the bill with 158 clauses seeks to regulate conduct of Federal, State and Area Council elections, to make provisions for restriction of qualification for elective offices to the relevant provisions of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999.
“The bill also provides for use of card readers and other technological devises in elections, political party primaries as it relates to a time line for the submission of list of candidates.
“It also provides for criteria for substitution of candidate, limit of campaign expenses among others.
“The bill also addresses the omission of names or candidates or logo of political parties in an election and its resultant consequences.
“There are also provisions on guidelines on replacement of lost or destroyed permanent voters card, dates for conducting primary elections shall not be earlier than 180 days before the date of election”, he said.
Lawan in his remarks, said: ”We have gone through probably the most rigorous process we ever had. We had at a point had to go through a division, but that is democracy.
“No hard feelings and I’m sure that Nigerians will appreciate the debt of concern by all of us here. Those who voted for amendments and those who voted against, each one of us did so out of conviction for what we believe will be better for this country.
“In this case the Electoral Amendment Bill has now been passed by the Senate and we expect that the House of Representatives, our counterparts will do the same.
“If however, there is no difference between what we have passed here and what they would have passed in the House, this Bill will now be sent to Mr. President for his presidential assent.
“All of us want to see an election process that is all inclusive, that is fair, that is equitable and just to everyone, whether someone is in the city or in the villages or in the hamlets.
“We hope to have a better and more improved election process in 2023″, Lawan said.
The bill had generated apprehension and controversy among various segments of the population, including civil society groups and opposition political parties.