New electoral law: Functional smart card reader a must in future elections – NASS

Usage of functional card readers for election to take place in each of the 119, 973 polling units in Nigeria, is to be made compulsory in future elections, going by new provisions being made by the National Assembly in the new electoral act .

This is as the federal lawmakers on Wednesday in Abuja vowed to complete legislative work on the new electoral laws before the end of first quarter in 2021.

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

The 2010 electoral act as amended in 2015, gave room for usage of manual voters registers after filling of index form.

But in the new electoral laws being worked upon by both Chambers of the National Assembly, usage 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 Jibril Dukku, at a joint public hearing held on the two different legislations being worked upon for conduct of future elections in the country, said the new provisions are contained in the amendments being made on 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 in 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 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 No6  2010 ( amendment bill ) 2020 ” are that date for conduction of primary elections by political parties for their candidates must hold between 150 and 120 days to the date of election.

Others are that expenses to be made by any presidential candidate should not exceed N5billion , Gubernatorial candidates N1billion ,Senatorial Candidates N100million and House of Representatives candidates N70million.

Others are state assembly membership candidates N30million, chairmanship candidates of Area Councils N30million and Councillorship candidates, N5million.

In his remarks while declaring the Public hearing open , the President of the Senate , Senator Ahmad Lawan said the proposed bills which are on 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 first quarter in 2021.

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

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila, in his own remarks said the proposed amendments to the electoral laws are very 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 government,” he said.

Aside officials from INEC, other stakeholders in electoral process in the country like the Director of Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre ( PLAC), Dr Clement Nwankwo , Director of Programmes of YIAGA Africa, Mrs Cynthia Mbamalu etc. 

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