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Polls: NASS moves to make card readers mandatory

Lawan: We’ll pass new Electoral Act before March 2021

The National Assembly, yesterday, said that the use of functional card readers would be made compulsory in future elections in the 119,973 polling units in Nigeria. The legal framework to back up this proposal is contained in the new provisions being made by the National Assembly in the new Electoral Act.

The nation’s highest lawmaking institution also said that it would do everything within its jurisdiction to complete legislative work on the new electoral laws before the end of first quarter in 2021. Card reader, an electronic device for accreditation of eligible voters at each of the polling units before voting, was introduced in 2015 general election, but not made compulsory for election to take place in the event of malfunctioning.

Chairperson, House Committee on Electoral Matters, Aishatu Dukku, stated the intention of the National Assembly at a Joint Public Hearing on “The Bill for an Act to repeal the Electoral Act No. 6, 2010 (As Amended) and enact the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Act, 2020”.

She said: “In Section 49 of the Electoral Act 2010 under Issue of Ballot Paper, Subsection (1) and (2) are amended to read: A person intending to vote in an election shall present himself with his voter’s card to a presiding officer for accreditation at the polling unit in the constituency in which his name is registered.

“(2) The presiding officer shall use a Smart Card Reader or any other technological device that may be prescribed by the commission for the accreditation of voters, to verify, confirm or authenticate the particulars of the voter in the manner prescribed by the commission.” She further said that a new subsection (3) was introduced.

“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 said. According to the lawmaker, other amendment to the Act is that “The commission may adopt electronic voting or any other method of voting in any election it conducts as it may deem fit.”

She also made a case for Persons With Disabilities (PWDs) to be given special consideration, especially concerning elections and electoral process in the country. 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 No. 6, 2010 (amendment bill) 2020” are that date for conduct 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 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, chairmanship candidates of Area Councils N30 million and councillorship candidates, N5 million. In his remarks while declaring the public hearing open, the President of the Senate, Dr. Ahmad Lawan, said that the proposed bills which centred on repealing the Electoral Act No 6, 2010 for a more comprehensive one and enacting INEC Act 2020, would 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, Femi Gbajabiamila, in his remarks, said that the proposed amendments to the electoral laws were 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. Apart from INEC officials, other stakeholders in electoral process in the country like the Director of Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC), Dr. Clement Nwankwo and Director of Programmes of YIAGA Africa, Mrs. Cynthia Mbamalu, among others, were also in attendance.

 

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