Senators bicker over new provisions in electoral amendment bill

OrderPaperToday- The Senate has referred a revised Electoral Amendment bill to its committee on Electoral Matters.

The bill was initially rejected on the 3rd of March because it sought to reorder the sequence of elections. It was then reintroduced on the 27th of March, transmitted subsequently, but failed to gain the president’s assent.

The most recent rejection came on the 3rd of September when a Presidential aide, Ita Enang, explained that the bill was not signed due to “some drafting issues” that the lawmakers did not address in prior revisions.

Leading the debate on the bill, the Chairman of the committee on Electoral Matters, Suleiman Nazif, stated that President Buhari’s observations ranged from card readers to election sequence, cross referencing and others.

Nazif denied allegations that the lawmakers excluded the section supporting the use of card readers, stating that it “has always been part of the amendment process.”

He explained: “Failure of card reader – section 49(3): where a smart card reader fails to function in any unit, and a fresh card reader is not deployed, election in that unit shall be cancelled and another election shall be scheduled within 24 hours.”

Section 91(1) to 92 (7) discloses spending limits in elections, pegged at N5 million for councillorship; N30 million for Chairmanship and State Assembly; N70 million and N100 million for House of Representatives and the Senate respectively; N1 billion for governorship and N5 billion for presidency.

Other provisions include Section 91(9)(10) that states no individual can donate more than N10 million to a candidate’s campaign and sets a penalty of 12 months imprisonment for contravention. Section 140(5) talks of postponement for not more than 90 days of an election where a party’s name or logo is omitted by INEC with a N2 million fine or two years imprisonment for the liable INEC official.

“Section 87(12): Where a primary election is conducted and duly attended and certified by the commission in compliance with this Act, and the result is subsequently altered by a political party, the commission shall have powers to overrule the alteration made by the political parties and oppose such primaries.

“Section 87(14): The days of primaries shall not be earlier than 150 days and not later than 120 days before the day of the election into office, Election expenses – Section 91 (1): election expenses shall not exceed the sum stipulated in sub-section 2-7.

 “Section 91(9) – No individual of other entity shall donate to a candidate, more than 10 million, Section 91(10) – A candidate who knowingly act in contravention of this section, commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine of 1 % of the amount permitted at the limit of campaign expenditure under this Act or imprisonment of a term not exceeding 12 months,” he said.

A new section 87(14) gives a specific period within which political party primaries are required to be held has the unintended prospect of leaving INEC with only nine days to collate and compile lists of candidates and political parties as well as manage the primaries of 91 political parties for various elections.

Contributing to the debate, Senator Kabir Marafa (APC, Zamfara) queried the spending limits, which he declared are unrealistic.

Marafa said: “We can pass a law that can’t pass the litmus test. The law says no individual can donate more than N10 million to a candidate, as long as someone makes his money legitimately, why will he have a limit to his donation.”

Senator Victor Umeh (APGA, Anambra) suggested that a legislation be introduced to tackle vote-buying instead of restricting spending limit.

On Dino Melaye’s part, he noted that the provision which gives INEC the power to upturn the choice of a party’s candidate is “a recipe for disaster.”

Senator James Manager (PDP, Delta) noted that some of the amendments raised are very technical and dangerous.

The committee is expected to report back to the chamber on Tuesday for further legislative action.

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