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Friday, 31 March 2017

Senate okays electronic voting, card reader for INEC



In a fresh amendment to the Electoral Act, the Senate has introduced the use of electronic voting in elections.Section 52 (2) of the amendment passed by the Senate yesterday reads: “The commission shall adopt electronic voting in all elections or any other method of voting as may be determined by the commission from time to time.”

It explained that “the amendment mandates e-voting without ambiguity but also gives the commission discretion to use other methods if it is impracticable to use e-voting in any election.”

Integrity of the electoral process remains the biggest problem dogging the practice of democracy in Nigeria. Therefore, the amendments, if well implemented, will ensure transparency in polls and check the disenfranchisement of eligible voters and other attendant crises of the electoral process.

Section 49 of the new amendment tagged “Accreditation of voters, transmission of accreditation data, issuance of ballot papers to voters, etc,” states: “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.
“The presiding officer shall use a smart card reader or any other technological device that may be prescribed by the commission from time to time for the accreditation of voters, to verify, confirm or authenticate.”

The Senate explained that this aspect of the amendment “gives solid legal footing and clarity to the commission’s introduction of smart card readers for accreditation of voters during elections”, adding that it equally “makes room for introduction of other election devices by the commission, as may be necessary, in the future.”

According to the lawmakers, the amendment also “makes allowance for the likelihood of failure of card readers and mandates the commission to remedy such a situation.”The lawmakers proffered a solution to the problem that may arise from a sudden death of a candidate of a political party during an election by empowering an affected political party to conduct a fresh primary for a new candidate within 14 days just as they mandated the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conclude the election within 21 days.

Specifically, to avoid the scenario in the November 2015 gubernatorial election in Kogi State where the death of the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Abubakar Audu, created a crisis within the party as regards who should be the new candidate, the amendment of the Electoral Act in sections 36 (3a, b and c) made provisions for tackling such an emergency.

The section states: “(3) If after the commencement of poll and before the announcement of the final result and declaration of a winner, a nominated candidate dies, (a) the commission shall, being satisfied of the fact of the death, suspend the election for a period not exceeding 21 days.

“The political party whose candidate died may, if it intends to continue to participate in the election, conduct a fresh direct primary within 14 days of the death of its candidate and submit a new candidate to the commission to replace the dead candidate; and subject to paragraphs (a) and (b) of this subsection, the commission shall continue with the election, announce the final result and declare a winner.”

Other striking provisions contained in the amendments are in Section 8(5) which states that any official of “INEC found to be a registered member of any of the political parties is liable to an offence carrying a five-year jail term or N5, 000,000.00 fine or both.”

The new amendment in Section 87 made a categorical pronouncement on how much should be paid by an aspirant for any elective office to his party as a nomination fee.The Act states that money collected from aspirants by political parties for councillorship election should not exceed N150, 000.00; local government chairman, N250, 000.00; House of Assembly, N500, 000.00; House of Representatives, N1,000,000.00; Senate, N2, 000,000.00; governor, N5, 000, 000.00; and president, N10, 000,000.00 .

At a press conference shortly after the session, former chairman of the Senate Committee on Electoral Matters, Abubakar Kyari, said that the essence of the amendments in respect of death or withdrawal of candidates was to make the law unambiguous.
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