…Consolidate six bills to amend Electoral Act
Chris Steven, Abuja
The House of Representatives on Wednesday moved to prevent future confusion, uncertainty and lacuna in the event of death of a governorship candidate any time before the conclusion of an election like in the case of Kogi state.
The move to address this development was contained in the bills to amend the Electoral Act, 2015 with a view to offering more legal protection to the position of the deputy governorship candidates and other related matters.
The House, which consolidated six different bills of related headings if passed and signed into law would empower a running mate in election to assume the position of his/her principal in the event that the principal loses his/her life in the process of election before the results are announced.
The consolidated bills sponsored by House Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila and five others include: “The Bill for an Act to make provision to cover the lacuna in the event of death of a governorship candidate any time before the conclusion of an election; a Bill for an Act to amend the Electoral Act of 2015 to empower Election Tribunals and Courts to declare candidates who scored the second highest votes as winner of elections when the Tribunal or Court finds/holds that the winner of the election is unqualified for the election ab initio; a Bill for an Act to ensure that all political parties are gender sensitive and to eliminate all forms of discrimination in all political parties; a Bill for an Act to include the use of card readers as part of the Act and clearly specify the tenure of the office of the Secretary of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC); a Bill for an Act to increase the amounts permitted as maximum election expenses to be incurred by candidates standing for elections; and a Bill for an Act on nullification of election by Tribunals or Courts and for other related matters”.
Gbajabiamila, who led debate on the bills said, “it’s an unusual situation for somebody to pass on the verge of an electoral victory which is not something foreseen by existing laws.
“So it becomes expedient, given the scenario that played out in Kogi to block the lacuna so that the Deputy Governorship candidate can inherit the votes of his principal in the event that the principal passes on before the results are declared.
“We also have the issue of card reader, we have elections where clearly, the card reader was ignored by certain section of voters. In several places, the use of the card reader has been seen not to be part of the law, and so it becomes necessary that this part of our law is amended to accommodate the use of electronic card readers.
Contributing, Hon. Sunday Karimi argued from the perspective of Section 142 of the Electoral Act, saying; “the Supreme Court in the case of Dangana Vs Usman took a decision that has necessitated the need for us to amend the Act. A situation where the tribunal rules that a candidate who won an election was not qualified to contest election in the first place and the person who scored the second highest number of votes is not allowed to replace him leaves much to be desired.”
He said: “Then the issue of inconclusive elections which is now characterising our electoral processes, even in kogi today, which started the episodes of inconclusive elections, the east senatorial district’s bye election that was conducted last two months has remained inconclusive. If care is not taken, we may have an inconclusive general election in 2019.”
In his position, Minority Leader, Leo Ogor said, “as legislators, it’s our responsibility to make laws for the good governance of our country. And I disagree with the concept of abandoning the system of voters card and giving more priority to card reader which has no guarantee. If a card reader fails to accredit a voter, for God’s sake, the voters card should qualify that person to vote, because that’s the essence of democracy which guarantees the expression of citizen franchise.”
He added that “if a device will chose to malfunction and deny you that franchise, then I think that device is not worth tinkering with, and must be de-emphasised. If we can amend our laws to revert back to the use of voters card in the face of device failure, let’s do that, but if not, let’s not do any form of injustice to any citizen using the card reader in an election.”
The bills were, however passed and referred to the House Committees on Electoral Matters and Judiciary for further legislative inputs.