The Senate and the House of Representatives announced last week that they had reworked and made the necessary adjustments required by the Presidency to the Electoral Act 2010, and that it was in a shape that should be signed into law ahead of 2019 general elections. The amendment to the Act has been going back and forth from the National Assembly to the Presidency, passing through series of disagreements and amendments.
While returning the amendment to the National Assembly in August, Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters, Senator Ita Enang, raised issues of poor cross-referencing. He had said, “There is a cross-referencing error in the proposed amendment to Section 18 of the Bill. The appropriate amendment is to substitute the existing sub-section (2) with the proposed subsection (1A), while the proposed sub-section (1B) is the new sub-section (2A). The proposed amendment to include a new Section 87 (14) which stipulates a specific period within which political party primaries are required to be held. It has the unintended consequence of leaving INEC with only nine days to collate and compile lists of candidates and political parties as well manage the primaries of 91 political parties for the various elections.”
In declaring that the Senate had done further amendments to the Electoral Act and passed it into law awaiting President Muhammadu Buhari’s signature, Senate President Bukola Saraki had said, “This will go on a long way in improving our electoral process and further strengthen our governance and I’m sure with this, Mr President will of course give his assent and we can now finally have an electoral process we all will be proud of.”
Essentially, the amendment to the law would give legal backing to the Independent National Electoral Commission’s [INEC’s] policy guidelines that made it possible for 2015 elections to attain a measure of credibility. One of such guidelines was the use of card reader to authenticate the registration status of voters. In 2015 elections, this reduced, to a great extent, criminal acts of ballot box stuffing, which over the years produced obnoxious and unbelievable election results. However, as a result of the pronouncements of some judges to the effect that card reader has no legal backing, a cover was provided for fraudulent politicians to escape with ballot box stuffing in future elections. The current amendment to the Electoral Act would provide the necessary legal backing for not only the use of card readers, but also for electronic voting. If the president signs this into law, incidents of election result falsification between polling units and collation centres would be eliminated because the card reader had already electronically transmitted the exact number of accredited voetrs in a polling unit.
Also, this amended Act takes care of the confusion that trailed the demise of Prince Abubakar Audu, All Progressives Congress [APC] candidate in the 2015 governorship election in Kogi State. Prince Audu died while coasting home to victory in that election, leaving INEC and political parties in a maze of confusion as to who should inherit his impending victory. In this amendment, the law requires that the affected political party would, within 10 days of the occurrence of the death, hold a fresh [primary] election to produce and submit a fresh candidate to the commission for the election concerned.
Furthermore, the new amendment in Section 91 provides limits to election expenses. The following are the specific amounts that aspirants could spend in an election: Presidential, N5 billion; Governorship, N1 billion; Senatorial, N100 million; House of Representatives, N70 million; House of Assembly, (N30 million; Councillorship, N5 million. Though there is need to clearly define the borders of “election expenses” in order to restrict it, this new provision is better than the current provision of, say, N1 billion ceiling on election expenses of a presidential aspirant.
We call on President Buhari to sign this amendment into law so as not to endanger the credibility of the 2019 elections.