NASS considers conduct of all elections same day

The Senate has begun the process of amending the Electoral Act, 2022, expected to come on stream before the 2027 general elections across the country.

In a bill sponsored by Senator Sani Musa from Niger State, which has already passed first reading, the legislative chamber is expected to introduce some radical amendments, just like its counterparts in the House of Representatives.

Already, the House of Representatives has introduced a similar bill, which has passed second reading and debated extensively by members.

HMTV gathered that the bill introduced by the Senate is largely the same with the one in the House of Representatives. Though details of the bills have not been made public, it was, however, learnt that electronic transmission of results and voting, holding all elections in one day, and primaries of political parties, may form the main thrust of the proposed amendment.

Currently, the Electoral Act is vague on key contentious issues like electronic voting, electronic transmission of results, and holding of general elections in one day.

About two years before the last general elections in 2021, the Senate and the House of Representatives passed the Electoral Bill with electronic transmission of election results.

Following the inability of senators and members of the House of Representatives to reach a deal on electronic transmission, especially members of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), was given the discretionary powers on the transmission of results.

In its vague amendment, the National Assembly had noted in Section 60(5) of the Electoral Act that, “The presiding officer shall transfer the results, including the total number of accredited voters and the results of the ballot in a manner as prescribed by the Commission.”

Taking advantage of the lacuna created in the Electoral Act, INEC, during the last general elections, failed to upload the results to the IREV portal. In its ruling during the litigation that followed the presidential elections, the Supreme Court ruled that the non-transmission of polling unit results in real-time did not substantially affect the outcome of the election.

A staff of the National Assembly, who said he was privy to the details of the proposed amendment, said lawmakers were worried that conducting the general elections on different days is a waste of taxpayers’ money, and also causes unnecessary tension.

He said lawmakers were opposed to the INEC’s discretionary decision to have presidential/national assembly elections, and governorship/state houses of assembly elections almost two weeks apart.

He said lawmakers had vowed to bridge that gap, as the outcome of the first elections often lead to an apathy in subsequent elections, and that the party that wins the presidential election, goes ahead to win a substantial number of states during the governorship polls.

Speaking on the conduct of primaries by political parties, the staff said lawmakers complained bitterly of how they’ve been schemed out by state governors, who usually control the delegates’ lists.

“Some drastic changes will be made. But the National Assembly needs the backing and blessing of President Bola Tinubu for the amendments to be signed into law. Otherwise, it will be a waste of time.

“We’re bureaucrats, and we often work on the bills. Lawmakers complained to us that they’re at the mercy of their state governors during primaries of political parties. They want that to stop, and it can only happen if the Electoral Act is amended,” he revealed.

Already, the House is proposing an amendment to Section 60(5) of the Electoral Act to now read thus: “The presiding officer shall transfer and or transmit the results, including total number of accredited voters and the results of the ballot electronically.”

The House bill is also seeking to amend section 28 of the Principal Act with the proposal that all elections, including the presidential, senate, house of representatives, governors and state assemblies are held on the same day.

“Subject to paragraph (a) of this section, and without prejudice to other sections of this act, election into the office of the President, National Assembly, State Governors and State House of Assembly shall be conducted on the same day,” the proposed clause in the House read.

The bill in the Senate is expected to be read for a second time in the coming weeks, after which it will be referred to the Committee on Electoral Matters for further legislative action.

 

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