By Angela Atabo
Abuja – Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Electoral Matters, Hajiya Aishatu Dukku, on Tuesday said the National Assembly was working on 12 Electoral Reform Bills to be passed before the 2019 elections.
Dukku made this known at a session of coalition of Civil Society Organisations (CSO) known as “Situation Room’s Fourth Stakeholders’ Forum on Elections’’ in Abuja.
She said that the bills which sought to amend the provisions of the Electoral Act 2010 and the Electoral Act 2015 were referred to the committee after second reading “for further legislative action’’.
She said that major areas the bills sought to alter included procedure for the use of Smart Card Reader in elections.
Dukku said that there was also the bill proposing that a court or tribunal should declare the person with the second highest votes winner of an election if it found that the first winner was not qualified to contest.
Another bill, according to her, is the one to mandate political parties to ensure that women leaders are truly women and that all youth leaders are between 18 years and 45 years.
She said that there was also the bill to increase maximum election expenses to be incurred by a presidential or governorship candidate, senatorial, House of Representatives, state assembly and area council chairmanship elections.
“Also included is a bill to amend section 34 of the Principal Act to enable candidates who observe that their names were omitted from the commission’s list of nominated candidates to notify it.
“This should be in writing not later than 21 days to an election adding that it also sought to amend section 49 to allow an eligible voter in an election to notify the presiding officer of an omission of party logo.’’
The lawmaker said that the 8th House of Representatives was committed to carrying out further electoral reforms as a matter of priority and had outlined the objective in the legislative agenda adopted in 2015.
“This is more so as the 2015 general elections highlighted some gaps in the legal framework of our electoral process because while we all acknowledged the 2015 elections, there is still work to be done.
“Going forward,12 bills awaits legislative action; furthermore, as both the 1999 Constitution and the 2010 Electoral Act as amended, to regulate the conduct of elections in Nigeria, the committee’s report will strengthen the process.’’
Dukku said that the committee received inputs from stakeholders, and that submissions and memoranda received covered eight areas.
“The areas are electronic voting and use of technology in elections; youth and persons with disabilities in political party structures and elections; regulating election expenses, and increasing penalties for electoral offenders and consequential constitutional amendments.
“Others are Diaspora voting, increasing the participation of women, enshrining the smart card reader in the legal framework and creating an electoral offences commission and tribunal,’’ she said.
She expressed optimism that the bill would be passed by both chambers of the National Assembly and signed into law to sanitise Nigeria’s electoral process and provide a level-playing field for credible elections.
In his remarks, Convener of the Situation Room, Mr Clement Nwankwo, advised that the legal framework on election should be done ahead of the 2019 elections.
Nwankwo said that the urgency of passing the electoral law should be the concern of the National Assembly now, adding that Nigeria was losing time.
He urged CSOs to be ready to monitor political parties early enough to know their campaign promises so as to hold them accountable when they eventually emerged victorious.
He also urged Nigerians to be at alert and prepare for the 2019 electoral process and to know the right candidates to vote for, “for progress’’. (NAN)
By Angela Atabo