By Cecilia Ijuo
Abuja – The Bill for an Act to Amend Provisions of Electoral Act 2010 has scaled second reading in the Senate.
This followed presentation of lead debate on the bill by the Chairman Senate Committee on Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Sen. Suleiman Nazif at plenary on Wednesday.
Presenting the lead debate, Nazif recalled that the bill was passed by the National Assembly before it proceeded on its annual recess on July 24 and transmitted for assent but it was declined by President Muhammadu Buhari.
He said the president had given reasons for declining assent, adding that the observations had been noted.
The chairman said Buhari had made observations of “cross referencing error, fears of increased cost of conducting elections” among others.
According to him, the joint committee came up with additional amendments based on the draft submitted by the Executive.
He added that “the first electoral amendment bill which addressed the issue of sequence of elections also made provision for card reader as well as the powers of National Assembly to legislate for Local Government Councils, which the President declined assent.”
Contributing, some lawmakers raised objection to some provisions in the proposed amendment bill, saying they were unimplementable.
Deputy President of the Senate Ike Ekweremadu raised concern on some sections of the bill.
He said: “I am worried about item seven which is Section 140 (5).
“It reads, if at the point of display or distribution of ballot papers by the commission, a candidate or his agent discovers that his name, name or logo of his party is omitted, a candidate or his agent shall notify the commission.
“The commission shall: a. Cancel the election to rectify the omission, b. Appoint another date for the election.
“I think this is very dangerous, because what happens is that somebody who believes he will lose the election will raise an objection without even consulting the other candidates, and write to INEC.
“INEC now believes him and then postpones the election, which now becomes an isolated election where you cannot determine what will happen. I think this would be unfair to the rest of the candidates.
“So, I suggest that sample ballot papers should be displayed before the election to give candidates and their parties room to make their inputs before election day, rather than wait till election day for objections to be raise.”
Sen. James Manager (PDP-Delta) called for a critical look at all the provisions to avoid the back and forth of the bill between the executive and the legislatures.
He said there was a need to do a thorough job on the bill to enable the President assent to it this time, adding that it was the fourth time the bill was been worked on by the legislature.
In his remarks, the President of the Senate, Dr Bukola Saraki, directed the committee on INEC to work on the proposed amendment bill and report back to senate within seven days for further legislative action.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that this is the fourth attempt by the lawmakers to have the bill assented to by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Buhari had on Sept. 3, declined assent to the Electoral Act(Amendment) Bill, 2018, transmitted to him by the national assembly on Aug. 3 for the third time.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Sen. Ita Enang, disclosed this in a statement in Abuja.
He said the president declined assent to the bill due to some drafting issues and the period fixed for primaries among others.
Enang had in August, clarified that the bill, which was forwarded to the President on Aug. 3, was alive and awaiting assent.
He gave the clarification against the backdrop of report published by a national daily that Buhari had again vetoed the bill forwarded to him for assent.
Enang had said the vetoed bill was the one sent to the President on June 27 and not the one passed by both chambers of the National Assembly on July 24, the day it embarked on annual recess.
NAN reports that besides the vetoed version of the 2018 electoral bill forwarded to the President on June 27 and vetoed on July 26 in line with the 30 days constitutional life line for such bill, the President had earlier in the year, rejected the first of the 2010 Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill 2018 forwarded to him in February for assent.