Some stakeholders believed the rejection of the Bill also meant that the card reader would not be used for the conduct of the 2019 general elections.
Fred Itua, Abuja
The National Assembly Joint Committee on Electoral Matters, yesterday, gave nod to the use of Card Reader in the conduct of the 2019 general election, as it adopted a comprehensive Electoral Act Amendment Bill.
The committee, after a closed session convened to reconsider contentious clauses of the Bill rejected by President Muhammadu Buhari, harmonised the three to form an all-inclusive one and amended some sections to strengthen the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The Amendment Bill seeks to amend the Electoral Act No.6, 2010 to make for the restriction of the qualification for elective office to relevant provisions of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), the use of Card Readers and other technological devices in elections and political party primaries; to provide a time for submission of list of candidates, criteria for substitution of candidates, limit of campaign expenses and address the omission of names of candidates or logo of political parties.
President Buhari had vetoed the Electoral Act Amendment Bill 2018, citing drafting issues, which he said were likely to affect the interpretation and application of the Principal Act.
Buhari, in separate memos to Senate President, Bukola Saraki and Speaker of House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, said some of the provisions of the Bill would adversely affect the operations of INEC if allowed to pass.
Although the issue of the use of Card Readers was not raised by the president in his veto, some stakeholders believed the rejection of the Bill also meant that the card reader would not be used for the conduct of the 2019 general elections.
Buhari had in March turned down the amendment to the Electoral Law, which altered the sequence of elections.
The amendment placed the National Assembly election first, followed by presidential election while governorship and state Houses of Assembly elections would hold last in the order of elections.
Chairman of the joint committee, Senator Suleiman Nazif, who spoke on the controversial Bill in Abuja, after the meeting, yesterday, did not, however, avail newsmen contents of the new amendments inserted into the Bill.
He merely said the introduction of the new amendments became necessary in order to address the request of INEC.
He said the issue with the use of Card Reader was the error of transmitting the third Bill, which did not contain the use of Card Readers as an addendum to the second Bill, which contained the use of Card Readers.
He revealed that the joint committee has harmonised the three Bills to come up with an all-inclusive one that would be transmitted to the president for assent.
He debunked insinuation that there was disagreement between the National Assembly and the Presidency over the amendment of the Electoral Act.
The two arms of government, he said, were on the same page on the amendment of the Electoral Act.
Nazif who spoke after a closed session said: “I want to assure Nigerians that this committee and the National Assembly is committed to ensuring that we keep true democracy in Nigeria.
“We also want to use this opportunity to assure Nigerians and indeed everyone that the National Assembly and indeed the executive is on the same page on this amendment bill. I’m sure you must have heard different versions but I will put everything in a clear picture so that Nigerians will know that all of us are working towards strengthening INEC and ensuring that 2019 is done in a free and fair electoral process and beyond.
“First and foremost, we had gone through three electoral bills. The first one addressed and had the sequence of elections. It was sent to the executive on February 14, 2018 and this also had the card reader in it, by the way.
“It addressed Section 25 which is election sequence also down to section 138, which is how election may be challenged, and the third one, Section 152 on the competence of National Assembly to legislate for local governments.
“This was the bill that we passed and the executive withheld assent based on these three grounds. Having said that, it brings us back to the second electoral amendment bill.
“This second one was concluded on June 26. It addressed all the issues raised by the executive. It addressed the issue of section 25 on sequence of election, which was deleted in the second amendment. Section 138 was also carried because C and D were not in the first one, we put the C and D in the second one.
“Again, Section 152, the competence of the National Assembly to legislate for local government was deleted in the second one, so that Nigerians are very clear about what transpired.
“The card reader was in the second bill. Now having said this, the assent on this one was withheld on July 26. This second bill had addressed the first bill, but there were issues in respect to INEC on dates but the second bill did not carry it.
“During our presentation of the second bill, however, there were observations by the INEC which are germane in deepening the electoral process in Nigeria that came late to the committee and that such observations should be corrected in subsequent bills. INEC was worried that all the observations may impair their operations.”
He said the Senate granted approval to expeditiously consider the amendment to the Electoral Act as requested by INEC by way of another fresh bill.
“What we exactly wanted was a merger between the second one and the third one. So, the executive and the legislative arm are on the same page concerning INEC.
“This one (fourth bill) has addressed all the issues raised by the executive. This one has also addressed all the issues that will make INEC more comfortable and efficient,” Nazif said.