Electoral Act amendment proposes oath-taking for INEC officials, security agents

Written by on July 6, 2021

The National Assembly has proposed removal of manual accreditation of voters for all elections in Nigeria.

The Independent National Electoral Commission will be empowered to reschedule an election at a polling unit where a smart card reader fails to verify the identity of a voter card holder and the backup device equally fails.

The act also proposed oath taking for INEC officials, security agents.

These are contained in the report on the Electoral Act 2010 (Amendment) Bill billed for consideration and adoption by the Senate and House of Representatives.

According to the report by the joint Senate and House Committees on INEC and Electoral Matters, a new Section 47(3) will read, “Where a smart card reader or any other technological device deployed for accreditation of voters fails to function in any particular unit and a fresh card reader or technological device is not deployed, the election in that unit shall be cancelled and another election shall be scheduled within 24 hours if the commission is satisfied that the result of the election in that polling unit will substantially affect the final result of the whole election and declaration of a winner in the constituency concerned.”

Presently, voters are accredited manually where electronic verification fails.

The Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill 2020 passed the second reading at the House on November 27, 2020, while Chairman of the House Committee on Electoral Matters, Aishatu Dukku, had since February 23, 2021, laid the report on a ‘Bill for an Act to Repeal the Electoral Act, 2010 and Enact the Electoral Act, 2021 to Regulate the Conduct of Elections in Federal, States and Area Councils in the Federal Capital Territory; and for Related Matters.’

At the public hearing, Dukku had noted that the bill was put together by the Senate, the House, INEC and the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN).

Other recommendations by the joint committee in the report, a copy of which our correspondent obtained, include prohibition of transfer or sale of voter cards.

Section 22 of the bill reads, “Any person, including an entity, who (a) is in illegal possession of any voter’s card whether issued in the name of any voter or not; (b) sells or offers to sell any voter’s card whether issued in the name of the voter or not; or (c) buys or offers to buy any voter’s card on whether his or her own behalf or in behalf of any other person; commits an offence and is liable, on conviction, to (i) in the case of an individual, a fine not more than N2,000,000 or imprisonment for a term not more than two years or both, and (ii) in the case of an entity, a fine of N5,000,000.”

Also, Section 26(1) in the report (which was Section 28(1) in the bill) provides that all INEC staff members, Electoral Officers, Presiding Officers, Returning Officers, Security Officials “taking part in the conduct of an election shall affirm or swear to an oath of loyalty and neutrality, indicating that they will not accept bribe or gratification from any person, and shall perform their functions and duties impartially and in the interest of the Federal Republic of Nigeria without fear or favour.

An analysis of the amounts proposed as the ceiling for respective posts showed that the National Assembly raised some of them by 200 per cent.

For instance, in Section 91 under Limitation on Election Expenses in the original bill, the House had set the maximum election expenses to be incurred by a candidate for a presidential election at N5bn, while governorship was pegged at N1bn; Senate and House membership, N100m and N70m, respectively; state House of Assembly, N30m; chairmanship election in a Local Government Area or area council, N30m; and councillorship in an area council, N5m.

However, in 88 (1) of the report, the joint committee recommended N15bn for presidential election; N5bn for governorship; N1.5bn and N500m for Senate and House membership, respectively; N50m for state House of Assembly membership; N50m for LGA or Area Council chairmanship; and N5m for LGA or Area Council councillorship.

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