Nigeria Moves Towards E-voting As Bill Passes Second Reading

The bill for an Act to ensure that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) adopts electronic voting method has passed its second reading on the floor of the Senate on Wednesday.

Through the bill, the Senators are  compelling  INEC to operate an electronic database into which all results in an election should be transmitted.

The Bill is entitled, ” A Bill for an Act to Amend the Electoral Act No.6 2010 and for Other Related Matters, 2019(SB.122).

The  bill, which is being sponsored by the Deputy of the Senate, Ovie Omo-Agege,  and Co-sponsored by Senator Abubakar Kyari, seeks amendment of section 65 of the Electoral Act 2010 by introducing a “National Electronic Register of Election Results.

The Bill which passed through second reading was referred to the Senator Kabiru Gaya led Senate Committee on INEC with four weeks to report back at Plenary.

It  also stipulates that data of accredited voters must be transmitted to the central data base upon the conclusion of the accreditation of voters which would be done through the use of the card reader.

The Bill also stipulates that, “At the end of accreditation of voters, the presiding officer shall transmit the voter accreditation data by secure mobile electronic communication to the central database of the commission kept at the national headquarters of the commission.

“Any presiding officer who contravenes this provision shall be liable, on conviction, to a minimum of imprisonment of at least five years without an option of fine.”

It prevents INEC from shutting down the central data base until all petitions arising from the elections are determined by a tribunal or court.

The Bill proposes comprehensive amendments to the principal Act. It is a response in part to a plethora of Supreme Court decisions directly or indirectly calling upon the to act.

The apex Court has persistently done this regarding INECs introduction of modern technologies into the electoral process, especially accreditation of voters.

In his lead Debate, Senator Omo- Agege said, “this has a constitutional gatekeeping role for our democracy. That all-important duty of protecting our constitutional order starts with ensuring that our elections are free, fair and credible.

“To achieve this, our electoral laws must be sound and up to date in order to respond adequately to new challenges that come with changing times and human behaviours.

“I humbly rise to lead this debate for the Second Readingof the Bill for an Act to amend the Electoral Act, 2010solely to strengthen and protect our democracy for the good of all, irrespective of our partisan political persuasions.

“It is common knowledge that we made huge but unsuccessful efforts to amend this Act in the 8thSenate. Indeed, at a point, that process led to avoidable acrimonies, mutual suspicions and bitterness, which we have now buried as true patriots whose sole interest is the betterment of our democracy and the nation. Nothing personal.

“Electoral reform is a major part of the Legislative Agenda of this 9thSenate. Before the Legislative Agenda came to be, you made an admirably patriotic case for electoral reform before your popular election as the President of this 9thSenate.

“This Bill is therefore a part of the process of fulfilling that promise to the Nigerian people. It is a bill of great significance to be considered with utmost patriotism.

“This Bill proposes comprehensive amendments to the principal Act. It is a response in part to a plethora of Supreme Court decisions directly or indirectly calling upon the to act. The apex Court has persistently done this regarding INECs introduction of modern technologies into the electoral process, especially accreditation of voters.

“Though not exhaustive, by this Bill we seek to -ensure that the Act clearly forbids members of political parties from taking up employment in INEC; mandate INEC to publish the Voters Register for public scrutiny at every Registration Area and on its website at least seven (7) days before a general election; mandate INEC to suspend an election in order to allow a political party that lost its candidate before or during an election to conduct a fresh primary to elect a replacement or new candidate;grant agents of political parties the right to inspect original electoral materials before the commencement of an election;grant political parties that nominated candidates for an election a right (exercisable within a specified time frame) to inspect its identity/logo appearing on samples of relevant electoral materials proposed to avoid incessant cancellation of elections due to exclusionof parties from election due to printers errors or deliberate mischief of not including the logos of some parties on electoral materials;clearly mandate INEC to accommodate new technologies in the accreditation of voters during elections, as repeatedly called for the Supreme Court;define over votingto include situations where total votes cast also exceed total number of accredited voters;provide greater clarity and transparency in the process of reaching the final announcement of election results, starting with sorting of ballots, counting of votes, etc;mandate INEC to record and keep relevant detailed information of results sheets, ballot papers and other sensitive electoral materials used in an election, with clear consequences for violation;enact a new Section 87 on Nomination of Candidates by Parties for Elections by prescribing maximum fees payable by aspirants and restricting nomination criteria strictly to relevant provisions of the Constitution; and clarify that under Section 138 (1)(a) of the Principal Act, a person shall be deemed to be qualified for an elective office and his election shall not be questioned on grounds of qualification if, with respect to the particular election in question, he meets the applicable requirements of sections 65, 106, 131 or 177 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) and he is not, as may be applicable, in breach of sections 66, 107, 137 or 182 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999; and provide sanctions for giving false information for purpose of registering a political party and ensure that failure by INEC and others to comply with any provision of the Act carries clear and adequate sanctions.

The Bill has 26 clauses carefully drafted to cure specific mischiefs that are plaguing our elections and electoral process. The sole interest here is to reason together as true representatives of our people in synergy with the Executive Branch and ultimately give this country a modern electoral law that is fully responsive to identified challenges in the electoral process.

We can and should do this in the best interest of our people. None of us will be here for ever, but our work here will speak for us in history. “In compliance with Order 77(3) of our Standing Rules, I state that this Bill has no financial implications. Accordingly, there is no accompanying financial compendium.”

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