Nigeria: NASS Stands Down Electoral Amendment Bill

President Muhammadu Buhari.
19 October 2018

The National Assembly yesterday stood down the Electoral Act Amendment Bill till Tuesday next week.

In the Senate, the decision followed the tension generated over sitting arrangement at plenary yesterday.

And apparently to avoid a repeat of it, the Senate yesterday stood down the debate on Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill 2018 for third reading and possible passage till Tuesday next week.

However, this is contrary to reasons given by the Senate president, Bukola Saraki, in announcing the postponement. He said it was done to enable the Senate Committee on Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) carry out further legislative work on the bill.

But sources at the Senate told LEADERSHIP Friday that the debate on the bill was stood down to avoid another rancorous session in view of what happened yesterday.

The bill which was earlier scheduled on the Order Paper for consideration was stood down when the the Senate leader, Ahmad Lawan, said: "In view of the sensitive nature of the bill and its importance, it was vital to give the committee more time to do a thorough job."

In his remarks, the Senate president corroborated the position of Lawan, put it to a voice vote and it was unanimously adopted.

The bill had scaled second reading on October 10, a day after the two chambers of the National Assembly resumed from its 11-week annual recess.

The bill has been very contentious as President Muhammadu Buhari had declined assent to the bill three times. This is, therefore, the fourth attempt by the lawmakers to have the bill passed and assented into law.

The senior special assistant to the president on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Senator Ita Enang, had explained that the president declined assent to the bill due to some drafting issues and the period fixed for primaries among others.

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives yesterday suspended consideration of the Electoral Act no. 6 of 2010 at the committee of the whole.

LEADERSHIP Friday recalls that the House commenced consideration of the report Wednesday but the process had to be stopped after members disagreed on the provision in the new amendment to the Electoral Act on a possible use of "any other technological device" in an election where the card reader fails or malfunctions.

Presiding over the committee of the whole, Deputy Speaker Yussuff Lasun stopped the consideration of the bill at Clause 27 with the promise to conclude yesterday.

The National Assembly joint committee on electoral matters had in its recommendation, in clause 16(2) , given a proviso to the effect that where the electronic smart card reader repeatedly fails, or malfunctions, an alternative technological device "as may be prescribed" by INEC may be deployed for the purpose of voter accreditation.

But at yesterday's plenary, Speaker Yakubu Dogara called the chairman of the Rules and Business Committee, Hon. Emmanuel Orker-Jev, to move a motion that the bill be stood down.

It would be recalled that President Muhammadu Buhari had raised 11 queries about the Electoral Act the last time it was passed and sent to him for assent, following which the joint committee of the Senate and the House worked on the areas of concern.

A new date was however not fixed for the resumption of the consideration of the electoral act amendment.

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