Nigeria: Card Reader Gets Legal Backing As Senate Okays Electoral Bill

President Muhammadu Buhari.
24 October 2018

After failing to get President Muhammadu Buhari's assent for three consecutive times, the Senate yesterday eventually passed the fourth version of the Electoral Act 2010 Amendment Bill.

With the passage of the bill, the use of Card Readers and other technological devices in the conduct of elections will be fully backed by the law by the time the president assents to it. The bill also sets the limit of campaign expenses, identifies criteria for substitution of candidates, provides a timeline for submission of list of candidates and addresses problems related to the omission of names of candidates or logo of political parties.

After passing the bill yesterday, the Red Chamber said it will immediately transmit it to President Buhari for quick signing into law as soon as it is passed for concurrence in the House of Representatives.

Buhari had, for three consecutive times, refused to give his assent to the bill sent to him by the National Assembly. The president said he rejected the bill due to the introduction of a new sequence of election provided for in section 25 (1) of the bill.

Specifically, he pointed out that he blatantly rejected the bill because of certain drafting errors. On receiving the rejected bill from the presidency the third time, the Senate quickly considered and treated the issues raised by President Buhari on the Electoral Act 2010 Amendment Bill. Last week, the report on the bill 2018 was received in the upper chamber after the fourth alteration. Chairman of the Senate Committee on INEC, Senator Suleiman Nazif, laid it before plenary. Yesterday, the bill was presented in the Senate for third reading and was unanimously passed by the lawmakers. The president's observations on some sections contained in the bill and the proposed amendments are asserted in Section 18 of the Principal Act, which deals with erroneous cross references made in the bill that was sent earlier for assent.

Section 36 (3) of the Act that deals with qualifying language was also amended due to its unintended effect of unduly increasing the cost and administrative burden of conducting elections in the event that any candidate passes away during election.

Also, Section 49 (4) of the Act was amended and reviewed to now stipulate that where a Smart Card Reader deployed for accreditation of voters fails to function in any polling unit and a fresh Card Reader is not deployed three hours before the close of the election in that unit, the election shall not hold but be rescheduled and conducted within 24 hours. Also amended is Section 87 (13) that deals with the issue of deadline for primary election, which now holds that the dates of the primaries shall not be earlier than 150 days and not later than 90 days before the date of the election to the elective offices. The same section also stipulates a specific period within which party primaries are required to be held due to the unintended consequences of leaving INEC with only 9 days to collate and compile lists of candidates and political parties for the various elections. Also amended is Section 140 (4) that deals with omission of name of a candidate or logo of a political party. It states that if at the point of display or distribution of ballot papers by the commission a candidate or his agent discovers that his name, the name or logo of his party is omitted, a candidate shall notify the commission and the commission shall postpone the election to rectify it and appoint another date to conduct the election, not later than 90 days.

While presenting the report, Senator Nazif had explained that all issues raised by President Buhari in declining his assent to the bill were captured and clearly addressed. In his remarks, Senate President Bukola Saraki said the bill will further improve the electoral process and other related matters. He noted however that with Senate's passage, it is hoped that the president will quickly grant assent to the bill to enhance smooth conduct of the 2019 elections.

Senate Rejects Call To Rejig Security Chiefs

Also, the Senate yesterday rejected a motion urging President Muhammad Buhari to reconstitute the composition of national security architecture to conform with the principle of federal character enshrined in the constitution. Some lawmakers are disturbed that some regions in the country are excluded from the appointment of Service Chiefs, which has generated feelings of alienation and neglect.

The motion raised by Senator Victor Umeh (Anambra Central) is hinged on the urgent need to appoint a representative of the South East into the National Defence Council and National Security Council.

Leading the debate, Umeh said by virtue of Section 218 (2) of the 1999 constitution, the president is conferred the power to appoint service chiefs but in doing that, Section 217 of the 1999 constitution stipulates that "the composition of the Officers Corps and other ranks of the Armed Forces shall reflect the federal character in Nigeria." He noted that none of the Service Chiefs appointed to the National Defence Council and National Security Council comes from the South East as firmly enshrined in the principle of federal character.

According to Umeh, the exclusion of South East from the appointment of Service Chiefs has caused neglect and consequential agitation among the people of the region. Consequently, the Senator urged President Buhari to reconstitute the security chiefs to comply with federal character and for equal representation of the people. The prayers of the motion were however not considered by the Senate, but only noted. But concurring to the motion, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe (Abia North) said, while the exclusion of South East from the national security structure was a deliberate attempt not to let some part of the country be part of the security architecture, the needful should be urgently done. Senators who were vehemently opposed to the motion urged the Senate to quash it. Deputy Senate Leader, Bala Ibn Na'Allah, said the motion was gross misunderstanding of Sections 217, 218 and 219 of the constitution, which empowers the president to make such appointments. According to Na'Allah, the call for the president to rejig the security structure is politicised due to political exigencies and should therefore be discouraged. In his submission, Senator Barau Jibrin (Kano North) said the motion was misleading because the South East is not excluded in the national architecture. He argued that the current minister of foreign affairs who is a member of the National Security Council is from the eastern region. While ruling on the matter, Senate President Bukola Saraki who noted that the motion was well highlighted but with different constitutional interpretations said with the varied views, the motion cannot reach consensus and, therefore, "it is noted."

Reps Approve PMB's $82m Eurobond Request

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives yesterday approved the request by President Muhammadu Buhari for $82.54 million to refinance the balance of $500 million matured Eurobond in the international capital market. The approval was contained in a report presented by the chairman of the committee on Aids, Loans and Debt Management, Hon Adeyinka Ajayi for consideration. President Buhari had, in a letter to the House, sought the approval of the lawmakers to raise $2.78 billion from the international capital market for part funding of the 2018 budget. He said the amount approved in the 2018 Appropriation Act would be used to finance deficits and key infrastructure projects in the 2018 budget.

Buhari explained that the loan would be raised from Eurobonds and other securities in the international capital market. The president had also sought the approval for an external capital sourcing of $82.54 million to refinance the balance of $500 million matured Eurobonds in the international capital market. While approving the requests, the House urged the executive arm to curb external borrowings and source for other means of generating revenue internally.

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