Abuja — The Senate yesterday passed the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill for the fourth time in 2018 with the adoption of all the 38 clauses recommended for approval by its Committee on Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) headed by Senator Suleiman Nazif.
It also retained N5 billion as total expenses to be incurred by candidates running for the office of President while that of governorship candidates was pegged at N1billion.
The upper chamber of the National Assembly, however, made upward review of maximum expenses to be incurred by candidates running for senatorial seats from N100million to N250million and those running for the House of Representatives seats from N70 million to N100 million as amendments in clause 25, section 91 of the bill.
Other clauses were adopted by the Senate as recommended by its committee on INEC chaired by Senator Suleiman Nazif (PDP Bauchi North).
Nazif had while presenting the bill at plenary explained that clause 25, which stipulates limits of expenses to be incurred by candidates in the general elections also stipulates penalties to be visited on any candidate who spends beyond approved expenses.
The penalties as recommended by the committee and adopted by the Senate are for any of the candidates for the various elections who spends beyond approved expenses, payment of one per cent of the money or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or both.
The section added that no Individual or entity shall donate to a candidate more than N10 million or risk penalties stipulated for candidates who spend beyond approved expenses.
Severe penalties for omission of name or logo of a political party by officials of INEC are also stipulated in clause 32, section 140(4) of the bill.
Specifically, the section states, "Where election is postponed due to omission of a political party's name or logo, the commission's officer responsible for such printing of party names or logo commits an offence and is liable on conviction to imprisonment for two years or a fine of N2m."
Clause 8, section 33 of the passed electoral bill also has provisions for way out in the event of death of candidate of any political party in the course of election as it happened in Kogi State in November 2015 when Prince Abubakar Audu the gubernatorial candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) died before the election result was announced.
The section reads, "Provided that in the case of such withdrawal or death of a candidate, the political party affected shall, within 10 days of the occurrence of the event, hold a fresh election to produce and submit a fresh candidate to the commission for the election concerned."
Speaking after the passage of the bill, Senate President Bukola Saraki said all observations raised by the president in the rejected versions of the bill have been taken care of by the Senate.
He assured that the House of Representatives would in a matter of days concur with the Senate over the bill.
"With the removal of the areas and clauses highlighted by the president in the bill by the legislature, we hope the executive will now assent to the bill to become law with a view to deepening democracy in the country", Saraki said.
Both chambers of the National Assembly had at three different times between February and July this year passed and transmitted electoral bills to President Buhari for assent without success due to one infractions or the other .The first one passed in February was refused assent by the President due to reordering of election sequence provisions contained in it .The second one passed and transmitted in June was not considered in any way by the president while the third one transmitted in July was refused assent by the president due to alleged "cross referencing error, fears of increased cost of conducting elections," among others.