The aspirations of Nigerians agitating for an electoral reform that will sanitize the electoral process got a major boost on Wednesday as the Electoral Act Amendments Bill, passed second reading in the Senate.
The need to provide a new electoral legal framework for Nigeria ahead of the 2023 general elections and subsequent ones, has repeatedly been emphasized in the recommendations of local and foreign election observers over the years.
The bill, sponsored by the Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege (APC, Delta Central) and co-sponsored by Senator Abubakar Kyari (APC, Borno North), has 26 clauses which seeks to amend the Electoral Act to strengthen and protect Nigeria’s democracy, as well as “cure specific mischiefs plaguing our elections and electoral processes.”
Leading the debate on the bill, Omo-Agege said though the process under the eighth Senate was fraught with mutual suspicion and bitterness, electoral reform for the ninth National Assembly remains a priority.
The bill, according to him, also seeks to make clarifications under Section 38(1)(a) of the Principal Act which states that “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, 107, 137 or 182 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999.”
The amendment to the Electoral Act will also provide sanctions for giving false information for the purpose of registering a political party and ensure that failure by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, and others to comply with any provision of the act carries clear and adequate sanctions.
The bill seeks to compel INEC to accommodate new technologies in the accreditation of voters during elections, reduction of nomination fees charged by political parties, as well as granting party agents the right to inspect original electoral materials before the commencement of polls.
Senators who supported the bill include Michael Nnachi (PDP, Ebonyi South), Abba Moro (PDP, Benue South) and Ibikunle Amosun (APC, Ogun Central).President of the Senate, Dr. Ahmad Lawan, put the question to voice vote and it was unanimously approved.