…empowers running mates to succeed candidates
Members of the House of Representatives were yesterday torn along party line as PDP lawmakers protested against the move by the House to incorporate the use of card reader into the electoral Act thereby giving it constitutional backing.
This is as the House consolidated and read for second time, the bill seeking amendments to four aspects of the electoral Act, which borders on use of card readers for elections, death of presidential or gubernatorial candidate, party disclosure on funds as well as diaspora voting.
It also passed through second reading the alteration of the 2010 electoral act by incorporating diaspora voting in the presidential elections in the country.
If passed into law, vice presidential and deputy governorship candidates will be empowered to assume the position of candidates should their principal candidate dies before the completion of an election.
Leading the opposition on the bill, minority leader Hon. Leo Ogor who noted the difference between electronic voting and card reader, stated that the card reader was nothing but an instrument used to disenfranchise Nigerians.
Ogor who argued that rather than improve the electoral process, the card did more damage to the voting public submitted that if the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) wants to introduce electronic voting, it should do so, but stressed that the PDP will oppose any attempt to introduce card readers into the Electoral Act.
He said: “Card reader is an instrument of disenfranchising Nigeria. INEC should wake up to their responsibility. We should go for clear electronic voting.
“Any attempt to introduce the card readers into the electoral act, we will go fully against it”, Ogor warned.
Similarly, Hon. Toby Okechukwu who posited that the card reader put the nation’ democracy to question and should not be used as a basis for elections, also recalled that the device failed to recognize many registered voters thus disenfranchising them.
Their resistance notwithstanding did not change the level of support by APC party members who insisted that the electronic card reader remains critical component of modern technology to advancing the nation’s democracy.
Lending his voice for the card reader, chief whip, Alhassan Ado Doguwa stressed the need to include the electronic card reader in the electoral Act, saying it is meant to tackle political corruption in the country.
“No amount of argument can convince me that card reader is not an electronic device. The usage of the card reader is a deliberate attempt to fight electoral corruption. It is a very good bill and the card reader must survive and be included in the electoral act”.
“Whoever found himself as a victim of card reader should have himself to blame”, the whip said.
On the diaspora voting bill, the sponsor, Hon. Eucharia Azodo in her debate, said it will empower Nigerians living in the Diaspora to vote in presidential elections.
Similarly, Hon. Shehu Garba noted the need to provide a platform for Nigerians in diaspora to contribute to the Electoral process of the country by voting just as they contribute to the development process.
However, Chairperson of the committee on foreign relations, Hon. Nnenna Elendu-Ukeje expressed concern over the difficulty in doing this noting that the country’s electoral body had no database of Nigerians living in diaspora.
Elendu noted that it was the place of INEC to come up with it and tell the House how it intends to make it work.
She said: “I recognize the importance and need for Nigerians in diaspora to be able to vote in the presidential election but the problem is we do not have a database of Nigerians residing outside the shores of this country.
“We can’t legislate diaspora voting. INEC should come and tell us that they want to do it, tell us how they will do it. They have to build the foundation on which we can go ahead and legislate on it”, Ukeje said.
Another aspect of the bill also seeks to empower vice presidential and deputy governorship candidates to assume the position of their party candidates if the candidate dies before the completion of an election.
Sponsor, Hon. Sunday Karimu said the amendment will address controversies such as what was witnessed during the Kogi state governorship election where the APC candidate, late Abubakar Audu died while the election was yet to be completed.
He stressed the importance of the amendment arguing that the Supreme Court judgement over the matter only added to the problem.
In his contribution, the deputy chief whip, Hon Pally Irise described the bill as a proactive attempt to deepen the nation’s democracy adding that it will enable the House to take a holistic view of the 2010 electoral Act and make necessary amendments.
He called on the Presidential Committee on Electoral Reforms headed by Senator Ken Nnamani to speed up its assignments, so that its recommendation can be incorporated into the Electoral Act preparatory to the conduct of the 2019 general election.
Another bill that was consolidated and passed seeks to provide a timeline for substitution of candidates, disclosure of source of funds contributed to political parties and empower INEC to uphold results of party primaries, where there is a change in the result.
The bill was referred to the House committees on electoral, political matters and justice for further legislative action