The electoral system of any country plays a fundamental role in sustaining and shaping the political conduct of its citizens. The manner of conduct of elections in a country goes a long way to determine the level of political culture, political participation, good governance, and sustainable development in the country.
The main purpose of an Electoral Act in any nation is for the general conduct of the election at the Federal State levels Local Government and Area Councils in the Federal Capital Territory and the way an electoral act of a country is shaped will either strengthen or weaken the democracy of a nation.
WHAT’S THE FUSS ABOUT THE ELECTORAL ACT (AMENDMENT BILL)?
If you are yet to assume your role as an active citizen of Nigeria then you may be asking this question and Dinidari Foundation is more than willing to welcome you onboard into the office of the citizen as you gain knowledge on the Electoral Act (Amendment Bill).
- It is no longer news that politicking in Nigeria is expensive and it often costs an arm and a leg to vie for electoral positions in Nigeria. This amendment seeks to change that by reducing the cost of nomination fees for aspirants, by setting a benchmark on nomination fees which must not exceed ten million naira for a presidential aspirant, five million naira for Governorship aspirant, two million naira for a Senatorial aspirant, and one million naira for a Federal House of
Representatives, five hundred thousand naira for a member of House of Assembly aspirant, two hundred and fifty thousand naira for an Area council Chairman aspirant, and one hundred and fifty thousand naira for a ward council chairman aspirant in the FCT.
If this happens we will naturally begin to see an influx of more youth and women in the political space contesting and winning elections.
- The bill also embraces technological innovations like the use of smart card readers that utilize biometrics to authenticate voters. This is a good one because our elections are often accompanied by the snatching of ballot boxes and papers, this will largely reduce inadequacies and even serve as evidence when results are contested in the court of law and while this may take a while before it is highly efficient, we must know by now that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a step, so Yes to digital innovations and No to analog methods. Incorporating the smart card reader/technological device in the Electoral Act will also complement provisions that mandate INEC to have a National Register of Voters in an electronic format on the results of every election at all levels making it easier to collate and disaggregate data on voting patterns of different categories of electorates which are bound to be useful when planning elections.
- As you know, in this country Nigeria, people like to “disguise”, well no
“disguising” in this new amendment, because any INEC official who fails to disclose his political affiliation before being employed by the commission will be penalized for a fine of N5 Million, imprisonment of at least five years, or both.
- Those who have misplaced or damaged their permanent voter’s card should be excited by this particular amendment because it allows the issuing of a replacement of a Permanent Voters Card in no less than 30 days before polling day upon satisfaction that the voter’s card of such an individual is missing, defaced or damaged.
- Because some political parties are of the habit of imposing additional
requirements for the nomination of candidates, this amendment addresses this issue by prohibiting political parties from imposing additional requirements for the nomination of candidates outside those contained under the 1999 Constitution (age, educational qualification, criminal record, etc.)
The aforementioned are only a few amendments out of the entire Electoral Act (Amendment Bill) and going by it, we must admit that this amendment is much needed to strengthen our democracy and the electioneering process and if like we at Dinidari Foundation Africa you are interested in a peaceful, credible, free and fair elections in Nigeria, then you would be wondering why this bill is yet to be passed into law.
STATUS OF THE ELECTORAL AMENDMENT BILL
The Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill has been lurking in the corridors of the National Assembly and the Presidency since 2018 and no valid reason has been given as to why the bill is yet to be passed into law. Therefore, there is every reason to raise an alarm when the Senate and the Presidency appear to be indolent in the passage of this bill into law.
The Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill was sent by the National Assembly to the President on June 27, 2018, for assent. Following, consideration of the Bill, the Presidency engaged with the National Assembly and raised concerns regarding technical & legal errors/issues found in the submitted version. The Senate revised the Bill and the revised version of the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill, 2018, dated 2nd of August, 2018, was received by the Presidency on the 3rd of August, 2018. As mandated by the law, the President has 30 days from the date of receipt, to assent to or decline the Bill, but three years later when we are supposed to be out and about conquering the world, yet here we are advocating for passage of a bill with nothing but good benefits to reap.
On the 9th of December 2020, Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, assured the nation that, the NASS will pass the Electoral Act (Amendment Bill) by the First Quarter of 2021, we are now in the second quarter of the year and the Electoral Act Amendment bill is yet to be passed, more recently the Senate President, Ahmed Lawan in April while meeting with the UK Minister for Africa and the British High Commissioner said the Electoral Act (Amendment Bill) will be approved and passed into law by the end of June.
Considering that the Senate President’s initial assurance that this bill would be passed in the first quarter of 2021 failed, doubts continue to mount if indeed his recent statement holds any credibility which is why we must be resolute in our advocacy for the passage of this bill into law, and hold the NASS, and the Presidency to account to back up their words with actions and pass the Electoral Act (Amendment Bill) into law.