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INEC given power to decide on e-transmission of results

Published by The Nation on Thu, 15 Jul 2021

By Tony Akowe, Sanni Onogu, AbujaIndependent National Electoral Commission (INEC) will be given the power to decide on the usage of electronic transfer of election results, it was learnt yesterday.The electoral agency will get this mandate if the recommendations before the Federal lawmakers are passed as presented and assented to by the President.This is a major highlight of the Electoral Act amendment Bill which senators and House of Representatives members are due to decide upon from today.Reports of the committees on INEC were separately laid at the two chambers.A clause by clause vote on the recommendations will take place today.Section 49 (1,2,3) of the bill provides that voting at an election under this Bill shall be by open secret ballot. (2) Voting at an election and transmission of result under this Bill shall be in accordance with the procedure determined by the Commission. (3) A voter on receiving a ballot paper shall mark it in the manner prescribed by the Commission.This is a middle of the road position in the midst of a heated debate on electronic transmission of results as proposed by INEC.Other highlights of the bill include:criminalising submission of name of an unqualified candidate to INEC by a political party;Publication of date of election at least one year before by INEC;How a candidate can withdraw from election;Fixing of campaign fund expenses for candidates; andPunishment for a candidate who wilfully flouts election law.Also Section 28 (7) of the bill states that a candidate for an election shall, at the time of submitting the prescribed form, furnish the Commission with an identifiable address in the State where he or she intends to contest the election at which address all documents and court processes from either the Commission or any other person shall be served on him or her.Subsection (8) states that A political party which presents to the Commission the name of a candidate who does not meet the qualification stipulated in this section, commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine of N10,000,000.00The document recommended 90-day notice to the INEC for any candidate wishing to withdraw from any election, while saying that notice of election shall be published one year to the date of election.Read Also:Senate rejects Onochie as INEC CommissionerIn Section 32, the report recommends that a political party shall not be allowed to change or substitute its candidate whose name has been submitted pursuant to section 29 of this Bill, except in the case of death or withdrawal by the candidate, provided that in the case of such withdrawal or death of a candidate, the political party affected shall, within 14 days of the occurrence of the event, hold a fresh primary election to produce and submit a fresh candidate to the Commission for the election concerned.The bill fixes a maximum of N5 billion as election expenses for a Presidential candidate and N1 billion maximum for governorship election, while the election expenses for the Senate and the House of Representatives were fixed at a maximum of N100 million and N70 million.For State Assembly election and Chairmanship election, the maximum amount of expenses to be incurred by a candidate was fixed at N30 million each and N5 million for Councillorship electionIt states further that in section 87 sub section 9 that a candidate who knowingly acts in contravention of this section, commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine of one per cent of the amount permitted as the limit of campaign expenditure under this Bill or imprisonment for a term not more than 12 months or both.Subsection 10 states that any individual who knowingly acts in contravention of subsection (9) is liable on conviction to a maximum fine of N500,000.00 or imprisonment for a term of nine months or both.Subsection 11 states that an Accountant who falsifies, or conspires or aids a candidate to forge or falsify a document relating to his expenditure at an election or receipt or donation for the election or in any way aids and abets the contravention of the provisions of this section commits an offence and Limitation on election expenses is liable on conviction to a fine of N3 million or imprisonment for a term of three years or both.Senate President Ahmad Lawan refuted allegations that the Senate had introduced extraneous clauses into the Electoral Act (amendment) Bill.He spoke following the laying of the report on the Bill by the Chairman, Senate Committee on the Independent National Electoral Commission, Senator Kabiru Gaya (Kano South).Key among the clauses said to have been surreptitiously introduced into the Bill was the ban on electronic transmission of election results by INEC.He lamented that following the publication of his phone number and that of Speaker Femi Gbajabimila on the social media, he received over 900 short messages (SMS) on his phone in one day.The Senate President insisted that those who have accused the Senate of inserting clauses into the Bill either spoke out of ignorance or were simply mischievous and rabble-rousers.Lawan said: There are various accusations, insinuations that the leadership of the Senate or leadership of the National Assembly has tempered with the report of the committee on INEC of both chambers.Speaker Gbajabiamila and Chairman of the House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Benjamin Kalu assured Nigerians that the bill will be passed by the House before its summer break.Chairman of the House committee on Electoral Matters, Aisha Dukku, at the plenary prayed the House to receive the report on a Bill for an Act to Repeal the Electoral Act No. 6, 2010, and Enact the Electoral Act 2021, to Regulate the Conduct of Federal, State and Area Councils in the Federal Capital Territory Elections; and for Related Matters.
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