Attempts by the Senate to amend the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) to cure certain mischief identified in the electoral system suffered set back in the Senate Wednesday.
Chairman, Senate Committee on Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Senator Abubakar Kyari, presented report of his committee on the requested amendments.
It was apparent that the issues tabled for amendment were too hot for the senators to handle.
After about two-hour debate, Senate President, Abubakar Bukola Saraki, was forced to send the report back to the committee to seek answers to some thorny issues.
Essentially, Senators failed to agree on who should succeed a candidate of a political party who died before the announcement of an election result.
The lawmakers specifically referred to the last Kogi State governorship election describing it as “the Kogi mischief.”
The committee recommended in Clause 6 to amend Section 36 of the Electoral Act by inserting a new subsection (3) which provides for the substitution of a candidate of a political party who dies before the declaration of the result of the election with the first runner up in the party’s primaries (which was won by the deceased candidate).
Many Senators were vehemently opposed to the recommendation.
Those opposed to the recommendation wondered why the running mate to the deceased candidate should not be allowed to succeed his principal.
They argued that since a candidate could only be deemed to have been validly nominated if he has a running mate, it is natural that the running mate should succeed his principal in the event of death of the principal.
But those who supported the recommendation insisted that allowing the running mate to take over from his principal could serve unintended purposes for an ambitious running mate who could go after the life of his principal knowing that he stood to benefit in the event of the death of his principal.
The proposed amendment also included amendment of a paragraph of Section 49 of the Electoral Act, with regard to the processes of voter accreditation using Smart Card Reader introduced by INEC in the 2015 General Election.
The amendment also sought to insert criminal penalty for a member of a political party who misrepresent his status for the purpose of being engaged in INEC; replacement of a candidate at an election who dies between commencement of polls and declaration of the result of the election; proceeding with an election where there is only one valid nomination, criminal penalty for obtaining registration of a political party fraudulently and granting INEC power to overrule manipulation of result of primaries by party officials.
Senator Kyari noted in the report that the sad demise of Prince Abubakar Audu a former Governor of Kogi State, just before the announcement of the result of the last governorship election in Kogi State, brought to focus a major lacuna in the law that required quick legislative action.
He noted that it was therefore discussed that Section 36 of the Electoral Act should be amended with respect to the death of a nominated candidate who dies before the declaration of the result of an election.
On direct party primary system, Kyari said it is a known fact that party primaries system have led to instances where elected public leaders are removed by Tribunals or Courts and replaced by candidates who were adjudged to be the winner of the party primaries but were not voted for by the public.
The committee also recommended in Clause 2 to amend Section 8 of the Electoral Act by inserting a new subsection (5) which prescribes imprisonment of at least five years or a fine of at least N5 million, or both for a member of a political party who is guilty of misrepresenting himself in order to secure an appointment with INEC.
In Clause 10 to amend Section 49 of the Act with regards to the use of Smart Card Readers and other technological devices for elections by INEC.
In Clause 17 to amend subsection 78(5) of the Act with regards to provision of false and misleading information by an Association to INEC for purpose of registration as a political party.
After listening to the discordant views especially on the death of a nominated candidate of a political party who died before the declaration of the result of an election, Saraki sent the report back to the committee to conduct more legislative enquiry into the matter with a view to arriving at acceptable position.
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