THE joint committee of the National Assembly on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) matters has called for the amendment of the electoral act to pave way for underage married girls below the 18-years constitutional qualification to be able to vote.
Kabiru Gaya, the chairman, Senate committee on INEC, Senator, and Aisha Dukku, his counterpart in the house of representatives, proposed this on Wednesday before the technical committee on electoral reform.
Members of the technical panel include lawmakers, INEC officials, and civil society groups dealing with election matters. It has the mandate to work on the electoral act being proposed by the national assembly.
In their presentations, during the panel’s inaugural sitting, Gaya and Dukku said the proposal was a unanimous decision of the joint committee of the national assembly.
“The joint committee has proposed a review of the section of the Electoral Act that pegged the eligibility age of voters at 18 years,” Gaya said.
“The joint committee has proposed that if a lady who is not up to 18 years is married, she should be considered to be mature enough and be eligible to vote.”
According to Punch newspaper, Mahmood Yakubu, INEC chairman who was present at the sitting dismissed the proposal, citing aspects of the constitution that also pegged marriageable age at 18-years.
Yakubu’s response did not go down well with Dukku, who immediately said the INEC boss should not have dismissed the proposal with a wave of hand because the joint panel had adopted it.
“It was one of the submissions on the day of the public hearing in the last Assembly that a married lady or a girl who is not up to 18 years should be considered as an eligible voter,” Dukku.
“It is already in the Electoral Act amendments submitted in the last Assembly; so it cannot be thrown away just like that. We should look at it and come up with something instead of throwing it away. It is not from us but from the stakeholders on the day of the public hearing held in the 8th Assembly.”
Another issue raised by the joint panel which they wanted the new Electoral Act to determine is whether the political party or candidate is the owner of votes cast on Election Day.
They cited the case of a Kogi State governorship election won by the late Abubakar Audu, who died before the results were announced, and that of the recent Imo North Senatorial Bye-Election where INEC declared the All Progressives Congress, which had no candidate as the winner.
The lawmakers argued that the candidate and not the party should be the beneficiary of the votes.
Yakubu said all the issues would be discussed at the technical session.
The Chairman, Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, Opeyemi Bamidele, said the matter would be dealt with at the technical committee level where robust discussions on it would take place.
Bamidele also said the issue of defection should be addressed in the new Electoral Act that would spell out the conditions for those holding elective positions in the executive arm of government.
The INEC chairman pledged that the commission would work with the National Assembly committees on INEC to produce a brand new Electoral Act for the nation.