The Senate has amended the country’s electoral act creating a possibility for the introduction of electronic voting by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
This followed the adoption of the report by the Senate committee on INEC, and subsequently, the passage of the amendment bill for third reading.
Borno State lawmaker, Abubakar Kyari, presented the report to the Senate plenary on Thursday, in place of Ali Ndume, who is the chairman of the INEC committee, but who is currently on a 6-month suspension.
Kyari was the former chairman of the INEC committee and had overseen most of the work on the amendment process before he was replaced by Ndume in February.
“We have introduced electronic voting through any technology INEC deems fit,” Kyari said after the bill had scaled through.
Also, the amended bill legalized the use of smart card readers and “any technological device” for accreditation.
Recall that the smart card reader was first introduced by former INEC Chairman, Attahiru Jega, during the 2015 general election, but the Supreme Court, in its rulings on some electoral cases that came up afterwards ruled that the technology was not known to the electoral act.
The amended bill also gave legal backing to INEC’s newly adopted electronic result and transmission system with the aim of eliminating manual collation of results in Nigeria’s electoral process.
Another major amendment to the bill was in reaction to the dilemma thrown up by the Kogi State governorship election in which Audu Abubakar, candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, died before the election was concluded.
The amended bill allowed INEC to suspend the election, in the event of death of a governorship candidate in the course of the election, for 21 days.
The political party that suffers loss of candidate will then be allowed to conduct a fresh primary to replace the deceased, thereby ending controversy over who should continue on behalf of the party between a running mate or runners-up in the primary election that produced the deceased in the first place.
Then, the bill says that any new candidate from the fresh primary should inherit the votes already garnered by the deceased on behalf of the party.
It is expected that the Senate will now transmit the bill to the House of Representatives for concurrence before final transmission to the President for assent.
“With the passage of the INEC Bill today, the Senate has taken one more step towards strengthening Nigeria’s democracy,” said Senate President Bukola Saraki in a statement.
“The Bill checks the impunity of candidates and election officials, and makes party elections more inclusive.
“It also guarantees voter accreditation using Smart Card Readers. It ensures freer and fairer elections — enshrining “one man, one vote!”
“Next up, Petroleum Industry Bill and Economic Priority Bills,” he said.