By Jude Opara
The House of Representatives was in a rowdy session yesterday during the debate on the Electoral Amendment bill.
A major section of the bill, (Section 16), which had to do with the card reader, generated a heated argument and sharp disagreement between the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party caucuses of the House
Trouble started when the Chairman of the Committee on Electoral and Political Party Matters, Hon. Aishatu Dukku, read the motion, presiding officer, Hon. Yusuf Lasun, informed his colleagues of the importance of the bill and demanded for their prompt attention.
Recall that President Mohammadu Buhari had declined assent to the bill pointing out some issues which necessitated the effort of the lawmakers to take another look at it.
The clause indicates that the presiding officer shall use a smart card reader or any other technological device that may be prescribed by the Commission for accreditation of voters, to verify, confirm or authenticate particulars of the voter in the manner prescribed by the Commission.
Hon. Gabriel-Africa Onyenweife from Anambra and Dan Asuquo from Cross River State, as well as Hon. Nicholas Ossai from Delta State were among the contributors who kicked against the inclusion of the clause, ‘any other technological device that may be prescribed by the Commission’, saying it will give the electoral body the room to change the process when it suits it.
But Minirity Leader, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila from Lagos State advised that the clause was necessary because it will leave the electoral body the opportunity to introduce any other technological device to conduct elections without recourse the National Assembly for another amendment.
Similarly, where the card reader fails to function, the presiding officer is expected to replace it within three hours to the end of voting. Where that is not possible, the electoral body will conduct a fresh election within 24 hours.
Also Clause 17 says that where nomination of an elected officer is nullified by the Court and a notice of appeal against the decision is given within the stipulated period for appeal, the elected candidate shall not withstanding the contrary decision of the Court remain in office pending the determination of the appeal.
Going by the new law, it is now an offence for any political party to present an unqualified candidate to the Commission and where that happens, the erring party shall pay a fine of N5 million naira.
After the Deputy Speaker who presided over the session put the matter to a voice vote and ruled in favour of the amendment, some PDP members who were opposed the amendment stormed out of the chambers in anger.