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Senate reject electronic voting for 2015 polls

The Senate Tuesday rejected a proposal seeking to empower the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to employ the use of electronic voting for 2015 polls.

The parliament also kicked against proposal that all elections should be held in one day as senators described the move as a ploy to throw the nation into confusion and consequently compound the electoral process.

The chamber also proposed to incorporate into the Electoral Act a responsibility tasking INEC to set apart two periods in the year when it will hold other elections that are not held along with the general election.

These proposals were contained in three bills containing amendments to Electoral Act 2010, which passed through second reading on the floor of the Senate yesterday and consequently committed to committees on constitution review and INEC.
While one of the bills sets out to entrench presidential debate into the Electoral Act, another seeks to strip the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) of the power to appoint Secretary for the commission.

The three bills which were consolidated into one were tagged: "A Bill for an Act to Amend the Electoral Act 2010 to Provide for a Tenure of Office of Secretary, Power to Issue Duplicate Voters, Determine Procedure and for Other Related Matters Related Matters 2014; A Bill for an Act to Amend the Electoral Act No. 6 of 2010 (as amended) to Provide for the Holding of Particular Elections on the Same Date, Accreditation of Voters by Electronic Means and to Confer on the Independent National Electoral Commission Power to Cause a Debate to be Conducted for Candidates Contesting Election for the Office of the President and for Other Connected Matters 2014 as well as A Bill for an Act to amend the Electoral Act 2010 and for Other Connected Matters 2014." 

The three bills were sponsored by Senators Ike Ekweremadu, Abu Ibrahim and Alkali Jajere respectively. 

While presenting his lead debate, Ekweremadu recalled that Section 52 of the Electoral Act 2010 prohibits the use of electronic voting by INEC, submitting therefore that it was high time the electoral body was granted the leave to commence electronic voting system.

"Section 52 of the Electoral Act 2010 prohibits the use of electronic voting by the election management body. While we appreciate the challenges of the use of electronic voting system in our infrastructure-deficit environment, the bill seeks to grant the commission the latitude to use electronic voting system when it is ready with the appropriate capacity and technology to do so."

The bill, according to Ekweremadu, also seeks to compel INEC to conduct re-run elections between seven to 21 days after judicial pronouncements, receive and treat applications for transfer of voters' card from 30 to 60 days before elections and as well receive and treat applications for duplicate voters' card from 30 to 60 days before election. He emphasised the need to inculcate the three proposals into the Electoral Act while noting that "lack of time" had been used as a strong excuse for electoral flaws in the country.

Also in his lead debate, Ibrahim who advocated the necessity to conduct all elections in one day, argued that doing so "will help to stem the tide of manipulations, save money, time and at the long run halt evil machinations of some politicians."
Meanwhile, the Chairman of INEC, Professor Attahiru Jega, yesterday said it  would not relent in its aspiration to make Nigeria’s electoral system more inclusive by accommodating citizens in the Diaspora.

In a statement by the Chief Press Secretary to INEC chairman, Idowu Kayode, said the commission gave the assurance when he accepted an invitation to INEC by the Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia to observe voting by Indonesians in Nigeria, as part of the Asian country’s parliamentary elections.

Diaspora voting by Indonesians in Nigeria will hold on Saturday, April 5, in Lagos and Sunday, April 6, in Abuja, at the country’s consular offices. The voting will be conducted as part of the parliamentary elections in mainland Indonesia scheduled for April 9th, 2014. The Ambassador of the Republic of Indonesia, Sudirman Haseng, extended the invitation to INEC when he paid a courtesy visit to Jega in Abuja yesterday.

Indonesia has a total population of about 240 million, out of which 180 million are eligible voters. According to the envoy, the diaspora voting is applicable only to the Jakarta constituency in the parliamentary election. He added that besides the parliamentary election, Indonesians will go to the poll for presidential election on July 7th.

In his response, Professor Jega thanked the Ambassador for inviting INEC to observe the Diaspora voting; noting that Nigeria has a lot to learn from Indonesia’s electoral experience.

He said: “In Nigeria, we are doing our best to open up our system for citizens in the Diaspora to be able to vote. Unfortunately, there are presently legal inhibitions, because our laws prohibit Diaspora voting. This is not directly so; but there is a provision in our laws that requires every eligible person to cast their ballot at the polling unit where they have registered as a voter. The implication is that for people in the Diaspora to participate in our elections, they will have to come home to register as voters, and subsequently cast their votes at the polling units where they registered.

“But we have make recommendations to the National Assembly for an amendment of that provision so as to allow people in the Diaspora to vote; and we are hopeful that our recommendation will be taken on board. It is good to know that Indonesia does it, because we are looking out for the best model that can be adapted to our country when the time comes.”

The INEC Chairman added that conducting elections in a country like Nigeria is quite challenging; but he restated the commission’s confidence that, given on-going preparations, the 2015 general election will be much better than 2011 and will comply with global best standards.

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