The Senate yesterday commenced fresh process of amending the Electoral Act, 2010 barely four months to the 2019 general elections.
The fresh process followed President Muhammadu Buhari’s rejection of two bills that sought to amend the Electoral Act.
A new bill on the amendment of the Electoral Act was presented yesterday for first reading and it later passed second reading after about an hour of debate during plenary.
Sponsor of the bill, Sen Suleiman Nazif Gamawa (PDP, Bauchi) said the amendments sought included that where a smart card reader fails to function and a fresh one is not deployed, the election in that unit shall be cancelled and rescheduled within 24 hours.
Another amendment, he said, is that where a primary election is held and duly certified by the electoral umpire, and the result is subsequently altered, INEC shall have power to overrule the alteration.
The amendment also pegs the maximum amount to be spent during campaigns by a presidential candidate at not more than N5 billion; governorship N1bn; senatorial N100 million; House of Reps N70m; state assembly N30m; chairmanship N30m and councilorship N500,000.
Again, another amendment states that if at the point of display or distribution of ballot papers by INEC, a candidate or his agent discovers that his name, the name or logo of his political party is omitted, such person shall notify the commission, as a result of which election in the area shall be postponed to a period not exceeding 90 days.
However, a lot of senators kicked against some of the proposed amendments.
Sen Kabiru Garba Marafa (APC, Zamfara) said there was no logic in pegging the campaign expenses of a presidential candidate at N5bn, considering the large number of polling units and other expenses.
Also, Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu (PDP, Enugu) said: “I’m very worried about item 7, which is on missing name of a candidate on the ballot paper. This is very dangerous because somebody who knows he can’t win election will raise the alarm and make other candidates suffer for it.”
Sen James Manager (PDP, Delta) said: “Some of the amendments raised are very technical and dangerous. I advise that when this is referred to the committee, it should check all the views expressed here, including those not expressed, and come up with something that’s acceptable.”
Sen Ali Ndume also lent his voice on the issue of a missing logo or candidate’s name, saying if allowed to scale through, there would be room for manipulation.
“A sample of the ballot paper should be displayed two weeks to the election for all parties to see,” he said.
After the debate Senate President Bukola Saraki referred the bill to the committee on electoral matters to report back next Tuesday.