Electoral Act: New Bill Directs INEC To Make Use of Functional Card Reader Compulsory

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The National Assembly has begun the process of amending the Electoral Act 2010 as amended with a new provision seeking to make compulsory the use of a functional Smart Card Reader.

The proposed amendment which is contained in subsection(3) states that where a smart card deployed for accreditation of voters fails to function in any polling unit; a fresh card reader must be provided.

The amendment further states that where a fresh card reader is not deployed, the election in that unit shall be cancelled and another election shall be scheduled within 24 hours”.

Card Reader as a voting electronic device was first introduced for the accreditation of eligible voters in the 2015 General Elections but was not made compulsory in the event that it fails to function.

The 2010 Electoral Act as amended in 2015 permitted manual means of accreditation through the use of index form.

The proposed new bill in 2020 however directs the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to make Smart Card Reader a compulsory feature in Nigeria’s future elections.

This was as the National Assembly said it will leave no stone unturned to deliver a credible and transparent Electoral Act to Nigerian citizens ahead of General Elections in 2023.

The President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan gave the assurance when he declared opened the Joint Public hearing on the Bill for Act to repeal the Electoral Act, 2010(as amended) and also enact the Independent National Electoral Commission Act, 2020.

Responding to remarks by the Executive Director, Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC), Clement Nwankwo to hold the National Assembly responsible for the Electoral Act; the Senate President said the 9th Assembly is committed more than ever to ensure that the Electoral Act is passed by the first quarter of next year.

According to Lawan, the amendment will address all the lapses in the electoral process and limitations in the legal framework since 1999; stressing that the integrity of an election is for all votes to count and for the losers to accept defeat without rancour.

Speaking, Chairman House Committee on Electoral Matters, Aisha Dukku said the proposed Amendment will concentrate on critical areas of public interest which include the use of technology devises like card reader and Electronic Voting System and criteria for substitution of candidates.

She said the bill also makes provision for the disclosure of source of funds contributed to political parties, replacement of lost or destroyed Permanent Voters’ card as well as penalty for the possession of fake voters’ card.

The proposed law also comes with a new provision that the dates of conducting primary election shall not be earlier than 150 days and not later than 120 days before the date of election.

In his welcome speech, Chairman Senate Committee on INEC and Electoral Matters, Kabiru Gaya hinted that the proposed bill seeks to address several loopholes in the electoral process and hopes to amend over 300 clauses which include sections of the Electoral Act 2010 amended by the 8th Assembly but rejected by President Muhammadu Buhari.

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