Fireworks in Senate over Electoral Amendment Bill

From Fred Itua, Abuja

A debate on a bill for an act to amend the Electoral Act of 2010, yesterday, divided senators from the North and South East, as well as their colleagues from the South-South. The lawmakers were also divided along party lines.
Senator Tijjani Yahaya Kaura, who sponsored the bill said the objective of the bill is to enable the Eighth Senate cure lacunae that exists in Nigeria’s electoral laws by amending the Electoral Act.
Senator Kaura added that the bill also seeks to give legal impetus to the use of card reader for the identification and the authentication of prospective voters.
While lawmakers from the South East and the South-South vehemently opposed the bill, citing instances in the last election where Card Readers failed to capture fingerprints of voters, lawmakers from the North threw their weight behind the bill and equally cited huge electoral successes recorded through use of the same equipment.
Leading an offensive against the bill, Senator Foster Ogola from Bayelsa State said it was unconstitutional to give legal backing to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to use Card Readers during elections.
Ogola based his argument on the fact that the 1999 Constitution does not recognise electronic voting in the country.
He advocated that the section of the country which forbids electronic voting be amended before amending the 2010 Electoral Act.
He was supported by Senator Bassey Akpan from Akwa Ibom State who queried the workability of Card Readers. Bassey reminded his colleagues how former President Goodluck Jonathan was unable to vote for over three hours during last year’s general elections as a result of the inability of the machine to capture his fingerprints.
Senator Obinna Ogba from Ebonyi State also insisted that it was an exercise in futility. He accused lawmakers supporting the bill of insincerityans wondered how the card reader could function 100 per cent in the North, but could not capture almost half of the voting population in the South during the same 2015 general elections.
Senators Dino Melaye, Adamu Aliero, Bala Ibn Na’allah and Suleiman Hunkuyi, who spoke in favour of the amendment bill, accused their Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) counterparts from the South of plans to rig future elections.
They maintained that those who genuinely won their elections had no reasons to oppose the amendment bill, saying it was the only way through which subsequent elections in the future can be guaranteed.
No senator from the South-West contributed to the bill.
They did not speak in favour or against the amendment bill.
After an hour of a heated debate, Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, put it to a voice vote.
It sailed through and was subsequently referred to the Senate Committee on Electoral Matters for consideration.

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