Electoral Act: Senate resolves Kogi debacle, amends section on death of candidate during election

The Senate on Thursday resolved the controversy that engulfed Kogi State following the death of the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the November 21, 2015 election, Prince Abubakar Audu midway into the elections.

The Senators who restarted the process of amending the 2010 Electoral Act on Thursday inserted a new Section 3 in the law to provide that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) suspends an election for 21 days in case a nominated candidate dies just before the announcement of election results.

The death of Alhaji Abubakar Audu in November 2015 midway into the governorship election had ignited the controversy which was tested up to the Supreme Court by Honourable James Faleke, the running mate to the deceased candidate.

While Faleke believed that he should automatically assume the ticket, that candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) former Governor Idris Wada also asked the courts to pronounce him the winner.

The new Section 3 provides that:”If after the commencement of poll and before the announcement of the final result and declaration of a winner, a nominated candidate dies, (a) the Commission shall, being satisfied of the fact of the death, suspend the election for a period not exceeding 21 days; (b) the political party whose candidate died may, if it intends to continue to participate in the election, conduct a fresh direct primary within 14 days of the death of its candidate and submit a new candidate to the Commission to replace the dead candidate; and (c) subject to paragraphs (a) and (b) of this subsection, the Commission shall continue with the election, announce the final result and declare a winner.”

The bill, which is sixth time the Electoral Act would be amended, also provides that INEC shall suspend the conduct of the election following the death of a nominated candidate.

The Senate also provides that electoral officials can embark on manual voting if card reader fails to work perfectly during elections.

The amendment provides that once the presiding officer certifies that the card reader is malfunctioning, he or she can assume the use of manual voting by ascertaining the names on the voters register.

Section 49(1-4) of the amended 2010 Electoral Act then provides as follows: “The Presiding Officer shall use a smart card reader or any other technological device that may be prescribed by the Commission from time to time for the accreditation of voters, to verify, confirm or authenticate (a) the genuineness or otherwise of the voter’s card; (b) that the voter’s card presented by the voter is registered at the polling unit in the constituency in which the card is presented; (c) the biometric connection or otherwise of the intending voter with the voter’s card; and (d) the number of duly accredited voters in the polling unit.

“(3) An intending voter shall not be accredited to vote in an election if the voter’s card presented by him to the Presiding Officer is not (a) a genuine voter’s card issued by the Commission to the intending voter; (b) registered at the polling unit in the constituency in which the card is presented, and (c) biometrically connected to the intending voter.

“(4) Notwithstanding paragraph (3) (c) of this section, the presiding officer on being satisfied that an intending voter is the owner of the voter’s card, may accredit the intending voter to vote in the election.”

Senators however suspended further clause by clause consideration of bill when they deferred further action till another legislative day.