Electoral bill: Reps restrict expenses for presidential, governorship elections to N5bn, N1bn

• Propose N1m fine, 1 year jail term for erring presiding electoral officers

The House of Representatives on Tuesday passed through second reading a bill which seeks to limit expenses for presidential and governorship elections at N5 billion and N1 billion, respectively.

The maximum of election expenses for senatorial and the house of representatives elections were pegged at N100 million and N70 million; state assembly election pegged at N30 million; chairmanship election to area council pegged at N30 million while councillorship election expenses pegged at N5 million.

Details of the proposed amendment were contained in the bill sponsored by Hon. Aishatu Dukku which seeks to repeal the Electoral Act, No.6, 2010 (as amended 2015) and enact the INEC Act 2020, which seeks to regulate the conduct of federal, state and Area Council elections and for related matters’ which scaled through second reading.

The bill on the ‘Failure of Nomination’ also provides that any presiding officer who contravenes section 38 subsection (3) and (4) commits an offence and is liable on conviction to at least a term of one year imprisonment to a fine of N1 million or both.

In her lead debate, Hon. Dukku explained that the bill further seeks to provide for the restriction of the qualification for elective office to relevant provisions of the 1999 Constitution, use of card readers and other technological devices during elections and political party primaries; provide a timeline for the submission of list of candidates, criteria for substitution of candidates, limit of campaign expenses and address the omission of names of candidates or logo of political parties.

While noting that the proposed amendments became necessary with the view to correct the flaws observed in the electoral system, Hon. Dukku said: “It is no longer news that our electoral experiences since 1999 show a strong correlation between an efficient and effective electoral legal framework and the conduct of free, fair and credible elections. In fact, amendments of our electoral laws were long identified as priority legislation by the National Assembly because of the need to consolidate on the gains of our democratic achievements and to also address the lacuna identified in the electoral legal framework.

“A typical example is the case of the Kogi State Governorship election in 2015 where a leading candidate died after the commencement of polls but before the declaration of results.

“In addition to this are concerns that the legal framework on certain issues should be well settled ahead of the 2023 elections such as the use of technological devices like the card readers and electronic voting system, criteria for substitution of candidates, disclosure of source of funds contributed to political parties, replacement of lost or destroyed permanent voters card, penalty for the possession of fake voter cards, dates for conducting primary election shall not be earlier than 150 days and not later than 120 days before the date of election, etc,” she noted.

The bill also seeks to amend “Section 3(2a) which provides definite timeline for the release of Fund to the Commission for the discharge of its statutory duties. The amendment is an insertion which states that the funds for General Elections shall be released to the Commission not later than 180 days to the date appointed for the elections, after the word Commission in that section.”

In the same vein, under the conduct and postponement 0f election in emergency, Section 26(3) provides that: “Where an election has commenced and there is reason to believe that there is or has been substantial disruption of election in a polling unit or constituency or it is impossible to continue with the election occasioned by threat to peace and security of electoral officials and materials, the commission shall suspend the election and appoint another date for the continuation of the election or the process thereof.”

Section 26(4) also provides that: “Where the commission appoints a substituted date in accordance with subsections (2), (3) and (4) of this section, there shall be no return for the election until polling has taken place in the area or areas affected.”

As proposed by Hon. Dukku under oath of neutrality by election officers, Section 28(1) provides that: “All Staff, Electoral Officers, Presiding Officers, Returning Officers, Security Officials and Staff taking part in the conduct of an election shall affirm or swear to an oath of loyalty and neutrality indicating that they will not accept bribe or gratification from any person, and shall perform their functions and duties impartially and in the interest of the Federal Republic of Nigeria without fear or favour.”

Similarly, Section 30(4) under Notice of Election, provides that: “There shall not be substitution of candidates in a by-election except where a candidate of a political party in a bye-election dies, the party shall submit to the Commission the name of its substitute candidate within 48 hours of the death of the candidate in the form prescribed by the commission.”

As provided in Section 34(2) under Publication of Nomination, “any candidate who observes his name or that of his party missing on the list published in accordance with subsection (1), shall notify the commission in writing, signed by himself and supported with an affidavit not later than 21 days to the election.

Section 34(3) also stipulates that: “Where the candidate fails to notify the commission In accordance with subsection (2), the candidate shall be deemed to have waived his right.

Section 34(4) further empowers the commission to “produce ballot papers for the relevant elections In accordance with the list published after corrections in conformity with subsection (2).”

Section 36(1) under death of a candidate also provides that: “If after the time for the delivery of nomination paper and before the commencement of the poll, a nominated candidate dies, the Chief National Electoral Commissioner shall, being satisfied of the fact of the death, countermand the poll in which the deceased candidate was to participate and the commission shall appoint some other convenient date for the election within 14 days.”

The newly introduced subsection 36(3a, b and c) also provides that: “If after the commencement of polls and before the announcement of the final result and declaration of a winner, a candidate dies, the commission shall, ‘being satisfied of the fact of the death, suspend the election for a period not exceeding 21 days; the political party whose candidate died may, if it intends to continue to participate in the election, conduct a fresh primary within 14 days of the death of its candidate and submit the name of a new candidate to the commission to replace the dead candidate; and subject to paragraphs (a) and (b) of this subsection, the commission shall continue with the election, announce the final result and declare a winner.”

In his intervention, the Minority Leader, Hon. Ndudi Elumelu who opposed the proposed expenditure for some of the elective offices, called for the reduction of statutory campaign funds for councillorship, chairmanship and House of Assembly candidates.

After robust debate on the bill, the Speaker, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila referred the bill to the House Committee on Electoral Matters for further legislative action.

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