Leaders of some political parties have expressed divergent views on the recent electoral amendment bill passed by the Senate.
They expressed diverse opinions on the modalities for funding, and issues relating to party supremacy as dealt with by the amendment.
The Nigerian Senate had last month passed the long awaited 2010 Electoral Act amendments. The passage of the bill followed the consideration of the report of the Senate Committee on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on a Bill for an Act to amend the Electoral Act No. 6, 2010 and for other related matters (SB 231 and SB 234).
Major highlights of the new bill include the eligibility of party to now determine the ad -hoc delegates to elect candidates in the primary process, provision for the use of electronic voting by INEC during future elections, use of card reader and also the power delegated to INEC to modify the voting process if there is any challenge.
The Senate also approved a provision to enable INEC transmit the result of elections electronically in an encrypted and secured manner to prevent hacking among others, saying it would make the election process more democratic.
While reacting to the development, the All Progressives Congress (APC) said it was happy with the amendment to the Electoral Act, expressing optimism that the amendments would improve the level of transparency especially as regards the electoral process, particularly in the area of nomination of candidates.
The national publicity secretary, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi expressed the party’s position via text message.
Bolaji said, “We are happy with the amendments and hope It will improve the transparency in electoral process, particularly with the nomination of candidates.”
Meanwhile, the national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, has cautioned that any legislation or electoral reform that tends to weaken political institution for the benefit of a few special interests will definitely collapse.
Speaking for the party, the acting spokesman, Hon Bernard Mikko, said “Reforms are integral part of development, particularly electoral reforms in our evolving democracy. Any legislation or electoral reform that tend to weaken and not strengthen our political institution for the benefit of a few special interest cannot stand and will definitely collapse.
“Ideally, parties form government and not otherwise. Government should empower our electoral process such that one arm of government does not have an overarching influence over another. The principle of checks and balances should check executive or legislative recklessness.”
On the contrary, however, the Senator Ahmed Makarfi-led PDP said it would not react to the recent amendments on the Electoral Act by the Senate.
Its spokesman, Prince Dayo Adeyeye, said the party would have to interface with the party’s caucus in the National Assembly before coming up with a position on the amendment.
“I can’t react on it now because I personally have not studied the amendments. As a party, we will meet with our party members in the National Assembly before we can come up with a position”, he said.
He, however, didn’t disclose when the party would meet with its lawmakers.
Also speaking on the development, former national chairman of the Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC), Mr. Yusuf Bashir, said some of the issues legislated on by the Senate could not have come up in the first place.
According to Bashir, ‘‘The issue of number and types of delegates and cost of nomination form should not be in the Electoral Act. There are matters that are better tackled in the electoral guidelines issued by INEC from time to time. The parties are not all the same in size and financial ability. These are peculiarities that should not be legislated upon if we want our democracy to thrive.
‘‘INEC is involved in too many things such that it is not doing any of them well. It regulates parties, register and educates voters, conduct elections, prosecute election offender etc. the commissioned should be unbundled and allowed to specialized in conducting election only, including local council elections, said Bashir who also recommended ‘‘the inclusion of representatives of political parties on INEC Board.’’
Speaking to LEADERSHIP on the new developments, the national chairman of the United Progressive Party, Chekwas Okorie, said the Electoral Act amendment was a welcome development so far there are lay down procedures that political parties observe.
He said, ‘‘There are procedures to arising at decisions by political parties. The only thing is that it is the party leadership represented by the party national chairman and the national secretary or any person that they formally delegate that to in the case of local elections that can fill forms, nomination forms on behalf of the party but it does not mean that they will do that arbitrarily.
Contrary to Bashir’s view on nomination form fee, Chekwas said ‘‘the newly amendment fee was reasonable compare to what was obtainable before now. Remember president
He said it was such circumstances that forced President Buhari to come out publicly to tell Nigerians that he had to borrow money to buy his nomination form.
On the conditions of nominating party candidate, Chekwas said, ‘‘there is a procedure which must follow the constitution of the party in question. Some parties have direct primaries as their condition for emergence of candidates. In direct primaries it means that every member of the party is a delegate to the party primary election but there is also the indirect primary where statutory delegates could be officers of the party at various levels depending on the constituency in question would be the ones who will elect the candidate and in all of this INEC is expected to be there to witness or monitor the election to ensure compliance with the party constitution.
‘‘It’s not as if the party leaders can arbitrarily seat down and impose candidates depending on whether they like the person or not or whether has engaged or not. There are still democratic processes in which members of the party have key roles to play.
‘‘What the new electoral act amendment has done in effect is by bringing in the electronic voting system which now means that votes of the ordinary people will count much more than it used to be.’’
Meanwhile, members of the House of Representatives across parties’ line had before now expressed mixed reaction in some areas amended. A leading voice among them in the opposition PDP is the Minority Leader of the House, Leo Ogor, who described the use of card reader as fraud.
“The card reader is a fraud, but I support electronic voting. The card reader is not in the best interest of Nigerians and should be thrown over board and electronic voting should mount the centre stage as it ‘ll benefit all and sundry”, he said.
For his part, the member representing Mangu/Bokkos Federal Constituency of Plateau State, Rep Solomon Bulus Maren said Nigeria was not ready for electronic voting as the country is yet to solve its problem of epileptic power supply which continues to remain an impediment in all strata of the economy.