Senate President Bukola Saraki has announced a six-man committee of senators to harmonise the Senate’s version of the amended Electoral Act with that passed by the House of Representatives.
The Senate’s conference committee has the Chairman of the Senate Committee on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Suleiman Nazif, as Chairman.
Other members of the committee include: Shehu Sani, Biodun Olujimi, Hope Uzodinma, Dino Melaye and Peter Nwaoboshi.
The committee is expected to meet with the House of Representatives to harmonise the version of the amended electoral bill before transmiting it to President Muhammadu Buhari for his assent.
The Senate had on March 30, 2017 passed an amended version of the 2010 Electoral Act, while the House of Representatives passed its version on January 23, 2018.
The lower house voted to change the order of elections in the country, thereby altering the dates and timetable recently released by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for the conduct of the 2019 general elections. Lawmakers amended the Electoral Act by approving that the conduct of National Assembly election should comes first, to be followed by the governorship and state Houses of Assembly elections while the presidential election should be conducted last.
Highlights of the version passed by the Senate included the use of electronic voting for conduct and transmission of results, legalizing the use of Card Reader for accreditation, giving INEC powers to modify the voting process if there was any challenge among others.
The announcement by the Senate President comes 24 hours after the Chairman of INEC, Mahmood Yakubu, hinged the presentation of the 2019 elections budget on successful amendment of the Electoral Act.
Yakubu stated this while appearing before the Senate Committee on INEC to defend the electoral body’s 2018 budget estimates.
Also on Wednesday, the Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room called on the House of Representatives to rescind the amendment of the Electoral Act, which altered the timetable and schedule of activities for the 2019 general elections.
Specifically, Situation Room described the legislation as self-serving, noting that the action of the lower legislative chamber violates constitutional guarantees of the independence of the nation’s electoral body.
Convener of Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room and Executive Director, Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC), Clement Nwankwo, stated this at a press conference in Abuja.
“We are however concerned about the delays in the passage of the amendments to the constitutional and legal framework for the conduct of the 2019 elections. Of particular concern are proposals coming from the National Assembly to amend the Electoral Act to alter the timetable for the 2019 elections already announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
“The proposal by the National Assembly to alter the Order of Elections already set by INEC is an unwarranted interference in the Constitutional powers of INEC to determine the conduct of elections and interferes with the powers of INEC to carry out its electoralduties without directives or control from any person or authority, using the instrumentality of legislation. This is unacceptable and is hereby condemned.
“The National Assembly needs to backtrack from passing self-serving legislation that contradicts constitutional guarantees of the independence of INEC,” Nwankwo said.
OWEDE AGBAJILEKE, Abuja