… slams N5m fine on INEC officials registered with political parties
Senate has amended the Electoral Act to allow for electronic voting in elections in Nigeria.
This implies that if the proposal gets the nod of the House of Representatives and the assent of President Muhammadu Buhari, electronic devices would be used in accreditation, voting and collation of results by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in the 2019 general elections, billed for February 16.
This comes as the proposal slammed a fine of N5 million on any official of the Commission who is a card-carrying member of any political party.
Section 52 (2) of the amended Electoral Act states that: “The Commission shall adopt electronic voting in all elections or any other method of voting as may be determined by the Commission from time to time”.
It justified the new provision, pointing out that the amendment mandates e-voting without ambiguity but also gives the Commission discretion to use other methods if it is impracticable to use e-voting in any election.
Manual voting system had been used in previous elections in the country. Experts say the system could be prone to challenges like glitches, hacking and low broadband penetration.
Nigeria is one of the countries with the lowest broadband penetration in the world. As of June 2016, the country recorded 14percent penetration.
The passage of 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, 2010 and for other related matters.
Report of the Senate Committee on INEC was presented at Thursday plenary by the former chairman of the panel, Abubakar Kyari.
The upper legislative body also authenticated the use of card reader as a means of accrediting voters as well as the use of instant transmission of results to a central data centre.
Citing what transpired at the United States Presidential elections in November last year, where former United States President Barack Obama alleged that the polls were hacked by Russia, analysts have expressed concern over the use of electronic voting in Nigeria.
But addressing journalists after plenary, Kyari allayed such fears, adding that a section also provided for the transmission of results in an encrypted and secured manner to prevent hacking.
The new Electoral Act slammed a fine of N5million to any official of the Commission who is a card-carrying member of any political party.
“A person, who being a member of a political party, misrepresents himself by not disclosing his membership, affiliation, or connection to any political party in order to secure an appointment with the Commission in any capacity, commits an offence and shall be liable, on conviction, to imprisonment for at least five (5) years or a fine of at least N5,000,000, or both,” Section 52 (5) of the amended law states.
To address the incident that happened in Kogi State during last gubernatorial election, the amended Electoral Act provides that if a candidate dies before results of elections are declared, the results will not only remain valid but belongs to the political party that lost its candidate.
It also added that in such a scenario, the electoral body should suspend the elections for 21 days during which period the affected political party will conduct fresh primaries to choose a new candidate.
The Bill also gives political parties power to adopt direct or indirect primaries in choosing their flag bearers, while qualification of disqualification of candidates for elections will be solely based on the Constitution.