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2015: Senate plans same day elections

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If the Senate had its way, the era of staggered elections, already provided for in the Electoral Act 2010 would be history during 2015 general polls. As part of preparations for the exercise, Senate is tinkering with the overhaul of the Electoral Act which would ensure that all elections are held same day nation-wide.

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Besides, Senate’s proposed amendment of the Electoral Act 2010 would compel the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to accredit voters in the 2015 elections by electronic means. The amendment also wants the INEC to be the sole organizer of a public debate for presidential candidates.

The debate, would be compulsory for all the contestants. Daily Sun checks indicate that the Senate wants to amend extant section 25 of the Principal Act which allows INEC to conduct elections into the offices of President, Vice President, Governor and Deputy Governor on different days. Besides, elections into the legislature are also held on different days.

The proposed amendment is contained in a bill for an Act to Amend the Electoral Act 2010 (As amended) to provide for the holding of particular elections same date, accreditation of voters by electronic means and to confer on INEC the power to cause a debate to be conducted for candidates contesting election If the amendment sought by the Senate scales through, all elections would be held same day.

The explanatory memorandum of the proposed amendment states the “purpose of this Act is to provide the holding of particular elections same date, for accreditation of voters by electronic means using the Direct Data Capture machine prior to voting and also, to make presidential campaign debate compulsory and confer on INEC the power to facilitate the conduct of such debate.” Already, 23 Senators, led by the Deputy Minority Whip, are sponsoring the amendment.

The remaining 22 Senators are: Deputy Majority Leader Abdul Ningi; Minority Whip Ganiyu Solomon, Solomon Ewuga; Dahiru Awaisu Kuta; Nenadi Esther Usman; Hosea Agboola; Mudashiru Hussain; Chris Ngige; Ahmad Lawan; and Ahmed Sani. Others are Senators Domingo Obende; Igwe Paulinus Nwagu; Babajide Omoworare; Mohammed Magoro; Mohammed Sani Saleh; Chris Nwankwo; Bindo Jibrilla and Olusola Adeyeye. Senators Matthew Nwagwu, Akin Odunsi, Babafemi Ojudu, Umaru Sahiru, Alkali Jajere and Kabiru Garba Marafa. The new section 25 as contained in the National Assembly Journal of April 8, 2013, Vol. 10 provides that (1) Elections into the offices of the President and Vice President, the Governor and Deputy Governor of a state and to the membership of the Senate, the House of Representatives and the House of Assembly of each state throughout the federation as may be appointed by the Commission in accordance with the Constitution of this Act. (2) The date mentioned in subsection (1) of this section shall not be later than 150 days and not later than 30 days prior to the date the Senate, the House of Representatives and the House of Assembly of each state stand dissolved, and in the case of the office of the President and the Governor of a state, not earlier than 150 days and not later than 30 days prior to the expiration of the term of office of the last holder of such office.” The proposed amendment, however, allows INEC to set the date for election for local councils. The provision states that “elections into the offices of the Chairman and Vice Chairman and membership of an Area Council shall be held on the same date as may be appointed by the commission.” The amendment also affects section 47 of the Electoral Act which empowers INEC to set the date and time for accreditation of voters and the voting process, but with a caveat. The accreditation process, this time around, should be by Direct Data Capture, as provided for by the INEC. The new section 47 (2) reads: “For the purpose of accreditation of voters under subsection (1) of this section, the Commission shall provide for the use of Direct Data Capture machines at all polling units.” An amendment of section 100 of the Principal Act specifically compels the INEC to conduct debates for presidential aspirants within a stipulated time before the presidential election.

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