Candidate’s death during polls: Party can conduct fresh primary – Senate

 Okays e-voting, card reader

By Taiye Odewale

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has been empowered by
Senate to conduct future elections in the country by electronic voting just as it legalises the electronic device of card reader introduced by the electoral body for voters’ accreditation in the 2015 general elections.

It also proffered solution to problem that might arise from sudden death of candidate of a political party, during election, by empowering affected political party to conduct fresh primary for a new candidate within 14 days.
Similarly, INEC, according to the lawmakers, is to conclude the election within a period of 21 days, with attendant transfer of votes of the deceased candidate to the new one.
These and others were the sweeping provisions contained in the 2017 Electoral Act passed into law by the Senate yesterday.

The electronic voting provisions of the Act is contained in Section 52, sub-section 2, which states that “the electoral 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.
The section, however, gives INEC discretion to use other methods of voting if it is impracticable to use e-voting in any election.
Recommended along with the e-voting proposal in the Act is the card reader innovation used by INEC in the 2015 general election.

The device was legalised by the Act under section 49 which deals with accreditation of voters, transmission of accreditation data etc.
Specifically, the Act under Section 49 sub-section 2 states: “The Presiding officer shall use a smart card reader or any other technological device that may be prescribed by the Commission from time to time for the accreditation of voters, to verify, confirm or authenticate the genuineness or otherwise of the voter’s card.”

In forestalling the scenario that played out in the November 2015 gubernatorial election in Kogi state, where the death  Candidate Abubakar Audu of the All Progressives Congress (APC), created a lot of crisis within the party on who should pick the race from there,  the Act under Sections 36 (3a, b and c) makes provisions for tackling such an emergency.
The section states: ““(3) If after the commencement of poll and before the announcement of the final result and declaration of a winner, a nominated candidate dies (a) the Commission shall, being satisfied of the fact of the death, suspend the election for a period not exceeding
21 days;

(b) The political party whose candidate died may, if it intends to continue to participate in the election, conduct a fresh direct primary within 14 days of the death of its candidate and submit a new candidate to the Commission to replace the dead candidate; and
(c) Subject to paragraphs (a) and (b) of this sub-section, the Commission shall continue with the election, announce the final result and declare a winner.”

Other striking provisions contained in the Act are Section 8 sub-sections five where any staff of INEC found to be registered member of any of the political parties is liable to an offence carrying five-year-jail term or N5, 000, 000 fine or both; Section 87 that deals with nominations of candidates by parties for election from councillorship to Presidency with pegging of the amounts that should be collected from them by their various political parties.
The Act states that monies collected from aspirants by political parties for councillorship election should not exceed  N150, 000.00, Local Government Chairman, N250, 000, House of Assembly member N500,000.00, House of Representative member N1, 000, 000, Senatorial aspirant N2, 000,000, Governor N5, 000, 000 and N10, 000, 000 from a Presidential aspirant.

Other provisions in the Act are guidelines specified for political parties in election of delegates for their primary elections, whether direct or indirect, and jurisdictions of courts over such primary elections.
The Act, under jurisdiction of courts, specifically states that though courts can entertain cases relating or arising from conduct of party primaries from aggrieved aspirants, but cannot stop any of the primary elections from holding.

The provisions state: “Notwithstanding the provisions of this Act or rules of a political party, an aspirant who complains that any of the provisions of this Act or rules of a political party has not been complied with in the nomination of a candidate of a political party for election, may apply to the Federal High Court or the High Court of a state or the FCT for redress.
“However, nothing in this section shall empower the courts to stop the holding of ad hoc delegate elections, primaries or general election or the processes thereof under this Act pending the determination of the suit.”

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