The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission ( INEC), Professor Mahmood Yakubu, has appealed to the National Assembly not to restrict INEC on usage of technology in the 2023 general elections by way of provisions in the electoral Act being worked upon.
Professor Yakubu made the appeal on Thursday in Abuja at the retreat held by the harmonization committees of both chambers of the National Assembly on areas of differences in the recently passed 2010 Electoral Act ( Amendment ) Bill 2021.
He urged the committee to make provisions in the bill being fine – tuned , for empowerment of the Commission on technological innovation without restricting it to a specific technology such as the Smart Card Reader.
According to him, the speedy passage of the Electoral Bill will enable the Commission test-run procedures and pilot innovations ahead of the 2023 General Elections.
The Commission he added, has already scheduled three major elections to be conducted next year which includes Area Council election in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) holding on 12th February 2022, followed by the Ekiti Governorship election on 18th June 2022 and the Osun Governorship election a month later on 16th July 2022.
These he explained, are different from five pending bye-elections made up of three Federal Constituencies and two State Constituencies to contend with.
He assured the federal lawmakers that INEC will continue to work closely with the National Assembly in achieving credible elections in the country.
In his remarks , the Chairman of the Harmonization committee, Senator Yahaya Abdullahi (APC Kebbi North), assured that the committee will not go back on the promise made to Nigerians on improvement of the Electoral process and reforms that will further strengthen, entrench and sustain the country’s democracy and it’s Institutions.
Senator Abdullahi who doubles as Senate Leader, said the Senate and the House of Representatives Committees on INEC and Electoral Matters, will work closely in reviewing all issues and challenges surrounding elections in Nigeria, especially the enormous challenges witnessed from the general elections of 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015 and 2019.
He confirmed that recommendations of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC); the Electorate, Political Parties, the General Public, Civil Society Organisations, Youth Organisations, Technical Partners of the National Assembly, the Attorney General and Minister of Justice and many other professional institutions relevant to the sustenance of Democracy were considered in the bill.
He highlighted some of the aspects of citizens top priority which has been addressed in the Electoral Bill 2021 which includes imposition of stiffer sanctions for electoral Offences, Provision of legal backing for electoral technology, strengthening the financial independence of the Independent National Electoral Commission etc.
Other Areas addressed in the new proposed bill according to him, includes, Process of Political Parties changing Candidates for an election, Issues surrounding death of a Candidate during an election , Conducting primaries, Jurisdiction of Courts, Providing early Notice of Election, which is to be given 360 days. before a general election and 14days before a bye-election as well as Submission of list of candidates before the appointed date for an election.
He affirmed That the 9th National Assembly has almost completed work on the bill for an Act to Establish the National Electoral Offences Commission , which will help in relieving INEC the responsibility of prosecuting Electoral offenders and curb the impunity in Nigeria’s Electoral process.