Hope of many Nigerians to expeditious consideration of the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill, 2018 by the National Assembly was dashed on Thursday as both Senate and House of Representatives stood down debate on the Bill for third reading and possible passage.
Though scheduled on Senate’s Order Paper for consideration, the Bill was stood down when the Leader of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan, said: “in view of the sensitive nature of the bill and its importance, it was vital to give the committee more time to do a thorough job”.
The Senate President, Bukola Saraki, corroborated his position, then put it to voice vote and it was unanimously adopted.
Saraki said the postponement was to enable the Senate Committee on Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to carry out further legislative work on the bill but sources among senators said debate on the bill was stood down to avoid rancorous session in view of what happened on Wednesday.
The bill had scaled second reading on October 10, a day after the two chambers of the National Assembly resumed from its eleven-week annual recess.
The bill has been very contentious as President Muhammadu Buhari had declined assent to the bill for three consecutive times. This is therefore the fourth attempt by the lawmakers to have the bill passed and assented into law.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Senator Ita Enang, while giving clarification in Abuja on the action of the President, said that Buhari declined assent to the bill due to some drafting issues and the period fixed for primaries among others.
In a related development, the House of Representatives on Thursday suspended consideration of the Electoral Act No 6, of 2010 at the committee of the whole.
The Daily Times recalls that the House commenced consideration of the report on Wednesday, but the process had to be stopped after members disagreed on the provision in the new amendment to the electoral act, on a possible use of “any other technological device” in an election where the card reader fails or malfunctions.
Presiding over the committee of the whole, Deputy Speaker, Hon. Yussuff Lasun, had stopped the consideration of the bill at clause 27 with the promise to conclude on Thursday.
The National Assembly joint committee on electoral matters had in its recommendation, in clause 16(2) gave a proviso to the effect that where the electronic smart card reader repeatedly fail, or malfunction, an alternative technological device “as may be prescribed” by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) may be deployed for purpose of voter accreditation.
But at Thursday’s plenary, Speaker of the House, Hon Yakubu Dogara, called the chairman of the Rules and Business committee, Hon. Emmanuel Orker-Jev, to move that the bill be stood down.
President Muhammadu Buhari had earlier raised 11 queries about the electoral act the last time it was passed and sent to him for assent. The joint committee of the Senate and the House has worked on the areas of concern.
A new date was however not fixed for the resumption of the consideration of the Electoral Act Amendment.