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Bill to Legalize Card Reader Scales Second Reading in Senate

Ayodele Afolabi,  Abuja

A bill on amendment of electoral act seeking for legalization of usuage of the card reader in electoral process, has scaled second reading in the Senate.

Senators were divided on the bill, while those in support of the bill, said the amendment should be  carried out  without any delay as a way of consolidating the gains made in the conduct of the 2015 general election, those against , argued that to avoid such an amendment running contrary to provisions of the 1999 constitution as regards electoral process in the country, the move should be suspended , pending the amendment of the constitution itself.

In his lead debate on the bill titled: ” A Bill to Further Amend the Electoral Act 2010 ( No 6) and for other Matters Connected Therewith”, Senator Tijjani Y Kaura ( APC Zamfara North), said the bill principally seeks to give legal impetus to the use of card reader for the identification and the authentication of prospective voters.

According to him, the introduction of the device in the 2015 general election served as the needed game changer for good , in the history of electoral abnormalities in the country and must be legalized in view of the template upon which the Supreme Court delivered its rulings on Rivers, Akwa- Ibom and Lagos States gubernatorial election cases.

He opined that if card reader and by extension the permanent voters card (PVC), had been taken care of, by the electoral act, the court may have ruled otherwise in those cases .

His words: ‘ The card reader is not provided for by the Electoral Act 2010 ( No 6 ) despite its novelty and this was the rationale behind the rulings of the Supreme Court of Nigeria on gubernatorial election cases of the states mentioned.

“Thus, this bill becomes necessary as amending the law will enable the Supreme Court to reverse itself in future similar cases”.

He argued further that the said card readers , if eventually legalized through an amended electoral act, will not in anyway, depose or dethrone the voters’ Register whose judicial roots are firmly embedded or entrenched in the same electoral act from which the voters’ register directly derives its sustenance and currency.

However while Senators Adamu Aliero (APC Kebbi Central), Sueiman Hunkuyi (APC Kaduna North),  Abdullahi Gumel (APC Jigawa North West) and Dino Melaye (APC Kogi West), supported the bill and called for its expeditious consideration, Senators Foster Ogola (PDP Bayelsa West) and Bassey Akpan (PDP Akwa Ibom North East) kicked against it.

Ogola in his debate against the bill said: “This bill seeks to smuggle in an electoral practice that is not in consonance with our constitution.  It seeks to smuggle in something strange into our electoral system which must be rejected at this point until needed amendment to the constitution itself is carried out”.

But the bill scaled through when put to voice vote by the Senate President, Bukola Saraki , who forwarded it to the Senate Committee on INEC for more legislative inputs within  the next four weeks.

A similar bill seeking for amendment of the electoral Act in respect of process for the substitution of candidates after the conduct of primary elections in the event of death and other related matters sponsored by Senator Mohammad Ubali Shittu ( APC Jigawa North East), also scaled second reading in the senate Thursday and forwarded to its committee on INEC for further legislative inputs within the next four weeks.


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