BusinessDay

New Electoral law bars politicians from working in INEC

To strengthen the independence of Nigeria’s electoral umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the amended 2022 Electoral Law has barred the Commission from engaging the services of a member of a registered political party, either as a contractor or staff.

From the amended bill, an offender is liable, on conviction, to a fine of N5 million or imprisonment for a term of not less than five years or both, BusinessDay can exclusively report.

A copy of the bill obtained by our correspondent indicates that the new legislation also restrains courts from stopping the conduct of any election in Nigeria, including party primaries and general elections.

For the first time in the history of the country, card readers have been recognized for use during elections. However, where during the conduct of an election a smart card reader malfunctioned, the election would be cancelled and another date fixed by the INEC.

The Senate and the House of Representatives had on Tuesday harmonised their positions on the 2010 Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill, stating that political parties can select candidates for election through; direct primaries, indirect primaries, and consensus method, respectively.

But when a political party decides to use the consensus option, it must hold a special convention at all levels to ratify the candidate so agreed on before the nomination can become valid. Both chambers agreed that “consensus” should be a part of the mode of nominating candidates by political parties for elections. They however added some conditions for use of the option.

According to Section 87 of the bill, parties must receive written consent from all aspirants. In case of failure by parties to obtain written consent from aspirants, they (parties) must revert to either direct or indirect mode of primary.

The amended 2010 Electoral Act was recently passed into law by both chambers of the National Assembly and is awaiting presidential assent

Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Media and Publicity, Benjamin Kalu, told BusinessDay on Wednesday that the provisions were aimed at ensuring a credible, competitive, transparent, and an all-inclusive electoral process.

Only recently, the Senate twice rejected President Muhammadu Buhari’s nomination of Loretta Onochie as INEC national commissioner following allegations that she was a card-carrying member of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), an allegation she denied.

Specifically, Clause 8 Section (4A) of the amended Electoral Act provides, “A person who, being a member of a political party, misrepresents himself by not disclosing his membership, affiliation, or connection to any political party in order to secure an appointment with the Commission in any capacity, commits an offense and is liable, on conviction, to a fine of N5,000,000 or imprisonment for a term of not less than five years or both.”

Also, Section 25 of the same Act provides, “Nothing in this section shall empower the Courts to stop the holding of Adhoc delegate elections, primaries or general election or the processes thereof under this Act pending the determination of the suit.”

Other new provisions of the bill include maintenance of the register of voters in an electronic format, which makes it accessible to both the candidates and voters, provision for party leaders and candidates to inspect election materials and make videos or take photographs of the materials, if they need to do so, before voting.

INEC seeks media sensitisation against double registration

The Act restrains the deployment or use of thugs or any other paramilitary force except those authorised by the Commission, as well as provision that every material to be used in an election must be counted and recorded before the commencement of any election.

Other new legislations include the provision of stiffer penalty for those that come to polling centers on election day to cause trouble by increasing the fine payable from N500,000 to N5 million for first-time offenders and N700,000 to N7 million for second-time offenders, respectively.

The new law also increased the period allowed for the merger of political parties before the election from 90 days to nine months. The implication is that any merger that occurs less than nine months to an election will not be recognised by the INEC.

Similarly, provisions are made to accommodate people with disabilities in elections, defining what amounted to overvoting in an election.

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