Says Inclusion of Card Reader Good Electoral Process
By Eseoghene Emuke
Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, the Deputy President of the Senate, says the Ninth National Assembly will give accelerated passage to the soon-to-be amended Electoral Act to deepen the nation’s electoral process.
The Deputy President of the Senate stated that the National Assembly would also ensure that card reader is given legal backing in the new electoral act, saying its inclusion will give credibility to future elections in the country.
He spoke when he received the leadership of the Nigerian Representatives of the African Union Economic, Social and Cultural Council (AU-ECOSOCC) led by Dr. Tunji Ashaolu at his office on Thursday in Abuja.
The lawmaker in a statement issued by his Special Adviser, Media and Publicity, Mr Yomi Odunuga, stressed that it was important that the card reader be made part of the legal regime for elections henceforth.
Omo-Agege posited that card reader will not only ensure credibility of future elections, but will save the process from ‘unnecessary’ litigations that now presently characterize the electoral process.
He added that the mistakes of the Eighth National Assembly where the amendment of the Electoral Act breached ECOWAS Protocol would not be repeated by the current leadership.
“I am sure any minute from now, we are going to be coming up with a revised Electoral Reform Amendment Bill that will address issues that are very dear to us and issues that came to the fore in the 2019 elections, most especially revolving round the legality of the card reader.
“We know that there is no way you can have genuine, credible, free and fair elections in this country without addressing the issue of the card reader. Most of the litigations that arise from the 2015 and 2019 elections have always centred around the legality or otherwise of the card reader.
“The courts have made it very clear that as far as they are concerned, Section 49 of the Electoral Act is very clear that the only document recognised by law for purpose of accreditation is the voters register.
“To the extent that we believe that we want to introduce any innovation including but not limited to the card reader, we have to do the right thing. The right thing as far as we are concerned is for us to pass the law to make the card reader part of the legal regime”, Omo-Agege added.
While bemoaning the controversies that trailed the late passage of the electoral act under the Eighth Senate, the Delta Central lawmaker stressed further that, “We are hellbent on doing that. And we actually tried in the committee that I served on in the Eighth Senate but the leadership of the Eighth Senate delayed it and by the time it passed, it had ran into challenges with the ECOWAS Protocol, dealing with the timing of vital, legal regime that would govern elections, which must be done six months before the exercise.”
He, however, explained that contentious areas in the amendments made by the Eighth National Assembly would be removed before the bill will be passed and sent to the President for assent.
On the pending Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB), the Deputy President of the Senate assured that the Ninth Senate will give the bill speedy passage after addressing all areas of disagreement.
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He said, “This time around, it is the determination of the Ninth Senate that we are going to have this (PIGB) passed. And we have also come to the conclusion for us to be able to achieve this, we are going to be working in synergy with the executive arm to have this passed”.
Earlier in his remark, leader of the delegation, Dr. Tunji John Ashaolu, emphasized the need for Nigeria to take its rightful place in the African Union (AU), and called on the National Assembly to urgently revisit the Electoral Act Amendment Bill as well as the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill.