Politics

Electoral Act: INEC demands unrestrictive power for technological innovation

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has disclosed that it will systematically embark on the commencement of physical registration of voters in its state and Local Government Area offices after consulting stakeholders and reviewing the security situation across the country.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has appealed to the National Assembly to grant it the power to determine the kind of technology to be deployed during elections.

INEC Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, made the appeal at a retreat organised by National Assembly Conference Committee on the Electoral Act 2021, chaired by Senate Leader, Yahaya Abdullahi.

“As you finalise on the Electoral Amendment Bill, I urge you to continue to endow the Commission with the power to determine what technology to deploy in our elections at the appropriate time.

“One of the ways of doing so is to make broad provisions of the law that will empower INEC to continue to innovate without restricting us to a specific technology such as the Smart Card Reader.

“The smart card reader could in due course, become obsolete, inapplicable or irrelevant as is already the case following the recent introduction of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) by the commission.

“The commission looks forward to the conclusion of the process without which we cannot make the regulations and guidelines to give effect to the provisions of the law,” he said.

Mr Yakubu added: “Without the regulations and guidelines, we cannot finalise on the manuals for the training of officials that will conduct elections.

“There are extensive provisions in the current bill that require clear guidance by the commission.

“With only 484 days to the 2023 general election, time is of the essence.”

The INEC boss further said in addition to the 6 November Anambra Governorship Poll, the commission had already scheduled three major elections for 2022.

“First is the FCT Area Council Election on Feb. 12, 2022; followed by the Ekiti governorship election on June 18 and the Osun governorship election on July 16, 2022,” he said.

Also speaking, Mr Abdullahi said work on the bill, which was about to be harmonised, was started by the 7th Assembly through to the 8th National Assembly.

“It is ready for passage and presidential assent under the 9th National Assembly.

“I am happy to state that most of what we call ‘citizens top priorities’ on Electoral Act Amendment have been addressed by the Electoral Act 2021.

“These issues include the imposition of stiffer sanctions for electoral offences, provision of legal backing for electoral technology and strengthening the financial independence of INEC.”

In a goodwill message, the Head of European Union (EU) Cooperation, Cécile Tassin-Pelzer, commended the Senate’s removal of the contentious clause on electronic transmission of results.

She said the action was a positive development that would ensure transparency and credibility of the country’s election process.

The Senate had on September 22, set up a Conference Committee to harmonise its position with that of the House of Representatives on the Electoral Act Amendment Bill.

The committee was to work with that of the House, also set up the following week, on the proposed electronic transmission of results by INEC.

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