The National Assembly (NASS) has reassured that it will submit the Electoral Act Amendment Bill to President Muhammadu Buhari for his assent before the end of February.
Chairman, Senate Committee on Independent National Electoral Committee (INEC), Kabiru Gaya, disclosed this when he spoke at a forum of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja.
“We are doing the Electoral Act, we have virtually completed work. What we are supposed to do at this stage is to bring it to the floor of the Senate for consideration and also the floor of the House of Reps for consideration. We are doing a joint hearing made up the Senate and the House, so that we can fast track work and also reduce the issue of having so many differences in the bill.
“If we are working together with the house, it means the bill will be one. The House bill and the Senate bill will be one. There will be no need to go for concurrence. I believe Nigerians will be happy with the Electoral Act 2021, which hopefully before the end of this month, will leave the chambers of national assembly to Mr. President for his assent. As we have promised that within the first quarter of 2021 the bill be signed, we hope and pray that it will be signed and it will enhance democratic progress in the country.
“Whatever we need to do to improve the elections, the quality of our elections, we will continue to do that. I wish to thank the leadership of the Senate and the Speaker of House of Representatives for encouraging us to make sure that we fast track work on this issue of Electoral Act. People must have free, fair and credible elections in Nigeria and therefore we have to amend the Electoral Act, the law that will allow us achieve success in election; free, fair and credible,” he said.
Gaya also said the electoral act amendment bill cannot accommodate independent candidacy. He said the provision cannot be considered as part of the bill because it had no constitutional backing. There is, however, a separate bill proposing such a constitutional amendment.
The House of Representatives had in 2020 proposed the piece of legislation that gives legal backing for individuals not sponsored by any political party to contest for elective offices.
Gaya said unless the constitution is amended, the electoral act cannot adopt provisions for independent candidacy.
“A lot of views have been expressed in the report on the electoral act amendment bill. Some are talking about the independent candidacy of which we say we cannot do that. This is because the independent candidacy is still not in the constitution and the electoral act is inferior to the Constitution so we cannot have another law which supersedes the constitution.”
He however, assured that Nigerians in the Diaspora would be able to vote from their countries of residence during elections, once the constitution was amended.
“The issue has been discussed. We certainly don’t have problems with the people in Diaspora voting for the president or governors they want or whichever position. I know it is also a constitutional issue but we may have to amend the Constitution to ensure that.
“We are waiting; Nigerians should wait for the National Assembly to deliberate on that. And when the issue of amendment of the Constitution comes up, that issue I know will be inserted in the amendment, but it has to be approved. And you know that approving constitutional amendment is not an easy thing, the two houses have to agree, the Senate and the House of Assembly have to agree,’’ he said.