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Highlights of new Electoral Act signed into law today

There are 10 highlights of the new Nigerian Electoral Act Amendment Bill 2022 signed today in Abuja by President Muhammadu Buhari.

President Muhamnadu Buhari today in Abuja signed a new electoral act that governs the conduct of 2023 elections.

He described the amended legislation as “revolutionary” and a legacy that he is proud to leave behind.

He specifically mentioned some of the sections he was happy with.

” Worthy of note include the democratic efficacy of … Sections 3, 9(2), 34, 41, 47, 84(9), (10) and (11)…”

Leaders of the legislature joined the President, his Vice and Cabinet members to witness the signing ceremony at Aso Villa.

Top on the list of highlights is electronic transmission of election results. Consequently, INEC is legally empowered to deploy smart card readers and other voter accreditation technology to capture and transmit votes.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) already fixed the elections to hold on Saturday 18th February 2023, exactly 358 days from today 25 February.

10 top highlights of the Act

Here are the highlights of the new electoral act signed into law today by the President:

  1. The President must release funds for general elections must be released at least one year before the election (Clause 3(3). Going by this law, the Presidency has already defaulted by eight days to give INEC the funds it needs to conduct Ekections 2023. Alternatively, INEC could shift its announced election date backwards to accommodate the law
  2. The law mandates parties to conduct primaries and submit list of candidates at least 180 days before the general elections (Clause 29(1). For 2023 elections, this means primaries must be completed by 23 August 2022.
  3. Political parties are now empowered to conduct a primary election to replace a candidate who dies during an election (Clause 34). The law aims to remove the confusion and uncertainty that attended the death of one-time APC Kogi State candidate, Alhaji Abubakar Audu.
  4. INEC now has legal backing to deploy smart card readers and any other voter accreditation technology for elections (Clause 47).
  5. INEC now has the legal backing to electronically transmit election results (Clause 50). This was the plank of the challenge mounted by Vice President Atiku Abubakar on the 2019 election results.
  6. Election Tribunals will use the total number of accredited voters to determe whether there is over-voting at an election (Clause 51). The law will make it difficult to have another Imo scenario where votes can be manufactured from the air and be accepted by the courts.
  7. INEC is mandated to provide for people with disabilities and special needs to vote (Clause 54(2))
  8. INEC will not automatically accept results if it was obtained under duress (Clause 65). Thie law empowers INEC to review results declared under duress.
  9. Public officers who want to contest an election must resign their offices before they are eligible to do so (Clause 84). Those affected include ministers, commissioners, special advisers and others. By participation, this means aspiring to become either a delegate or a candidate
  10. The campaign season is now fixed at 149 days (Clause 94). This allows for early commencement of electioneering. The law mandates the campaign season to start 150 days to election day and end 24 hours before the election.

What Buhari didn’t like

President Buhari took exception to the provision in Section 84(2) of the Bill and said he signed it on the condition that the National Assembly will ammend it.

The section reads thusly:

“No political appointee at any level shall be voting delegate or be voted for at the Convention or Congress of any political party for the purpose of the nomination of candidates for any election”.

He reminded the lawmakers that this is contrary to what the Constitution provides.

Thus, public and civil servants wanting to participate in the process only need to retire, withdraw or resign their appointments 30 days to when they want to stand for elections.

The provision therefore import “blanket restriction and disqualification to serving political office holders” which is unconstitutional.

Its progressive, says Ekweremadu

Highlights of new electoral act
Sen Ekweremadu

Former Deputy President of the Senate, Dr. Ike Ekweremadu counted two important breakthroughs from the act.

He said Nigerian elections will never be the same again with electronic transmission of votes and other additions to the Act.

He also expressed confidence that “more Nigerians will be encouraged to exercise their franchise, knowing that their votes will count.”

Here’s the statement he released and personally signed today:

“I commended the signing into law of the Electoral Act Repeal and Re-enactment Bill by His Excellency, Muhammadu Buhari .

“I’ve been part of the nation’s electoral reform for over the past 10 years, but I must confess that the journey to the new Electoral Act was by far the most frustrating.

“After the major electoral reform of 2010 that also involved amendments to the 1999 Constitution to, among others, open the doors to technology in our electoral system, check some executive excesses, manipulations by political parties, and strengten the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) through financial and administrative autonomy, our expectation after amendments to the Electoral Act in 2015 was that the new administration would support the National Assembly to further straighten our electoral laws and system.

“Unfortunately, four times, the amendments were turned down in the 8th National Assembly, apparently thwarted by narrow, partisan interests and ambitions.

“The efforts in the current National Assembly also faced similar challenges, but it is heart-warming that it has finally materialised with the presidential assent.

“Certainly, we didn’t get all we pushed for in the new law, but it is nevertheless a quantum leap for our electoral system and I congratulate all, who played a part in it, notably the civil society, media, and all Nigerians, who stood up for the nation’s democracy.

“With the electronic transmission of election results, early primary elections, and adequate time for INEC to prepare for elections, among other breakthroughs, our elections will never be the same again and more Nigerians will be encouraged to exercise their franchise, knowing that their votes will count.”

Highlights of new electoral act