THE Senate, on Monday, commenced the process of amending the 2010 Electoral Act to pave way for early primaries and strengthen electoral process.
Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, who declared open a Summit on Electoral Reform, said Nigerians should soon expect an amended 2010 Electoral Act.
The Senate President, who declared open the summit, organised by the Senate Committee on INEC in collaboration with Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC), assured all Nigerians of the commitment of the Senate and, indeed, the National Assembly to amend the Electoral Act in line with people’s expectations and with a view to strengthening the electoral process.
He said: “We must conclude the amendment by the end of the year. My view is that politics now start early, let us amend the areas we all agreed on because we may not agree on all the issues.
“For so long, our citizens in the diaspora have demanded inclusion in the democratic process; a right afforded in many other countries to citizens irrespective of location; and this current government agrees with them.”
Also speaking at the event, Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, urged his colleagues in the National Assembly to amend the electoral act to pave way for direct and early primaries.
He said such an amendment would ensure citizen mobilisation and better participation.
Also speaking, chairman of INEC, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, assured that the commission would soon complete all outstanding elections. disclosed that all pending rerun elections would have been concluded by July 31.
He said since the conclusion of the 2015 general election, INEC had conducted a total number of 129 elections which he listed to include: 49 rerun elections out of the 80 nullified polls by elections petitions tribunals; 10 bye-elections in various constituencies resulting from the death of members of state and national assemblies; 68 elections in Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and two end of tenure elections in Kogi and Bayelsa States, among others.
He also said 23 election certificates were withdrawn in accordance with court rulings and such certificates re-presented to rightful winners of elections in both the Senate and House of Representatives.
The INEC boss advocated the need for an amendment to the 2010 Electoral Act, with a view to ensuring that candidates whose elections are nullified as a result of improper nominations by their candidates should have their certificates re-issued to the runners-up adding that in doing so would save the nation the huge cost of conducting fresh elections in such circumstances.
Saraki also stated that another germane issue was the question of voting opportunity for IDPs and people living in severely challenged areas, either due to security or other unforeseen challenges.
Ekweremadu called for early and direct primaries by political parties to make the nation’s electoral process more credible.
Ekweremadu stated that late conduct of primaries by political parties, owing mainly to constitutional restrictions, posed serious challenges to the electoral system, adding that political parties’ penchant for indirect primaries had also undermined internal democracy in the political parties.
He stated that early primaries would allow the winning candidates to raise sufficient campaign funds for the larger contests adding: “Early primaries afford parties and candidates the time to visit every part of the country/constituency.
“It also allows them to initiate and shape the national conversation about their identity and future direction, defining ideologies and manifesto.”