A bill to amend the 2010 Electoral Act with a view to incorporating the use of card reader into the document passed the second reading in the Senate on Thursday.
The bill, titled, “A Bill for an Act to Amend the Electoral Act N0. 6 2010 and for Other Matters Connected Therewith 2016,” was initiated by Senator Tijani Kaura (Zamfara-North).
Kaura said the use of card reader remained a legal initiative and had become important in view of the huge value it added to the 2015 general elections.
He said the court pronouncements that the card reader was unknown to law had made legislation on it necessary and that this would further strengthen the nation’s democracy.
He described the introduction of the card reader as novel, explaining that some African countries had been using the device to enhance their electoral systems. The lawmaker said if the use of the card reader was legalised , it would further boost the confidence of the people in the electoral process.
He said, “The card reader is indeed a novel innovation by the Independent National Electoral Commission. The card reader has been in use in many countries even before Nigeria adopted it for the 2015 general elections.
“It has been in use in countries such as Ghana, South Africa, Kenya and many other African countries and most importantly, it has prevented electoral fraud. Thus, we must boost the confidence of our citizens in the system.”
The Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, however, suggested the need to ensure a comprehensive amendment to the Electoral Act beyond the provision for the use of card reader.
He listed other issues which needed to be considered as amendments to the Act to include electronic voting as well as the failure of INEC to comply with 90 days’ order by courts for rerun elections.
But Senator Foster Ogala (Bayelsa-West), opposed the bill, describing it as an attempt to smuggle a strange device into the nation’s electoral system.
He said the provision of the bill was inconsistent with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution, pointing out that any law that was inconsistent with the constitution was null and void.
He insisted that if the bill must be passed, the constitution must first be amended before the use of card reader could be incorporated into the Electoral Act.
He argued that INEC had successfully conducted several elections in the past without making use of card readers.
Senator Albert Akpan (Akwa Ibom North-East) warned against rushing to make the card reader a legal instrument.
He, however, said he was not opposed to the use of the card reader but rather, its imperfections should be addressed.