Electoral Act Amendment Bill approves N5bn campaign spending for presidential candidate

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*Senate president, Dr. Bukola Saraki

The Senate on Tuesday passed the fourth version of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill set the campaign spending limits for the president, governor, state and national assembly lawmakers as well local government chairman and councillor.

Thirty-eight clauses were amended in the principal Act.

The passage followed the adoption of the report by the joint Senate and House of Representatives committee on the bill, which was presented at the Senate by the chairman of the committee on Independent National Electoral Commission, Senator Suleiman Nazif.

President Muhammadu Buhari had withheld assent to the bill three times, raising various constitutional and drafting issues.

Prior to the clause-by-clause consideration of the bill, Nazif explained that some observations of the president were considered.

“Clause 4 amends Section 18 of the Principal Act which deals with erroneous cross-references made in the Bill that was sent earlier for assent.

“Clause 10 amends Section 36 (3) of the Principal Act that deals with qualifying language.

“Clause 14 amends Section 49 (4) of the Principal Act that deals with the failure of a card reader. Where a smart card reader deployed for accreditation of Voters fails to function in any polling unit and a fresh card reader is not deployed 3 hours before the close of the election in that unit, then the election shall not hold but be rescheduled and conducted within 24 hours thereafter, provided that where the total possible votes from all the affected card readers in the unit or units does not affect the overall result in the constituency or election concerned, the commission shall notwithstanding the fact that a fresh card reader is not deployed as stipulated, announce the final results and declare a winner.

“Clause 24, amends Section 87 (13) 0f the Principal Act that deals with the issue of a deadline for primary election. The dates of the Primaries shall not be earlier than 150 days and not later than 90 days before the date of the election to the elective offices,” he said.

He further explained that the same section stipulates a specific period within which political party primaries are required to be held since the unintended consequences left INEC with only nine days to collate and compile lists of candidates and political parties for the various elections.

“This is because the earlier Electoral Act Amendment Bill did not properly amend Sections 31, 33 and 85 of the principal Act that stipulate times for submission of lists of candidates, publication 0f lists of candidates, notice of conventions and congresses tor nominating candidates for elections.

“Clause 32, amends Section 140 (4) 0f the Principal Act that deals with the omission of the name of a candidate or logo of a political party.”

The other sections of the main electoral act that were amended are 31, 33, 34, 38, 44, 67, 76, 78, 82, 85, 87, 91, 99, 112, 120,138, 143, 151, and the Schedule.

The Senate retained the amendment to Section 91 of the Electoral Act earlier rejected by senators, which seeks to empower INEC to fix the maximum amount that a candidate can spend on a campaign for a specific elective position.

According to the proposed Section 91, the maximum amount that can be spent by a presidential candidate on electioneering is N5 billion, governorship, N1 billion; senatorial and House of Representatives candidate, N100 million and N70 million, respectively; state House of Assembly membership, N30 million; chairmanship of local government area, N30 million and councillorship, N5 million.

The proposed Section 91 read, “(9) No individual or other entity shall donate to a candidate more than N10m.

“(10) A candidate who knowingly acts in contravention of this section commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine of one per cent of the amount permitted as the limit of the campaign expenditure under this Act, or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or both.”

Speaking after presentation, the senate president, Dr. Bukola Saraki expressed appreciation to the lawmakers in both chambers for ensuring the passage of the bill adding that Buhari would “give us his assent.”

“This was almost impossible at a time but I want to commend everybody for their efforts in making this happen. This will go a long way in improving our electoral process and further strengthen our governance. I am sure, with this now, Mr. President will, of course, give us his assent and we can now finally have an Electoral Act that we will all be proud of,” he said.

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