On Sunday, more information about the House of Representatives’ amendments to the Electoral Act became available. INEC’s use of smart card readers for elections was approved by the House.
However, the electoral umpire may not be able to use any other device during the election.
The restriction was included in the Electoral Act 2010 (Amendment) Bill 2020, which was passed by the House on Friday.
Between Thursday and Friday, the House considered the report of its Committee on Electoral Matters, during which members proposed a number of amendments.
Section 49(3), for example, is one of the most prominently amended clauses and it reads, “Where a smart card reader or any other technological device deployed for accreditation of voters fails to function in any unit and a fresh card reader or technological device is not deployed, the election in that unit shall be cancelled and another election shall be scheduled within 24 hours. If the commission is satisfied that the result of the election in that polling unit will substantially affect the final result of the whole election and declaration of a winner in the constituency concerned.”
Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, however, prayed the House to remove “or any other technological device”, at the Thursday sitting, from the clause.According to Gbajabiamila, “The question then remains, what do you mean by ‘any other technological device?’ Do we want to make sure that our Act is watertight and devoid of any kind of manipulation? That word (phrase) is too ambiguous. It could mean anything; it could mean your phone – your smartphone, it could mean a pen or any device.”
“Other technological devices could come in other forms,” said Deputy Speaker Ahmed Wase, who presided over the Committee of the Whole to consider the clauses. Smartphones aren’t the only option. A computer is not the same as a smartphone. As a result, you could use a computer, which is why the phrase “any other technological device” is used.
Wase also argued that the provision would allow the law to take into account future technological advancements. He also mentioned that computers, which are also devices, are used during polls.
“I’m not sure I got you there,” Gbajabiamila insisted. What I mean is that the term “any other technological device” has no meaning. It could imply anything. We know we have a smart card reader because we’re using it. So, why broaden it to include either a smart card reader or a smart card reader? What we mean by this clause is that any other smart card reader… Let us, in any case, pose the question.”
As a result, Wase put the Speaker’s proposed amendment to a voice vote, and it was unanimously approved.
By Olutayo Olusanya