Senate Empowers INEC To De-register Political Party

INEC Chairman

By Olusegun Emmanuel, Abuja.

The Senate on Wednesday voted in support of an amendment to the Electoral Act 2010 which empowers the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to de-register any political party that fail to win at least a seat in any State House of Assembly in the country.

The decision of the upper chamber was sequel to clause by clause  voting on the amendment of 1999 constitution  which had to do with INEC’s management of political parties and elections.

Efforts by the electoral body to get legal or constitutional powers to axe non-performing parties in the past were frustrated through litigations.

All the 89 senators who participated in the voting exercise were in support of Clause 6 of the amended act empowering INEC to de-register political parties which fail to win presidential, governorship, chairmanship of a local government area council, or a seat in the National or States Assembly elections.

The senate also approved clause six and seven which seek the alteration of Section 68 and 109 to mandate the Clerk of the National Assembly and the Clerks of States Houses of Assembly to notify the Independent National Electoral Commission  of any vacancy.

Specifically, the Clerks are expected to write within seven days of the existence of a vacancy arising from death, resignation or defection of a member of the National Assembly or a member of the State House of Assembly respectively.

The senators also voted in support of clauses four and five  which also seek to alter Section 134 and 179 that relates with the extension of the time for conducting presidential and governorship re-run election.

The clauses prescribed  the extension from seven days to 21 days after results have been announced.

The red chamber equally voted in support of Clause seven which deals with the conferment of exclusive jurisdiction on the Federal High Court  for the trial of electoral offences.

With the approval, federal high courts would be solely responsible for the trial of offences arising from, pertaining to or connected to the violation of the provisions of the Electoral Act and any other election related act of the National Assembly.

They also approved Clause eight of the amendments which also seek to alter the Third Schedule of the Constitution  to include former Senate Presidents and Speakers of the House of Representatives as members of the Council of States.

The senate deferred voting on the controversial amendments to Section 9 (3a) which confers on the president, the power to initiate a new constitution.

The upper chamber will also vote on Clause 3 (m) which will mandate the (INEC) to within six months of the receipt of the draft constitution cause a referendum to be conducted to approve the draft constitution.

It will also vote on cause 3 (n), which states that, “If the Draft constitution receives a simple majority of votes cast in 2/3 of all states of the federation, it shall come into force as constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”

Other amendments contained in the electoral act, are among others,  seeking powers for INEC to issue duplicate voter cards before  election, determine voting proceedure, holding of elections on a single day, and cause the electoral body to conduct debate for all candidates who are contesting election into the office of president.