By Olusegun Emmanuel, Abuja.
Senators on Tuesday kicked against the proposal to hold all the elections in 2015 in one day saying that the exercise will bring about confusion
Senators’ rejection of the proposal came during general debate on three separate Bills seeking for relevant amendments of certain provisions of the 2010 Electoral Act.
The three Bills separately sponsored by the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu (PDP Enugu West), Sen. Abu Ibrahim (APC Katsina South) and Sen. Alkali Jajere (APC Yobe South) sought for series of amendments to the 2011 Electoral Act, ranging from conduct of all the five national elections on the same day to removal of power of appointment of Secretary of the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) from Chairman of INEC to the Senate through nomination from the President.
But during the debate on the general principles of the bills, Senators agreed with Ekweremadu’s proposal for amendment on the process of appointment of INEC Secretary which seeks to remove such power from INEC Chairman to the President by forwarding nomination to the Senate.
They however rejected the proposal made by Senator Abu Ibrahim in his amendment bill for conduct of all elections in one day by INEC.
Senator Ibrahim who led debate on the bill argued that if approved, it would help to stem the tide of manipulations in the conduct of general elections at different days in the country and as well, save money for the country through its cost effectiveness template.
He said: What this bill seeks to achieve firstly is the conduct of all elections in the same day, a practice which to me will help to stem the tide of manipulations, save money, time and at the long run, halt evil machinations of some politicians.
“This falls in line with global practices and Nigeria should move in that direction. Indeed staggered elections are not cost effective and it is not cost efficient, it is expensive and as a country we should follow the example of Ghana, Sierra- Leon, the United States of America and Venezuela.”
He argued further by calling the attention of the entire Senators to the colossal amount of money INEC collected for the conduct of the 2011 general elections ,which according to him was N50billion aside several billions of Naira earlier appropriated for the agency to organize the elections through voters registration , voters review exercise etc.
Senators who spoke on the matter except Ahmed Lawan (APC Yobe North), kicked against it on the grounds that such an exercise would bring nothing to the electoral process but confusion.
Senator Ayogu Eze (PDP Enugu North) whose rejection of the proposal was most vehement, said holding all elections in one day would be a recipe for confusion as anybody calling for it is not wishing the Nation anything as far as the conduct of the 2015 elections are concerned but total failure and serious threat to democracy.
Ditto for Senator Barnabas Gemade (PDP Benue North East) who said those calling for holding all elections in one day in Nigeria have not and they are not considering the troubles it will bring to the country.
According to him, “If Kenya a country of lesser population of voters (11.3million) when compared to Nigeria (over 70million voters) spent seven solid days to announce results of its four national elections conducted in one day, how many days or should one say weeks, will take Nigeria to do likewise?”
However the Senators were divided over suggestion made for electronic voting by Ekweremadu in one of his amendment proposals to the 2010 Electoral Act, just as many of the
Senators like Eyinnaya Abaribe, Philip Aduda, Victor Ndoma Egba, Abdulmumin Hassan etc, kicked against the ideas of elections being conducted 6- month before the expiration of tenure of the incumbents and INEC designating two specific periods in a year for conduct of bye-election as proposed by Senator Abu Ibrahim in his amendment bill.
But the Senate President, David Mark in his remarks before the bills were passed for second reading and forwarded to the Senate Committees on Review and INEC for further legislative inputs said, the amendments being sought may look good but what matter most now is for INEC to get itself well prepared for the 2015 general elections for good results to Nigeria.
He said: “it is not what we put down on paper that is going to make the difference. It is the capacity of INEC to do a free and fair election with minimal logistical problems that would make all the difference.
“Whether we can do all the elections in one day or just one election per day requires INEC high preparedness for conduct of credible elections because If the materials needed for elections don’t show up, then whether it’s one election or all the elections it becomes meaningless.
“I am however a bit worried about one thing which Abaribe said. Why should people come first to do accreditation and then they sit down there. Why can’t they do accreditation, vote and then go away? Because then you decongest the area, and people can go and do other things. Most people don’t come for election because they don’t want to devote the whole day to the election.
“I think the issue of the appointment of INEC Secretary was simply an oversight on our part. There is no debate about that. For one reason or the other we just didn’t remember because everybody was worried about the commissioners and the chairman and simply forgot about the Secretary of INEC”