By Bolaji Ogundele, Abuja and Alao Abiodun
Minister urges electronic voting for Nigeria
‘Full autonomy to local govts will reduce insecurity’
Senator: underage married girls won’t vote
Chairman of the Senate Committee on Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Kabiru Gaya, has said the National Assembly is examining the possibility of adopting electronic voting for future elections in the country.
Gaya, who represents Kano South in the Ninth Senate and a former governor of the state, said this yesterday at the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) Forum in Abuja.
The senator stressed that the main focus of the National Assembly was to ensure that elections in the country were transparent, free and fair.
He added that Nigerians should have confidence in the country’s electoral process.
Gaya said just as the card readers were introduced into the country’s electoral system, the National Assembly was exploring the possibilities of adopting electronic voting.
“Now, we are trying to introduce electronic voting. So, we are also working on that process. We have also agreed that INEC can decide to do electronic voting,” he said.
The senator explained that INEC could not embark on such venture initially because there was no approval.
He expressed optimism that in the nearest future, electronic voting would be adopted in the country.
“We should have a designed system that should be able to work for us to do electronic voting where an ordinary woman or man in the village will know where to touch to vote for a party,” Gaya said.
Also, Science and Technology Minister, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, said Nigeria needs to reform its electoral system by adopting electronic voting to eliminate human errors in compiling results.
The minister said this according to a statement on Tuesday in Abuja by the ministry’s Press and Public Relations Officer Josephine Ademu.
The statement said the minister spoke on Monay during a facility visit to the Electronic Development Institute (ELDI) in Awka, the Anambra State capital.
“Democracy is like a living organism that grows like humans, animals and plants. But for this to happen, we need electronic voting which shall reduce malpractices associated with human errors,” Onu said.
Gaya said the National Assembly was planning to submit the amended Electoral Bill to President Muhammadu Buhari for his assent before the end of February.
“We are doing the Electoral Act; we have virtually completed. What we are supposed to do at this level is to bring it to the floor of the Senate for consideration and the floor of the House of Representatives also for consideration.
“We are doing a joint hearing between the Senate and the House so that we can fast-track it and reduce the issue of having so many differences in the Bill.
“If we are working together with the House, it means the Bill will be one. The House Bill and the Senate Bill will be one. There will be no need to go for concurrence.
“I believe Nigerians will be happy with the Electoral Act, 2021, which, hopefully before the end of this month, will leave the chamber to Mr. President for his assent,” he said.
The senator also said granting full autonomy to local governments would help to address the current security challenges in the land.
He noted that lack of local government autonomy had resulted in dearth of jobs for youths as most of them get involved in criminal activities due to idleness.
“I think part of the problem of unemployment in this country has to with lack of funds in the local government areas.
“Apart from the Boko Haram crisis, there is also lack of funding for local governments and this creates a situation in which most youths have nothing to do most times.
“So, when any organisation or group invites them to join for the purpose of engaging them in anti-social activities, they will gladly join,” he said.
Gaya recalled that during the Seventh Senate, he sponsored a Bill on local government autonomy, arguing that funds should be released directly to the third tier of government rather than to governors.
This, he said, would enable them have funds to execute projects in their communities.
“The issue of local government independence is very important and if we do that, I think we will reduce issues of insecurity in the country. So, I am still clamouring for local government autonomy,” he said.
The chairman said his committee had rejected a suggestion that under-18 married girls should have the right to vote.
The senator said the current amendment to the Electoral Act Number 6 of 2010 would not confer voting right on an underage but married girls, referred to as child-wives.
Gaya said the issue raised a lot of dust when it was presented in a memorandum submitted to a technical committee set up on the reforms.
“One of the people who came to the public hearing submitted the memorandum and argued that the word ‘underage’ was not his but that any woman or man that is married should be considered as an adult.
“That was his reason. Our own resolve is that if a woman is at the age of 16 and she gets married, she should not be allowed to vote.
“Generally, there was a lot of noise about it. It was in a memorandum submitted by a group of people and they have their rights as Nigerians.
“But when we came to the committee, we discussed a lot on that. At the end of the day, we felt we could not go along with that suggestion and it was dropped,” he said.
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