Reps approve card reader, bar INEC from using other devices

More facts on Sunday emerged about the amendments to the Electoral Act passed by the House of Representatives.

The House approved the use of smart card readers for elections by INEC.

The electoral umpire may, however, not be able to use any other device in the electoral process.

The House placed the restriction in the Electoral Act 2010 (Amendment) Bill 2020 passed on Friday.

The House had considered the report by its Committee on Electoral Matters between Thursday and Friday, during which members proposed a series of amendments.

Prominent among the amended clauses is Section 49(3), which 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” from the clause at the sitting on Thursday.

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Gbajabiamila said, “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.”

The Deputy Speaker, Ahmed Wase, who presided over the Committee of the Whole to consider the clauses, however, said, “Other technological devices could come in other forms. Smartphones may not be the only form. Your computer is not a smart phone. So, you could apply a computer, that is why the word ‘any other technological device.’”

Wase also argued that the provision would allow the law to capture technological advancements that might come in the future. He also noted that computers are used during polls, which are also devices.

Insisting, Gbajabiamila said, “I’m not sure I got you there. What I’m saying is that ‘any other technological device’ has no definition. It can mean anything. We know that we have a smart card reader; that is what we are using. So, why expand it to mean either smart card reader? By this provision, what we are saying is, any other smart card reader…Anyway, let us put the question.”

Wase, therefore, put the amendment proposed by the Speaker to voice vote and it was unanimously adopted.

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