Nigeria’s Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, has said the National Assembly did not manipulate the Electoral Amendment bill.

He said this during plenary on Wednesday after the Senate received the report of its committee on INEC.

His comment was in reaction to reports of moves by the lawmakers to omit and change key amendment in the Electoral bill, which were initially designed to ground the conduct of future Nigerian elections in transparency and accountability.

Alleged ‘manipulations’

PREMIUM TIMES reported how the lawmakers, in a bid to codify the final laws, were attempting to reject proposals and key priority amendments canvassed by citizens during the public hearings.

Some of these recommendations include the use of electronic transmission of results of an election and expenses for presidential candidates.

The new version of spending limit in the proposed in Section 88 of the bill now allows candidates seeking presidential office to increase their cash haul from the current N1 billion to N15 billion while governorship candidates can rake in N5 million from the hitherto N2 million.

For candidates eyeing a Senate seat they can now look to legally raising N1.5 billion from the previous Senate N40 million, while candidates to the House of Representative can now accept N500 million from the current N30 million. And for State Assembly, candidates now are free to call up N50 million from the previous N10 million.

The amended bill also strips INEC of powers to decline issuing a certificate of return to a candidate where the Returning Officer was forced to declare him or her the winner or where the Returning Officer made an announcement under duress.

Allegations not true – Lawan

Kabiru Gaya, the committee chairman, had just laid the report before the Senate when Mr Lawan seized the opportunity to ask aggrieved Nigerians to lobby the senators and canvass for their positions.

“There are various accusations, insinuations that the leadership of the Senate or leadership of the National Assembly has tempered with the report of the committee on INEC of both chambers.

“Some of those accusing the leadership of the National Assembly are misinformed, innocent. Some are simply mischievous and rabble-rousers,” he said.

Mr Lawan also informed that the Senate was just receiving the report of the committee for the first time.

The report, he said, is the decision of the committee on INEC and whatever is discussed or considered about the bill, will be on the basis of what was presented.

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“If anybody feels very strongly about anything, lobby the distinguished senators to canvass your positions, rather than blackmail our leadership.

“Because my phone numbers and that of the Speaker were published and in one day, I received over 900 text messages saying we have manipulated this. We didn’t.

“We will do what is right. We have our procedures. And lobbying is part of democracy.”

The Electoral Amendment bill seeks to resolve issues concerning INEC’s introduction of modern technologies into the electoral process, particularly accreditation of voters, electronic voting and electronic transmission of results from polling units.

The report of the INEC committee will be considered on another legislative day.

And unless a last minute change has been done, the new Electoral Amendment bill will be passed but hopes of key electoral reforms in subsequent elections will be lost.

After passage, the bill will be funnelled to state assemblies, upon which it will become a new law of the land.

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