Law News
N’Assembly resumes tomorrow, Reps to clash over card reader

The Peoples Democratic Party lawmakers in the House of Representatives and their All Progressives Congress colleagues may clash again over the decision of the Independent National Electoral Commission to use card readers in the rescheduled March 28 poll.

Findings by The PUNCH on Sunday showed that the postponement of the earlier scheduled February 14 poll would top the agenda as members prepared to reconvene in Abuja on Tuesday (tomorrow).

The House has remained shut for over one month since January 14 when the lawmakers relocated to their constituencies to campaign for re-election.

Investigations indicated that at least four separate motions on the postponement of the poll would be presented by lawmakers to address “grey areas” in the shift of the elections.

But, it was learnt that a particular motion to oppose the use of card readers by INEC during the elections was likely to split the House.

The motion is being proposed by some PDP lawmakers, who are questioning the reliability of the readers on the grounds that they had not been tested in any previous elections.

However, the APC members hold the view that the card readers will prevent rigging as it will detect any move to manipulate the Permanent Voter Card for multiple voting.

The House spokesman, Mr. Zakari Mohammed, confirmed to The PUNCH on Sunday that he was aware that some members had already taken divergent stance on the readers.

“There are grey areas in the postponement of the elections and members want to raise motions on the issues.

“Some have talked about the card readers and there are opinions given on it; we will look at the issue and several others about the elections as we resume,” Mohammed stated.

The two main caucus leaders in the House also confirmed the disagreement when our correspondent sought their comments on Sunday.

The House Minority Leader, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, said his members would support the use of the card readers because they would prevent rigging.

He added that the opposition to the cards was essentially a PDP affair.

The APC leader spoke further, “It is completely a PDP affair for obvious reasons. The use of card readers is to prevent rigging.

“It is instructive that a party that claims it wants to use technology to curb corruption refuses to accept the same technology to stop rigging, which in itself is corruption. Corruption as you know has many faces.

“The same House that voted billions of tax payers’ money for the purchase of card readers now wants to discard the readers? How wasteful is that? In any case, if the problem is that the system has not been tested, I am sure that INEC will satisfy that curiosity before March 28.”

The House Deputy Majority Leader, Mr. Leo Ogor, on his part, argued that the presidential and the National Assembly elections could be “messed up” if the card readers failed.

“This technology had not been used in any elections before. Why are they bent on testing it with these two crucial elections?

“Of course, there are implications for the Electoral Act and the time we have left on our hands.

“So, we are bringing up the card reader for discussion,” Ogor told one of our correspondents on the telephone.

But the situation may be different at the Senate as most of the senators who spoke with one of our correspondents on Sunday, denied any plan by either a senator or a group of senators to formally move any motion on the issue of card readers.

The Chairman, Senate Committee on Rules and Business, Senator Ita Enang, whose responsibility is it to set agenda for the plenary, said the issue of card readers usage did not form part of the issues slated for discussion on Tuesday.

Investigations by one of our correspondents revealed that issues meant for discussion are usually discussed first with the leadership of the Senate who will direct the rules and business committee to include them on the order paper.

But Enang said that, “None of such issue was on the card at the moment. I am not also aware of anyone or group within the Senate trying to move it as a motion”

The APC member representing Rivers South East in the red chamber, Senator Magnus Abe, said there might be no need for such motion since it was not a controversial issue for now in the country.

He said, “No notable politician in the country has come out to reject the use of the card readers and the Independent National Electoral Commission has not said it was having challenges using it.

“Every political leader who wants a free, fair and credible election would embrace the use of the card reader because it would make rigging practically impossible.”

Meanwhile, Enang has said that the Senate discussion on Tuesday would centre on the issues surrounding the 2015 budget, especially the passage of the Medium Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategy Paper, which had been reviewed by the executive.

He also said that the Senate would focus more on the request of the Senate President, David Mark, seeking an express consideration and passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill.

He added that all pending reports which had been submitted by the various committees before the break would be given due attention.

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