In July 2021, Nigeria’s 9th National Assembly, before proceeding on its annual recess successfully passed the long-awaited Electoral Amendment Bill titled “A Bill for an act to repeal the Electoral Act and enact the Independent National Electoral Commission, 2021” at third reading. The process of lawmaking requires that after the clause-by-clause consideration of a bill at the third reading of the bill, the versions of the bill passed in both chambers will be considered for harmonisation at a conference made up of members from both the Senate and the House of Representatives. The conference committee is a temporary joint committee formed to harmonise positions and resolve differences between the House and Senate versions of a bill, and in this case; the electoral act amendment bill. The adopted version of the bill after harmonisation is expected to be presented at the plenary in both chambers for adoption before being transmitted to the President for assent.
The National Assembly on resumption is expected to constitute a joint committee to meet at the conference, conduct a clause-by-clause review of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill and adopt consensus positions on clauses where there are differences in the clauses adopted. The committee is expected to draft compromises between the positions of the two Chambers, which are then submitted to both Chambers for adoption/approval at plenary. The Electoral Amendment Bill as passed in both chambers have about 17 clauses where the Senate and the House did not arrive at a similar resolution as indicated in the votes and proceedings. By implication, the Senate and House of Representatives, via its conference committee, will need to adopt and present similar resolutions for concurrence, before transmitting to the President for assent.
How Members of the National Assembly choose to align themselves with regards to some of these contentious clauses and the eventual passage remains an issue of keen public interest. Election stakeholders, including INEC, have continued to react publicly to these pertinent issues on the proposed amendments/contentious clauses.
The table below highlights areas of divergence between the Electoral Act Amendment Bills passed by the Senate and the House of Representatives, as well as Yiaga Africa’s observations/recommendations on the subject matter. These clause-by-clause dissimilarities were directly obtained from the Votes and Proceedings of both Chambers. Should the Electoral Act Amendment Bill eventually scale through the NASS and be assented to by President Muhammadu Buhari, it’ll be the first time in 7 years that the Electoral Act will be altered, since its last successful alteration in 2014 by the 7th National Assembly.