The Nigerian Senate voted in favour of the bill seeking mandatory election debate for presidential and governorship aspirants.
The bill which was sponsored by the senator representing Oyo North, Abdulfatai Buhari, was passed by the Senate on Thursday during plenary session.
The bill also seeks to compel vice-presidential and deputy governorship candidates to participate in such debates.
It also empowers the Independent National Electoral Commission INEC to organise mandatory debates for the candidates to “help boost and strengthen the electoral process.”
While some lawmakers opposed the bill, arguing that the debates be made optional and not compulsory, most gave their nod arguing that it will help in the assessment of candidates and improve Nigeria’s electoral process.
The bill sponsor, Buhari said it will also be used to sample the candidates’ readiness on a wide range of burning issues, “as is being done in other developed countries.”
He said; “Voters learn from the debate, and are more accurately able to judge candidates and get additional information about them.
“It also helps the candidates to speak on a wide range of issues as the national assembly is doing with ministerial nominees.
“If the ministers can be assessed, it is logically imperative for the president and others to be adequately assessed also.”
Senator representing Kwara central, Ibrahim Oloriegbe likened candidates in elections to prospective employees, and said the electorates “as their employers, should be able to test them through a series of debate to cover key areas of the economy.”
Senator representing Lagos west, Adeola Olamilekan said the bill is simply telling Nigerians: “Know your candidates.” Adding that “it will give Nigerians an idea about the capacity of the candidates to govern the country.”
The senator representing Gombe central, Danjuma Goje however argued that the debates should not be within the jurisdiction of INEC.
”Most times, candidates are assessed and awarded marks during these debates. So if INEC is doing that, that means the election has already been determined,” he said.
After much debate in the session, the Senate therefore referred the bill to its committee on INEC for further action.
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