IT is amazing that just two months to the 2019 general elections the 2018 Electoral Amendment Bill, the legal framework aimed at conducting the highest level of error-free polls so far in our history, is still gathering dust on the table of President Muhammadu Buhari.
In addition to other innovations, the most important feature of the Bill is the provision authorising the use of technology, particularly the Electronic Card Reader, to authenticate the accreditation of voters. Four times the Bill has been forwarded to the President by the National Assembly. And for the fourth time, the President is dithering in signing it into law or rejecting it.
Leader of the Senate, the All Progressives Congress, APC’s, Ahmed Lawan, has not helped matters. He insists that the President cannot be “stampeded” into signing the Bill, and that the existing Electoral Acts of 2006 and its amended 2010 version were still “good enough” to conduct the 2019 election elections. We vehemently disagree with the senator.
Why would any well-meaning Nigerian stand against efforts to upgrade our laws to promote the integrity of our elections? A return to the use of the 2010 Electoral Act will give unpatriotic politicians easy channels for election rigging, ballot box snatching, under-aged voting and other malfeasances that will torpedo the supreme will of the Nigerian electorate.
The continued delay in signing the Bill into law will play President Buhari into the hands of those who are insinuating that he and his party leaders are afraid to face the electorate after the APC government’s first term in office. Nobody needs to entertain any such fears once they are satisfied that they have fulfilled their campaign promises to the people.
Besides, the Electoral Act and other legislations should not be tied to the whims and caprices of any individual or group. It is all about improving the quality of democracy that made it possible for Nigerians to successfully change their president when they felt like doing so in 2015. It is about granting Nigerians their constitutional right to choose their leaders without their mandate being stolen by political desperadoes. It is about routinely upgrading the quality of leadership and governance and making Nigeria a better place for all.
The 2018 Electoral (Amendment) Bill is the proverbial buck on the President’s table. The National Assembly went the extra-mile, denying the Senator Suleiman Nazif-led Joint Senate and House of Representatives Committee on the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, their vacation to fix the problems earlier complained about the Bill by the President.
The Bill should be signed to enable the INEC prepare to implement a technology-driven, fool-proof general election in 2019.