By Luminous Jannamike
Some civil society organisations (CSOs), on Monday, issued an ultimatum asking the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, and the Speaker, House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, to state a timeline of when the Electoral Amendment Bill would be passed for executive approval.
According to them, sincerely committing to a timetable for electoral reform by the National Assembly would put a rest to speculations that it has been hijacked by the ruling party since the battle for 2023 is already gathering momentum.
They expressed disappointment with the seeming inability of the federal legislators to give adequate consideration to the passage of the bill since 2019.
So, these groups which include; Yiaga Africa, Centre for Liberty and Raising New Voices (RNV), threatened to occupy the National Assembly to make known their concerns and disappointment should the delay in the passage of the bill continue beyond December 31, 2020.
In addition, they stated that about 20,000 Nigerians have signed a petition for electoral reform, stressing the urgency of the reform to beat the distractions associated with heightened politicking ahead of the 2023 general election.
Speaking at a joint press briefing in Abuja, Ariyo-Dare Atoye (Centre for Liberty), said: “The National Assembly will on Tuesday, 24 November 2020, resume plenary sessions for the last quarter of the year, but Nigerians are not in any way impressed by its lukewarm approach to Electoral Reforms.
“We can inform the Lawan and Gbajabiamila led National Assembly that the people are terribly disappointed in their inability to give adequate consideration to the passage of the most important bill since 2019.
“While the possibility of passing the Electoral Amendment Bill this year is now hanging in the balance, more worrying, however, is the deafening silence of the Senate, which had earlier committed to a 2020 passage of the legislation through a repeal and re-enactment procedure.
“Already, about twenty thousand Nigerians have signed the petition for electoral reforms, thereby reiterating the need for the realization of the December, 2020 timeframe in delivering this new Electoral Act. This is necessary so as not to be distracted by heightened politicking ahead of the 2023 general elections. It is also crucial to the Independent National Electoral Commission’s readiness in its efforts to conduct hitch-free elections, going forward.”
Likewise, Paul James (Yiaga Africa), said: “The people of Nigeria are now apprehensive that this 9th Assembly could just be allowing partisanship to creep in and delay the passage of the bill, since the battle for 2023 is already gathering momentum.
“Consequently, the call is fast growing for Occupy NASS (Occupation National Assembly) by the people, and this could just be the time for Nigerians to March on the assembly complex to demand for the quick passage of the Electoral bill. In the days ahead, Nigerians will be protesting to the National Assembly to make known their concerns and disappointment.
“With the number of stakeholders and the general populace keenly interested in this bill because it’s a light in the tunnel for election processes in Nigeria, Nigerians will have no other choice than to continually push for the passage of this bill. The national assembly will not want to witness another version of #EndSars protest against them and will eventually dance to the tune of the masses.
“President Muhammadu Buhari had in the last quarter of 2018 made a commitment to sign the Electoral Act post the 2019 general elections, and from what we can deduce, the only institution and persons that could be responsible for this delay are, the 9th National Assembly and its leaderships.
Also, Jude Feranmi (RNV), said: “At this juncture and in this atmosphere of uncertainty, the best the legislators can now urgently do to the people they are representing, is the honour of stating a timeline and sincerely committing to a timetable of when the bill would be passed for executive approval.
“Elections remain the most fundamental aspect of democracy across the world, its evolution and improvement can only be measured in terms of processes, procedures, technology and outcome. We believe these parameters are critical to improved level of trust and confidence of citizens in the democratic process.
“While it is noteworthy that the National Assembly has already commenced work on the electoral amendment bill, we have more than enough reason to believe that the process has not been given the urgency, seriousness and attention that it deserves.”