CSOs propose 6 inclusions in Electoral Amendment Bill

Call for urgent attention, implementation

By Gabriel Ewepu – Abuja

Civil Society Organisations, CSOs, Monday, proposed six inclusions in Electoral Amendment Bill and submitted to leadership of the National Assembly.

The CSOs that made the demand include Yiaga Africa, Centre for Liberty, NESSACTION, Raising New Voices, and Millennials Active Citizenship Advocacy Africa, under the auspices of Coalition for Constitutional and Electoral Reforms Demanding for Action from Lawmakers on the Electoral Amendment Bill.

The proposed six inclusions in the Electoral Amendment Bill are General Elections in One Day; Full Biometrics for Accreditation and Electronic Transmission of Votes; Pre-Election Matters Appeal; Women and Disability Inclusion; and Ad Hoc Delegates Elections (Timing & Tenure)

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According to their statement, political leadership has been established as the biggest vehicle for social change, wellbeing, and transformation. A major aspect of political leadership is periodic elections, an important process that guarantee citizens right to elect their leaders freely without fear or equivocation, for this reason electoral process is regarded as the bastion and foundation of every democracy, considering that it speaks to its core essence which is mandate and legitimacy.

While 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.

The statement reads in part, “We believe these parameters are critical to improved level of trust and confidence of citizens in the democratic process.

“In this regard, we urge the National Assembly to see this process as an opportunity to entrench enduring electoral reforms and strengthen the capacity of INEC to conduct free, fair and credible elections, to show commitment to biometric accreditation, electronic transmission and upload of results, and other provisions that will guarantee electoral integrity.

“We also urge the National Assembly to treat all memoranda critically and see all submissions as Citizens Charter of Electoral Demands and ensure the third and final reading of the bill (passage) in the first sitting of the two chambers in 2021 as a New Year gift to Nigerians.

“To this end, we make the following recommendations to be included in the Electoral Bill 2020:

“General Elections in One Day; Section 25 of the Electoral Act 2010, as amended provides for the order that our elections should follow. We are proposing that this section should be amended to reflect that all elections into the office of the Senate, House of Representatives, Presidency, State Assembly and Governorship should be done in a day.

“We believe this will ensure the following: Reduction of the prevalence of violence in our elections: The popularity of candidates across the ballots and the segregation of these candidates on different days encourage hoodlums to disrupt election strongholds of opponent parties. In the case of a one-day election, a disruption to one is a disruption to all the election through the ballots. This will amount to self-destruction and because we believe our politicians are self-interested, this will reduce the extent of electoral violence.

“Reduction in cost of conduct of elections:  The cost incurred on running multiple elections will drastically reduce. While logistics needs of conducting all the elections in one day might increase and some might raise counter arguments based on the electoral sophistication of our current voter base, we believe that with adequate citizen orientation and the introduction of technology, such risks will be mitigated. The cost and practice of vote buying will also be reduced.

“Reduction of economic lethargy caused by Election: Research has shown that crucial economic activities are delayed and affected due to the long duration of the conduct of elections. Our foreign direct and portfolio investments witness severe decline in the buildup and during the elections. Economic activities are halted and in instances where elections have been postponed, the damage occurs twice. Having our elections in one day will address these challenges and restore economic activities within a faster period.

“Full Biometrics for Accreditation and Electronic  Transmission of Votes; We propose that Sections 49, 63 and 65 of the Amendment must capture Full Biometrics for Accreditation and Electronic Transmission of Accreditation Data, and Electronic Transmission of Vote (results). We propose as follows: These sections should be amended to include electronic transmission of vote results in the same manner as the writers of the amendment bill expect that accreditation data should be transmitted i.e using a secure mobile communication gadget provided by INEC.

“Electronic transmission of vote results:  This amendment will curtail incidences of rigging of election results. The rigging of election results takes place between the period of announcing the results at the polling unit and the point of announcing the results at the collation centers.

“The full introduction of biometrics, electronic transmission of accreditation data and vote results from every polling unit to the next collation point and the central server of the Electoral Commission will provide more transparency, drive citizen participation in percentage of voters willing to come out and vote, embrace introduction of technology in our elections, reduce the number of inconclusive elections and fast tracks election litigation as this provides evidence of results in a quick and easy to access manner.

“The adoption of block-chain technology to prevent any act of compromising all results recorded on the device. The use of USSD technology will also guarantee transmission over networks where transmission over data networks may be difficult.

“Pre-Election Matters Appeal: Section 87 subsections 24 and 25 of the proposed amendments discuss issues of pre-election litigation matters and the court’s actions during the suit. We recommend: The inclusion of a caveat that prevents the courts from replacing or substituting candidates from primaries and elections duly supervised by INEC, until the final determination of the suit. This ends the practice by the courts that ensure INEC finds it difficult in carrying out their duty as candidates are being replaced after every judgment from the courts. We also recommend a mandatory period within which a candidate must appeal the process in the courts.

“We believe this reduces the interference of the courts in INEC’s role, entrenches stability of the pre-election process and political atmosphere and strengthens internal party democracy. The repeated replacements of candidates by parties have caused delays, confusion and unnecessary expenditure by candidates and parties in waging campaigns for elections.

“Ad Hoc Delegates Elections (Timing & Tenure); The timing of the elections of the ad-hoc delegates and their term is provided for in Section 87(12) and subsections thereunder. The conduct of the Adhocdelegates election not later than 80 days to the general elections for all the positions gives room for prolonged court cases on pre-election matters.  On this we recommend as follows:

“An amendment to reflect a proposed timing of no later than 365 days to the primary election and in the case of unavailability of up to 50% of elected delegates in an election outside the general election, a fresh delegate election should be conducted no later than 60 days to the election.

“Our proposal on the timing of this election puts into perspective the need to have delegates of a party as original members of the party who understand and have signed up to the party’s goals and objectives. This proposal also limits to a large extent the practice of cross-carpeting of politicians from one party to the other a few months to the general election.

“This also ensures that incumbents can focus on governance rather than politicking in the last few months of their tenure.

“Women and Disability Inclusion; The clauses recommending the inclusion of women are not in compliance with the provisions of the National Gender Policy and Disability Act with respect to the composition of the delegates i.e Section 87(8)(a) (b1) (b2), (b3). Also, the conduct of the Adhoc delegates’ election not later than 80 days to the general elections gives room for prolonged court cases on pre-election matters

“The composition of the delegates should be increased to minimum of two women out of 5 delegates and 1 person with disability, 18 out of 50 women in accordance with the provisions of the Disability Act and National Gender Policy.

“Eligibility of Members Participating in Primary Elections; The proposed amendments to section 87 of the Principal Act also makes provision for the eligibility of members who can become ad-hoc delegates in an indirect primary election and registered members are to vote in a primary election.

“We propose as follows: That only elected ad-hoc delegates should elect the candidate to be nominated by the party for any office. The section should be amended to reflect the eligibility of members who can participate as only registered members who have been members of the party for more than 365 days can be elected as delegates.

“That only ad hoc delegates should be allowed to vote in indirect primaries. This is in line with Section 87 (25) which mandates parties to provide equal opportunity for all contestants. Statutory delegates who are not elected provide an unequal opportunity in favor of incumbents seeking election to be voted for against the challengers.

“That only direct primaries should be conducted for councilors, local government chairpersons and members of states houses of assemblies.”

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Meanwhile, the CSOs made some recommendations on Campaign Finance Reform- In this vein, to ensure the reform of campaign finance in Nigeria, it is proposed that the Election and Party Monitoring Department of the INEC should be strengthened to ensure transparency in this regard and penalize candidates for falsification or non-submission of campaign finance records if necessary.

Ensuring Compliance with the provisions of the Act- To address this, we strongly recommend the establishment of an Electoral Offences Tribunal to be saddled with the responsibility of obtaining justice for Nigerians who have been victims of electoral crimes (either in their personal capacity i.e electoral violence) or jointly (in instances of vote buying, electoral victimization and all forms of rigging).

Strengthening INEC-Financial Independence; Unbundling of INEC; Outsourcing of Logistics; and Independence of the INEC Chairman

In conclusion, the CSOs made it clear that their expectation is beyond repealing and re-enactment of the Electoral Act 2020, but enduring reforms that would strengthen the electoral process.

“We do not only desire Electoral Act 2020 (Repeal and Re-enactment), we want all stakeholders in the electoral process to consider the need to put in place enduring electoral reforms.

“This proposal captures strategic amendments that can significantly help to transform the conduct of elections in Nigeria.  For instance, while the elaborate proposed amendments to the Electoral Act by Senators Ovie Omo Agege and Abubakar Kyari address some issues that impact the state of elections in Nigeria, our review shows that the impact of the bill would be better felt if our proposal is accommodated in the final draft of an Electoral Bill.

“This is because a much more reformist bill will address most of the issues that have been identified by Nigerians as constituting challenges to our elections”, the statement added.

Vanguard News Nigeria

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