By Gabriel Ewepu
AN election observer, Yiaga Africa and other Civil Society Organisations, CSOs, yesterday, urged members of the National Assembly to transmit the Electoral Act Amendment Bill back to President Muhammadu Buhari within 30 days.
This was contained in a statement they jointly issued by the CSOs including Yiaga Africa; International Press Centre (IPC); Centre for Citizens with Disability (CCD); The Albino Foundation; CLEEN Foundation; Institute for Media and Society (IMS); Nigerian Women Trust Fund (NWTF); and Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ).
The CSOs in the statement expressed sadness and disappointment over failure of President Muhammadu Buhari to sign the Bill into law as it has negatively affected relevant electoral stakeholders after spending enormous time and resources to put together “undermines public confidence and trust in the electoral system.”
According to the statement it is more disappointing for the fact that the President delayed his response until the effluxion of time required for assenting to legislation until the date that the National Assembly is proceeding for the Christmas and New Year holiday.
The statement reads in part, “The President’s decision to withhold assent to the Bill will have serious implication for INEC as it prepares for the FCT Area Council election, the Ekiti and Osun governorship elections, and ultimately the 2023 General Election.
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“The non-conclusion of the electoral amendment process will mean that these elections will be conducted using the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) denying INEC the opportunity to test the efficacy of some of the new innovations introduced in the proposed Electoral Bill 2021.
“This is apart from the delay the Commission will have to contend with in the required effort to review its guidelines, regulations and manuals in accordance with certain provisions of the Bill.
“Furthermore, based on the revised timelines for specific electoral activities in the Bill, INEC and other stakeholders will have to grapple with logistical, financial, and programmatic difficulties in the run-up to the 2023 General Election.
“To avert further complications and logjam in the efforts to strengthen the electoral process, we strongly recommend as follows: The National Assembly as a matter of national emergency should either override the President’s decision or remove the contentious clause (s) from the Bill and transmit the Bill back to the President for assent within the next 30 days.
“The National Assembly should ensure that all clerical, editorial, and cross-referencing gaps in the current Bill are resolved before transference back to the President.
“The President should expeditiously assent to the revised Bill upon receipt from the National Assembly.
“Civil society groups, media, and development partners must sustain the effort to protect the will of the people and safeguard the electoral reform process from policy capture and manipulation.”