Ask Buhari to assent within 1 week
By Gabriel Ewepu – Abuja
Civil Society Organisations, CSOs, Monday, set January 21, 2022, as the deadline for the National Assembly to retransmit the Electoral Act Amendment Bill to President Muhammadu Buhari for assent ahead of 2023 general elections.
This was part of recommendations made by the CSOs after a Citizens’ Townhall Forum on the Electoral Bill 2022, which include 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), Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ), Partners for Electoral Reform (PER), Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre (WARDC), and Nigerian Network of Non-Governmental Organizations (NNNGO).
The CSOs called on the National Assembly to see the need and prioritise the review of the Bill with “dispatch on its resumption from recess.”
The townhall served as an opportunity to animate the public on key provisions in the Bill and how they will enhance the integrity of future elections.
The participants in the Town Hall meeting were drawn from the National Assembly, political parties, civil society, media, professional associations, labour unions and citizens.
They emphasised the imperative of a speedy enactment of the Bill to strengthen the electoral legal framework as it would facilitate early preparations for the 2023 general election and to eschew legal uncertainties that make the electoral process susceptible to manipulation.
The statement reads in part, “The Senate and House of Representatives should upon resumption on Tuesday 18 January 2022, take legislative action at its first sitting to conclude the process and re-transmit the bill to President Buhari by Friday, January 21, 2022.
“The National Assembly should ensure proper scrutiny of the bill to resolve all drafting errors and cross-referencing gaps before re-transmitting the bill for Presidential Assent.
“The President should upon receipt of the re-transmitted bill provide his assent within a week.
“Civil society groups, media, and development partners sustain the effort to safeguard the Electoral Bill from policy capture, manipulation, and subversion of the people’s will.”
Meanwhile, some of the resolutions reached by the CSOs include; A new legal framework is central to the integrity of 2023 General elections and future elections and the advancement of Nigeria’s democracy; Against the background of the changing electoral environment and innovations introduced by INEC to enhance electoral integrity it is inconceivable to conduct the 2023 general election and future elections with the current legal framework, the 2010 Electoral Act as amended.
“The Electoral Bill 2021 reflect the wishes of Nigerians and key electoral stakeholders for a legal framework that promotes the use of technology and other innovations to stem electoral manipulation, strengthens INEC’s financial independence, and empowers the Commission to reject falsified election results.
“Further delay to the conclude the Electoral Act amendment process is inimical to the preparations for Ekiti and Osun off-cycle governorship election, the 2023 general election and future elections.
“The opportunity to test the operability of the new legislation and functionality of the new innovations will be lost if the amendment process is not concluded expeditiously.”
The CSOs also pointed that, “Today, with only 398 days to the 2023 general election, it is crucial for the National Assembly and President to conclude the electoral amendment process by 31 January 2022.
“The National Assembly should remove the contentious clause of direct primaries, resolve all the identified drafting errors and cross-referencing gaps and re-transmit the bill to the President for assent within a week of resumption.
“As the nation awaits the resumption of the National Assembly on Tuesday 18 January 2022, Nigerians expect that work on the electoral amendment bill will be the priority issue on the order paper. The leadership of the National Assembly should therefore conclude this process as any further delay will undermine public confidence in the reform process.”