Civil Society Organisations have urged President Muhammadu Buhari to listen to the call by Nigerians and sign the Electoral Act Amendment Bill.
This was contained in a statement jointly signed by Yiaga Africa, International Press Centre (IPC), CLEEN Foundation, Albino Foundation; Centre for Citizens with Disability (CCD), Institute for Media and Society (IMS), Nigerian Women Trust Fund (NWTF), and Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ).
The call follows several debates on signing the Electoral Act Amendment Bill. Parts of the statement reads: “The Presidency on 19th November 2021 acknowledged the receipt of the Electoral Bill 2021 from the National Assembly for Presidential assent. The Bill contains specific provisions that enhance the quality and credibility of elections and address certain lacunas in the existing electoral legal framework.
“Such provisions in the Bill include Legal backing for the use of electoral technologies for voter accreditation and electronic transmission of election results; extension of restrictive timelines for electoral activities, concise definition of over-voting and the conferment of legal authority on INEC to review questionable election results.
“The undersigned Civil Society Organizations welcome the decision of the President to invite the comment of relevant Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government on the Bill. In this regard, the input from the Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Minister of the Interior, Minister of Finance and the Inspector General of the Police are probably the most crucial.
“In their consideration of the Bill, these Office Holders should be guided by the overriding public interest to strengthen our electoral process and the consolidation of our democracy.
“It is our firm belief that the Bill in its current state will not only encourage increased citizens’ participation in the electoral process, but it will also further enhance the capacity of the democratic institutions to improve the transparency and legitimacy of electoral outcomes.
“Furthermore, the timely assent to the Electoral Bill 2021 will facilitate early preparations and efficient election administration of the 2023 General Election, which is just 443 days away.
“It must be emphasized that the successful conduct of any election is predicated on the certainty and clarity of the election legal framework, amongst other factors. This precludes any legal uncertainties that may occasion manipulation and subversion of the electoral process.
“It is for this reason that the African Charter on Democracy, Elections, and Good Governance and the ECOWAS Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance requires that any amendment to the electoral legal framework must be concluded at least six months to the date of the election.
He also added that “There is nothing wrong for the President requesting government agencies to make input. This is not the first time the President has done that and is just ensuring the principal agencies are involved in the elections should make input.
“What is critical on the point we have made on these principles the response will be provided. We already have a Bill that reflects the will and aspirations of Nigerians, so we expect that any institution that is providing comments to the President is to be guided by these principles in overriding public interest.”
The Executive Director, Yiaga Africa, Samson Itodo, who read the statement, further called on agencies who had not responded to the President on the Bill to do so for the general interest of the masses.
On his part, the Executive Director, Centre for Citizens with Disability, CCD, David Anyaele, said the National Assembly could override the President, “If it gets to the level Mr President is struggling to sign or forwarding the Bill back to the National Assembly, we are calling on the National Assembly to veto the President.
“We need to mover forward as a nation, Nigerians want a credible, free, fair and inclusive electoral process, and as such, every action of political actors, especially the representatives of the people, must be geared towards representing the people.”