The Electoral Act Amendment Bill 2022 would definitely address electoral fraud when assented to by President Muhammadu Buhari, a coalition of over 25 Nigerian Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) insist.
The coalition also insisted that the bill will guarantee the inclusion of Persons With Disabilities (PWDs) in the electoral process.
The coalition stated this on Tuesday in Abuja on the occasion of the National Day of Protest on the Electoral Bill 2022.
The coalition comprises the Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room, Yiaga Africa, Partners for Electoral Reform (PER), International Press Centre, Institute for Media and Society, Nigerian Women Trust Fund, The Albino Foundation and Centre for Citizens with Disability.
Others are: Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development, Transition Monitoring Group, CLEEN Foundation, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre (WARDC), Nigeria Network of Non-Governmental Organisations (NNNGO), and Inclusive Friends Association (IFA).
The rest are Enough is Enough, The Electoral Hub, Centre for Liberty, Take Back Nigeria Movement, International Peace and Civic Responsibility Centre (IPCRC), 100 Women Lobby Group , Women in Politics Forum, Raising New Voices, Millennials Active Citizenship Advocacy Africa and ReadyToLeadAfrica.
Mr Samson Itodo, the Executive Director, Yiaga Africa said that the bill was important for several reasons including the fact that it would help in guaranteeing an all-inclusive and credible electoral process.
“On Friday, Feb. 18, 2022, we noted the provision of Section 58(4) of the 1999 Constitution, which gives the President a timeline of 30 days to assent or withhold assent to a Bill.
“However, a combination of the newly introduced timelines for electoral activities in the bill and imperative for INEC and other stakeholders to commence early preparations for the upcoming elections necessitated the call for immediate assent of the bill.
“The bill also allows for electronic transmission of results, which is important because it will deepen the integrity of the result collation process which is one of the weakest links in our electoral process.
“The bill also gives INEC the power to review election results declared under duress and the implication is that politicians would be discouraged, dissuaded from compelling INEC officials to alter results under duress or falsify results.
“INEC can now reject such results, the bill also make provisions for early release of funds to INEC because it provides that INEC will receive its funding for elections one year before the lections,” he said.
According to Itodo, if the bill is signed into law, INEC will have all the money it requires for conduct of the elections.
“So, there are several reasons why this bill is too important to be ignored, why the bill is too important for any further delay in assenting to the bill.
“We have been engaging this process for seven years from the 8th assembly to when the 9th assembly started.
“So, we decided to host this to draw the attention of President Muhammadu Buhari that Clause 28 of the bill provides that INEC needs to issue notice of election, it is based on that we are staging this action to once again reiterate our call and urge the president to assent to the bill.’’
Ene Obi, the Country Director, Action Aid and Convener, Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room, appealed to the president as the father of the nation to sign the bill.
Obi said that more than 400 members of the National Assembly put in effort to pass the bill.
“We acknowledge the speedy way in which the National Assembly passed this bill in 2022, and we are urging the president to do the same to sign the bill.
“The president made a promise to Nigerians on national TV to sign the bill so we are calling on him to sign it to avert saboteurs from undermining the electoral system,” Obi said.
Mr Auwal Rafsanjani, the Chair Transition Monitoring Group (TMG) and Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), said that Nigerians were tired of electoral manipulations.
Rafsanjani said that Nigerians were also tired of the absence of electoral integrity and wanted electoral inclusion, adding that women should be allowed to participate fully in the electoral process.
He, however, said that all these would be made possible when the Electoral Amendment Bill 2022 was signed into law.
“One major corruption that happens in the country is electoral corruption and one major way to cure that is to have a legal framework that will guarantee Nigerians the right to participate and demand accountability.
“Therefore, we urge the president to ensure that he electoral process is reformed and corrected by signing the bill, afterwards we will ensure the implementation of the law to guarantee a transparent electoral process,’’ he said
The Executive Director, Inclusive Friends Association (IFA), Grace Jerry, said that the electoral bill when assented to would give the more than 30 million community of Persons With Disabilities (PWDs) access to the electoral process.
“The assent to the bill will make it mandatory for people with disabilities to begin to vote, to begin to experience what is called inclusive and accessible voting.
“This is because the bill makes it mandatory for provisions of election materials to be made in formats that PWDs can use.
“This is because election after elections, PWDs have to surmount whatever challenge during elections, but with the bill, we will no longer be disenfranchised, our rights as humans will no longer be violated.’’
The coalition, therefore, recommended that Buhari should sign the Electoral bill into law on or before the expiration of the 30 days’ timeline on March 1.
This ,they said was to enable INEC to issue Notice of Election and release the timetable and schedule of activities for the 2023 general elections.
They said that further amendments to the Electoral Bill 2022 could be proposed after assent had been granted.
“ It is within the President’s prerogative to propose amendments after signing the bill like he did in the case of the Petroleum Industry Bill and 2022 Appropriation bill, an act which attracted commendation.
“We urge the National Assembly to ensure gazetted copies of the Electoral Act 2022 are available to citizens as soon as the bill is signed into law.
“Furthermore, the bill strengthens INEC’s financial independence, and the commission is empowered to reject falsified election results.
“The newly introduced timelines for key electoral activities such as early primaries and submission of list of candidates will facilitate early electoral preparations and promote issue-based political engagement,” the coalition said.