By Martins Ifijeh
Human rights lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mr. Femi Falana, has asked President Muhammadu Buhari to sign the new Electoral Act Amendment Bill into law.
He said the bill should be signed now to avoid altering the arrangements for 2019 elections in accordance with the ECOWAS protocol on democracy and good governance act.
The National Assembly had first amended the Electoral Act but it was rejected by Buhari due to what he called “provisions inconsistent with the 1999 Constitution.”
The lawmakers then expunged the said provisions and passed a new bill, which has been transmitted to Buhari for assent.
Falana said the new bill should be promptly signed into law in view of the fact that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has announced that the 2019 elections would commence in February 2019.
“In making this call, the attention of the president ought to be drawn to article 2 (1) of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Protocol A/SP1/12/01 on Democracy and Good Governance which provides that: ‘No substantial modification shall be made to the electoral laws in the last six months before the elections, except with the consent of majority of political actors,” Falana said.
He cited the case of Congress of Democracy and Progress vs Republic of Burkina Faso where the ECOWAS Court ruled that “all the member states of the ECOWAS are bound by the provisions of the protocol on democracy and good governance.
“Since the modification made to the 2010 Electoral Act is substantia, the bill cannot be passed in less than six months to the 2019 general election.
“Since Nigeria is legally obliged to comply with the said Protocol, President Buhari who is the current Chairman of the ECOWAS should ensure that the Electoral Bill 2018 is assented to without any further delay,” he said.