By Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja
The Transition Monitoring Group (TMG) has expressed concern over the refusal of President Muhammadu Buhari to assent the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill, describing it as a bad signal for the electoral process.
The group in a statement issued by its Chairperson, Dr Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, stated that the ECOWAS protocol on which the Presidency hinges part of the decisions that forbids amendments to laws six months to an election must be properly situated and the context within which that provision was made properly articulated.
It stressed that the amendment as it is, gives no candidate any advantage but rather it provides a level-playing field to all the players in the elections, adding that the argument of the ECOWAS protocol was therefore not tenable.
The group said it had in the past raised concerns over the timeframe for the amendment of the Electoral Act and its likely implication to the 2019 elections
According to her, “While TMG recognises this fundamental challenge, the reasons upon which the presidency is hinging its withholding of assent on is unattainable, as the journey to the version passed into law by the legislature is a product of extensive deliberation between the executive and legislature.”
“This is capable of undermining the marginal gains towards achieving credibility in our electoral system,” she added.
The TMG said it completely agrees that the country’s elections must respect international standards and protocols for the conduct of elections.
Akiyode-Afolabi stated, “The provision was made to deter sit-tight leaders in the region from making fundamental changes to their laws to hold onto power and gain unfair advantage in the electoral process, in this case there seems to be a general consensus and agreement of all stakeholders on the urgent necessity of the amendments to the Electoral Act.”
“The Presidency rather is taking undue advantage of its political power to rescind ascent on an issue of utmost importance to the people without being mindful of the implication on the 2019 elections and the credibility of elections in Nigeria, “The amendments would have addressed some gaps in the present electoral act that had negatively affected the credibility of Nigeria’s elections in the past and incorporated some of the recent innovations and developments in the system.
“The current impasse further serves to cast doubts on the commitment of the government to credible free and fair elections in the country. Issues such as this have been the primary drivers of voter apathy in the country. Electoral democracy in the country must serve the democratic aspirations of Nigerians if we want to achieve a participatory and responsive democratic system in the country.”
TMG therefore called on the president to reconsider his position, and assent to the bill and save the country the uncertainty that his actions might cast on the integrity and credibility of the 2019 general elections.