By-elections: Yiaga Africa Wants N’Assembly to Speed up Electoral Reforms

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By Chuks Okocha

Ripples of the December 5, 2020, bye-elections in11 states of the federation have continued as a civil society group, Yiaga Africa, yesterday called on the National Assembly to speed up all legislative works on the Electoral Act to confer legality on innovations such as electronic accreditation and electronic transmission of results.

The group further stated that the passage of an Electoral Offences Commission Bill is long overdue.

In a statement issued by its Executive Director of Programmes, Cynthia Mbamalu, Yiaga Africa also called on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to take proactive steps to ensure the full-scale deployment of technology in subsequent elections.

In addition, the civil society organisation said INEC should also ensure effective training of polling officials especially on the use of new technological tools used for elections.

According to the statement, “The National Assembly should accelerate the consideration and passage of electoral amendment bills to confer legality on innovations such as electronic accreditation and electronic transmission of results. The passage of an Electoral Offences Commission Bill is also long overdue.

“The just-concluded bye-elections into 15 senatorial and state constituencies have yet again reignited the need to prioritise electoral reforms to tackle some challenges bedevilling Nigeria’s elections especially the need to ensure adequate prosecution of electoral offenders.

“Also, electoral reforms will provide legal authority to INEC to further consolidate on the recent innovations introduced to improve the process, while also strengthening INEC independence.

“Achieving electoral reforms to fix our elections and ensure an electoral process that inspires citizens’ confidence will require a broad-based support, stakeholder’s collaboration and political will by the political class.

“INEC should hold security agencies to account for failing to protect INEC officials against thugs and polling agents involved in violence and disruption of the election; review its engagement with security agencies and other stakeholders

“INEC should also continue to review its voting processes to allow voters to cast ballots without interference and intimidation. It should develop better strategies in enforcing physical distancing and adherence to health guidelines during elections.”

For security agencies, Yiaga Africa said vote buying is a criminal act and an affront on the democratic rights of citizens to freely express their choice.

Accordingly, it said: “The security agencies and Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) as well as the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) should investigate reported incidents of vote-buying and ensure appropriate sanctions for offenders.”

The group also called on political parties to invest more in voter education and mobilisation and refrain from vote buying as well as resorting to violence in elections, explaining that elections should be about the people and debate of policies that would ensure inclusive growth and development.