By Chuks Okocha and Udora Orizu
A coalition of Civil Society Organisations yesterday protested at the National Assembly against the non-inclusion of electronic voting, provision of financial autonomy for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), protection of people with disabilities, among others, in the new Electoral Act.
The coalition in a statement jointly signed and presented on its behalf by the Project Manager of YIAGA Africa, Cynthia Mbamalu, harped on the need to reform the electoral legal framework that would encourage active citizens’ participation and guarantee their rights in electing leaders and representatives that will provide good governance by addressing gaps in the current electoral legal framework.
The statement read: “In December 2020, the National Assembly held a public hearing on the Electoral Act Amendment Bill which provided an opportunity for citizens and stakeholders to participate and make their input in the electoral reform process. The Senate president at that time promised Nigerians a new Electoral Act by March 2021. That timeline has come and gone!
‘’Elections remain the fulcrum and constant cardinal feature in a democracy. It is important to protect all conditions and instruments required to conduct free, fair and credible elections to ensure that the sovereign will of the people prevails always. The seeming lack of progress in the National Assembly on the Electoral Act Amendment Bill is therefore worrisome. Nigerians demand that their elected representatives respond to the urgent need for an electoral legal framework that genuinely strengthens the electoral processes and procedures; promotes inclusivity and addresses impunity.’’
In his remarks, the co-Convener, Centre for Liberty, Mr. Ariyo Dare Atoye, urged the National Assembly to expedite action on the passage of the amendment to the Electoral Act before May 29, 2021.
He said: “Basically, we are here today to ask the National Assembly to have a rethink and consider the passage of a new electoral law that will inspire confidence in Nigerians, and help to revive the interests of Nigerians in the electoral process.
‘’In order to firm up this process quickly, we have told them to pass this bill before May 29 so that the president can sign it into law on June 12 as part of activities to mark the June 12 Democracy Day, so that it will be symbolic, a reference point and part of the legacy that the president will take away.”