NLC, PLAC Urge Buhari to Sign Amended Electoral Act into Law

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* CSOs back Bill to set aside 107 N’ Assembly seats for women

Onyebuchi Ezigbo

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Policy and Legislative Advocacy Centre (PLAC) have urged President Muhammadu Buhari to promptly give his assent to the Electoral Act Amendment Bill recently passed by the two federal legislative chambers.

Similarly, the Executive Director of PLAC, Mr. Clement Nwankwo, urged the president to sign the new Electoral Act without much delay so as to enable the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) plan well in advance for next the 2023 general election.

Nwankwo, who spoke at the civil society organization’s strategy session on constitution review process organised by PLAC with the support of the European Union (EU) in Abuja on Monday, said that there is enough time before the 2023 general election if the president signs the amendment bill now unlike in 2019 when his excuse was that it was too close to the election.

In a statement signed by the NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, organised labour said that majority of Nigerians have described the 2021 amendments of the Electoral Act as one of the most progressive enactments that Nigeria has had in a long time.

According to NLC, the demand for the signing of the amended Electoral Act into law has become necessary since the content will help strengthen democracy in the country.

“The leadership of the Congress commends the House of Representatives and the Senate, particularly the leadership of the National Assembly, who stood rock solid behind the proposal for direct primaries for all political parties and rallied their colleagues in the House and the Senate to pass the bill into law. This is the proof of committed leadership and true statesmanship.

“Majority of Nigerians have described the 2021 amendments of the Electoral Act as one of the most progressive enactments that Nigeria has had in a long time,” he said.

Wabba listed some of the major inovations in the amended Electoral Act to include the adoption of direct primaries for internal political parties’ contestations; accommodation of the use of technology in the conduct of general elections in Nigeria; and the expansion of the powers of the INEC to develop guidelines as it deems fit to guide the deployment of technology during elections in Nigeria.

Wabba however cautioned that
a lot more needs to be done in order to fully sanitize Nigeria’s challenged electioneering especially building on the 2007-2011 electoral reforms which the NLC actively participated in.

He said the electoral process must find ways of tackling the menace of godfatherism, godmotherism and money politics which were the major concerns that necessitated the new law on direct primaries for all political parties.

“We recommend that the National Assembly should expeditiously consider developing a bill for the establishment of Electoral Offences Commission to expedite the prosecution of politicians and their agents who indulge in vote for cash, election rigging and violence,” he said.

On the full mainstreaming of the use of technology in the electoral law, NLC urged all stakeholders, especially INEC, to continue to constructively engage with the Nigerian people to ensure that the lessons from recent and remote deployment of technology during elections are not lost.

Meanwhile, stakeholders who met in Abuja over proposals for constitutional review, have expressed support for the Bill seeking to address the poor women representation in governance in Nigeria.

The Equal Opportunity Bill currently before the National Assembly Commitee on Constitution Review provides for the setting aside of additional one Senate seat per state and two new House of Representatives seats for the 36 states of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

The lead consultant to the House Representatives Committee on Constitution Review, Prof. Dakas Dakas, said that if granted and approved as a law, women will be expected to vie exclusively for 37 Senate seats and 73 House Representatives seats accross the country during the general election.

On her part, the guest speaker and the Dean, Faculty of Law, University of Nigeria, Enugu campus, Prof. Joy Ezeilo, said there is the need to do something urgently to address the deplorable state about women participation in the governance of the country.

According to her, Nigeria currently rates far below other African countries in the number of elected women legislators.

She said: “The Global Gender Gap for 2020 published by the World Economic Forum rated Nigeria 146 out of about 153 countries it evaluated concerning women political empowement focusing on women representation in governance,” she said.