Civil Society Groups Task National Assembly on Electoral Bill

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Chuks Okocha

As the federal lawmakers resume today after Christmas and New Year break. Civil society groups have tasked the National Assembly on the Electoral Bill 2021 on the need for them to prioritize the review of the Bill with dispatch.The civil society groups said that their town hall meeting served as an opportunity to animate the public on key provisions in the Bill and how they will enhance the integrity of future elections.

In a statement signed by Yiaga Africa, International Press Centre (IPC), Centre for Citizens with Disability (CCD),The Albino Foundation, CLEEN Foundation,Institute for Media and Society (IMS),Nigerian Women Trust Fund (NWTF),Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ),Partners for Electoral Reform (PER),Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC),Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre (WARDC),Nigeria Network of Non-Governmental Organizations (NNNGO)and Inclusive Friends Association (IFA), they said that participants at the meeting were drawn from the National Assembly, political parties, civil society, media, professional associations, labour unions and
citizens.

According to the statement, they emphasised the imperative of a speedy enactment of the Bill to strengthen the Electoral legal framework, explaining that “This is required to facilitate early preparations for the 2023 general election and to eschew legal uncertainties that makes the electoral process susceptible to manipulation.”

Key resolutions from the Citizens’ town hall are as follows;

“A new legal framework is central to the integrity of 2023 general elections and future elections and the advancement of Nigeria’s democracy. Against the background of the changing electoral environment and innovations introduced by INEC to enhance electoral integrity it is inconceivable to conduct the 2023 general election and future elections with the current legal framework, the 2010 Electoral Act as amended.

“The Electoral Bill 2021 reflect the wishes of Nigerians and key electoral stakeholders for a legal framework that promotes the use of technology and other innovations to stem electoral manipulation, strengthens INEC’s financial independence, and empowers the Commission to reject falsified election results.

“Further delay to the conclude the Electoral Act amendment process is inimical to the preparations for Ekiti and Osun off-cycle governorship election, the 2023 general election and future elections.

“The opportunity to test the operability of the new legislation and functionality of the new innovations will be lost if the amendment process is not concluded expeditiously.

“Today, with only 398 days to the 2023 general election, it is crucial for the National Assembly and President to conclude the electoral amendment process by 31 January 2022.

“The National Assembly should remove the contentious clause of direct primaries, resolve all the identified drafting errors and cross-referencing gaps and re-transmit the bill to the President for assent within a week of resumption.”, the Civil Society groups stated.

In view of these, they urged the Senate and House of Representatives should upon resumption, take legislative action at its first sitting to conclude the process and re-transmit the bill to President Buhari by Friday, January 21, 2022.

Also, they said that the National Assembly should ensure proper scrutiny of the bill to resolve all drafting errors and cross-referencing gaps before re-transmitting the bill for Presidential Assent.

Accordingly, they said: “The President should upon receipt of the re-transmitted bill provide his assent within a week”, while charging civil society groups, media, and development partners to sustain the effort to safeguard the Electoral Bill from policy capture, manipulation, and subversion of the peoples will.