Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and other stakeholders in the country have called on President Muhammadu Buhari to sign the electoral bill transmitted to him by the National Assembly bureaucracy within one week.
According to the CSOs, time is running out and if the president signs the bill within one week, it will help the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to issue guidelines for the 2023 general elections.
The CSOs include: Yiaga Africa; International Press Centre (IPC); Centre for Citizens with Disability (CCD); The Albino Foundation; CLEEN Foundation; Institute for Media and Society (IMS) and Nigerian Women Trust Fund (NWTF).
Others are: 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 Organisations (NNNGO); Inclusive Friends Association (IFA).
Speaking to LEADERSHIP last night on behalf of the groups, the executive director, Yiaga Africa, Samson Itodo, said the CSOs are happy the errors they found in the bill earlier rejected by Buhari had been corrected.
According to Itodo, issues raised by the president were also addressed, insisting that the bill should be signed on time to enable smooth preparations for the 2023 general elections.
“The National Assembly should be commended for accelerating this entire process of the review. We are glad that they reworked the bill and the drafting errors might have been resolved. We hope that there are no errors and there are no cross-referencing gabs.
“Now that it has been transmitted, we hope that the president will assent to the bill within one week because we are running out of time. All the issues that he raised have been addressed and we expect him to sign the bill within one week,” Itodo said.
According to him, by February 7, the bill should have been signed so that INEC can issue the notice of election the following week.
“Because the law said that within 360 days to election, INEC is required to issue the notice of election, we don’t want the president to waste any further time because this is a critical moment for democracy,” Itodo added.
The Bloggers Association of Nigeria (BON) has commended the National Assembly for doing a good job on the bill, particularly as it relates to section 84 of the Act.
Why We Want Prompt Passage Of Amended Electoral Bill – INEC
They said, “We welcome the idea of the harmonised version of the electoral bill because it accommodates the direct, indirect, and consensus primary modes of nominating candidates by political parties for elections.
“Irrespective of some imperfections in the bill, we commend the leadership of the Nigerian Senate for the re-amendment which was done to harmonise the lawmakers’ position with that of the House of Representatives. It is commendable because this position is in line with our expectations and that of Nigerians.
“We strongly believe that if the Electoral Act Amendment Bill 2021 is passed by the National Assembly, which empowers the INEC to transmit election results electronically, it will greatly eliminate electoral fraud among other irregularities.
“For that reason, we believe that the onus is now on President Muhammadu Buhari to, as urgently as possible, sign the amended electoral bill into law, so that there will be no encumbrance of any sort for INEC to go ahead and conduct transparent, credible and fair elections across the country.
“We call on President Buhari to quickly assent to the bill, bearing in mind that time is of essence as the 2023 elections draw closer.”
Legislature Has Done Its Part, Says Lawan
The National Assembly yesterday transmitted the 2021 Electoral Act Amendment Bill to President Muhammadu Buhari, pushing the pressure on the presidency.
The National Assembly had last Wednesday passed the harmonised Electoral Act Amendment Bill to include provisions which clearly define the mode of primaries for political parties.
The re-amendment was sequel to a motion on “rescission on clause 84 of the Electoral Act No. 26 2010 (Amendment) Bill, 2022 and Committal to the Committee of the Whole.”
The motion was sponsored by the Senate Leader, Yahaya Abdullahi (Kebbi North).
The Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, after the amendment to the electoral bill by the Committee of the Whole, said the re-amendment was done to harmonise its position with that of the House of Representatives.
He added that the amendment accommodates clearly defined provisions for the mode of primaries.
Lawan expressed optimism that the bill would be signed into law when transmitted by the National Assembly to the president for his assent.
He warned that political parties that fail, or refuse, to abide by the provisions on the mode of primaries would miss out on the opportunity to participate during elections.
He said, “On the mode of conducting primaries by parties to produce candidates, we have concluded our task on the amendment to the Electoral Act No. 6 2010 Bill.
“You would recall that the Senate and the House passed the Electoral Act amendment Bill with slight differences. While the House passed the mode of primaries to be direct and indirect only, the Senate passed the mode of primaries to be direct, indirect and consensus.
“What we have done is to give a very clear and sufficient definition to each mode of primaries.
“The direct primaries are well defined on how it will be conducted; ditto the indirect primaries. And for the consensus, the two chambers have produced in this Bill a very clear definition of how a consensus candidate would emerge.
“Therefore, we are very glad that we have been able to achieve this consensus between the two chambers to arrive at this harmonised version, and we are also very optimistic that Mr. President will sign the bill.
“Our desire is to ensure that we reform the electoral processes in Nigeria for better transparency, accountability and Integrity to the satisfaction of Nigerians and the international community.
“Political parties, when this is signed into law, will have the responsibility of ensuring that they follow the law, otherwise they will end up missing the opportunity to participate in elections.”
The amended bill provides in clause 84 (2) that “the procedure for the nomination of candidates by political parties for the various elective positions shall be by direct, indirect primaries or consensus.”
It added in 84(3) that “a political party shall not impose nomination qualification or disqualification criteria, measures, or conditions on any aspirant or candidate for any election in its constitution, guidelines, or rules for nomination of candidates for elections, except as prescribed under sections 65, 66, 106, 107, 131, 137, 177 and 187 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).”
On direct primaries in 84 (4), the amended version provides that “a political party that adopts the direct primaries procedure shall ensure that all aspirants are given equal opportunity of being voted for by members of the party and shall adopt the procedure outlined below:
“(a) In the case of Presidential Primaries, all registered members of the party shall vote for aspirants of their choice at a designated centre at each ward of the Federation.
“(b) The procedure in paragraph (a) above of this subsection shall be adopted for direct primaries in respect of gubernatorial, senatorial, federal and state cnstituencies.
“(c) Special Conventions or Congresses shall be held to ratify the candidate with the highest number of votes at designated centres at the National, State, Senatorial, Federal and State Constituencies, as the case may be.”
On Indirect Primaries, the bill provides under 84(5) that, “A political party that adopts the system of indirect primaries for the choice of its candidate shall adopt the procedure outlined below:
“(a) In the case of nominations to the position of Presidential candidate, the political party shall – (i) hold a Special Presidential Convention at a designated centre in the Federal Capital Territory or any other place within the Federation that is agreed to by the National Executive Committee of the party where delegates shall vote for aspirants of their choice.
“(ii) the aspirant with the highest number of votes cast at the end of voting shall be declared the winner of the Presidential primaries of the political party and that aspirant’s name shall be forwarded to the Commission as the candidate of the party.”
It further provides under 84(7) that, “Where there is only one aspirant or a consensus candidate in a political party for any of the elective positions mentioned in subsection (5)(a), (b), (c) and (d), the party shall convene a special convention or congress at a designated Centre on a specified date for the confirmation of such aspirant and the name of the aspirant shall be forwarded to the Independent National Electoral Commission as the candidate of the party.”
The Electoral Bill provides in 84(8) that, “A political party that adopts the system of indirect primaries for the choice of its candidate shall clearly outline in its constitution and rule the procedure for the democratic election of delegates to vote at the convention, congress meeting.”
On consensus candidate, the bill in 84(9)(a) provides that a political party that adopts a consensus candidate shall get the written consent of all cleared aspirants for the position, indicating their voluntary withdrawal from the race and their endorsement of the consensus candidate.
It goes further in paragraph (b) that, “Where a political party is unable to secure the written consent of all cleared aspirants for the purpose of a consensus candidate, it shall revert to the choice of direct or indirect primaries for the nomination of candidates for the aforesaid elective positions.”
The bill states in paragraph (c) that “a special convention or nomination congress shall be held to ratify the choice of consensus candidates at designated centres at the national, state, senatorial, federal and state constituencies, as the case may be.”
President Buhari had in December 2021 declined assent to the electoral bill. The president hinged his veto on the provision for mandatory direct primary elections to be conducted by political parties.
While Nigerians thought the National Assembly would override the president’s veto, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) including Yiaga Africa discovered errors in 11 sections of the bill which could hinder the president from signing the bill.
The discovery by the CSOs helped in the clean-up of the bill by the National Assembly bureaucracy, leading to the submission yesterday.
Now that the National Assembly bureaucracy has transmitted the bill, the ball is now at the court of President Buhari, as Nigerians await to see if he will honour his words by signing the bill unlike what happened in 2018 during the 8th Assembly headed by Senator Abubakar Bukola Saraki when he declined assent.
Confirming the transmission of the bill to Buhari, the Presidential liaison officer to the Senate, Sen Babajide Omoworare, said the bureaucracy of the National Assembly submitted the document to the president yesterday.
Northern Youths Warn Governors, Others
Similarly, Northern youths organisations under the auspices of Arewa Youths Consultative Forum (AYCF), yesterday warned those lobbying President Buhari against signing the electoral bill, as they urged him to sign, without delay, the reworked Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill into law for credible and transparent 2023 polls.
In a telephone interview with LEADERSHIP in Kaduna over the transmission of the reworked bill to President Buhari for assent, the president of AYCF, Yerima Shettima, said Buhari should be guided by the interest of the nation to strengthen Nigeria’s democracy as well as write his name in gold.
Shettima warned governors and ministers who are allegedly mounting pressure on president Buhari not to sign the bill to have a rethink and desist henceforth.
He told Buhari: “If you fail as president, the blame will be on you, not any governor or minister. This Electoral Act Bill is in the interest of the country to sign it into law without delay. This bill has suffered a lot of setbacks due to the interests of some people. We believe the bill will strengthen our democracy as elections will be credible and transparent.”
No Excuse For Failure, Lawyers Tell INEC
Meanwhile, some prominent lawyers in the country last night told INEC that it had no excuse for failure in the 2023 general election once President Muhammadu Buhari gives his assent Electoral Act Amendment Bill.
A senior advocate of Nigeria, Mr Abdul Balogun, said he expects better planning and conduct of the next general election in 2023, even as he noted that political parties had a role to play in the conduct of a free and fair election.
”I expect all stakeholders to play by the rules in the next election. I also expect INEC to implement the electoral laws to the letter. There should be a different kind of election from what we had in the past. Nigerians can’t afford not to have free, fair and credible elections in 2023,” he said.
Constitutional lawyer, Fidelis Abu, said it would be a shame if INEC fails to give Nigerians credible elections. According to him, for once, INEC should get our electoral process right.
”But I will also call on Nigerians, and politicians in particular, to abide by the electoral laws so that we can have credible elections in 2023.
”As usual, the courts will be busy before and after the elections but I’ll call on lawyers and judicial officers to think about the interest of Nigeria first over and above that of any other person”, he said.
On his part, a professor and Lagos lawyer, Ade Ipayia, said with the transmission of the amended electoral bill to the president, the coast is be clear for INEC to begin its programmes for the elections after the president’s assent.
”If, indeed, INEC is as determined as it has said, I think we are going to have one of the best elections since independence. I will be disappointed if INEC fails Nigerians in the next general election”, he said.