Jega, CSOs Want Expeditious Action on New Electoral Law

Jega, CSOs Want Expeditious Action on New Electoral Law

…Say New Law Will Enhance Integrity, Conduct of Country’s Elections …Ask N/Assembly to Quickly Expunge Contentious Section, Re-transmit to President for Assent Former Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof Attahiru Jega, and a coalition of civil society organisations (CSOs), want expeditious action on the new Electoral Bill 2021 so that the country can conduct

…Say New Law Will Enhance Integrity, Conduct of Country’s Elections
…Ask N/Assembly to Quickly Expunge Contentious Section, Re-transmit to President for Assent

Former Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof Attahiru Jega, and a coalition of civil society organisations (CSOs), want expeditious action on the new Electoral Bill 2021 so that the country can conduct the next election with a new law.

They ask the National Assembly to 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.

They stress that 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.

They also contended that further delay to conclude the Electoral Act amendment process may imperil preparations for Ekiti and Osun off-cycle governorship election, the 2023 general election and future elections.

At a Citizens’ Townhall meeting on the Electoral Bill, 2021, organised by YIAGA Africa in Abuja, on Sunday, Jega, who said it is difficult to conduct elections in Nigeria, added that since 2010, there has not been a significant improvement in the electoral law.

He said that while there could be some grey areas in the Electoral Bill that President Muhammadu Buhari declined assent to, there are other good things in the bill, arguing that the baby should not be thrown away with the bath water.

“I believe Nigeria should go into the next elections with a new law as there are many good things in the bill that will improve the integrity and conduct of elections.”

“As I have said earlier, since 2010, we have not had significant improvement in the electoral framework.

“Speaking on direct and indirect primaries, some people believe that Governors do influence the outcome of indirect primaries and some feel direct primaries is a way out of this, but the question is, how many parties have a credible register of members?

“Give INEC the law to begin preparations for the 2023 elections. Any Governor that manipulates direct primaries under this present condition will also have the capacity to manipulate indirect primaries.

“What we are saying is that you cannot throw the baby away with the bath water. Let’s think more carefully. The good things in the bill should be signed into law immediately so that INEC can start serious work for the 2023 elections,” Jega argues.

Speaking in the same vein, the Coalition of 13 Civil Society Organizations which attended the Citizen’s Town Hall Meeting of the Electoral Bill, want the National Assembly to Act with dispatch on the Electoral Bill upon resumption from recess.

The Townhall meeting served also as an opportunity to animate the public on key provisions in the Bill and how they will enhance the integrity of future elections.

Participants in the Townhall meeting, drawn from the National Assembly, political parties, civil society, media, professional associations, labour unions and citizens, emphasized the imperative of a speedy enactment of the Bill to strengthen the electoral legal framework.

This they stressed, 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’ Townhall meeting 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 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 (Sunday), with only 398 days to the 2023 general election, it is crucial for the National Assembly and the 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.

“As the nation awaits the resumption of the National Assembly on Tuesday 18 January 2022, Nigerians expect that work on the electoral amendment bill will be the priority issue on the order
paper. The leadership of the National Assembly should therefore conclude this process as any further delay will undermine public confidence in the reform process,” the coalition stated.

Thy also made the following recommendations;

* The Senate and House of Representatives should upon resumption on Tuesday 18 January
2022, take legislative action at its first sitting to conclude the process and re-transmit the bill to President Buhari by Friday, January 21, 2022.
* 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.
* The President should upon receipt of the re-transmitted bill provide his assent within a week.
* Civil society groups, media, and development partners sustain the effort to safeguard the Electoral Bill from policy capture, manipulation, and subversion of the people’s will.

The statement is signed by the following organizations: Yiaga Africa, International Press Centre (IPC), Centre for Citizens with Disability (CCD), The Albino Foundation, CLEEN Foundation, Institute for Media and Society (IMS) and the Nigerian Women Trust Fund (NWTF). Others include 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).

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