National Assembly Commences Process for Another Electoral Reform

National Assembly Commences Process for Another Electoral Reform

It was a meeting of National Assembly committee members with Nigerians, 10 months after the Electoral Act 2022 was tested in a general election. Some Nigerians felt there was need to work on some aspects of the Act, others felt there was need to insert some sections in the Act to give it some teeth.

It was a meeting of National Assembly committee members with Nigerians, 10 months after the Electoral Act 2022 was tested in a general election. Some Nigerians felt there was need to work on some aspects of the Act, others felt there was need to insert some sections in the Act to give it some teeth. The activated process could even lead to a tinkering with the constitution.

Tuesday was a bountiful harvest day for the legislators as civil society organisations, youth groups and political parties converged on Abuja to jaw – jaw on Electoral Reforms. Tagged “Citizens Town hall on Electoral Reforms”, the joint committee on Electoral Matters of both Chambers of the National Assembly had their cups full with suggestions and propositions on aspects of the electoral law they would want the legislators to tamper with in the Electoral Act 2022.

Inspector General of Police, Mr. Kayode Egbetokun in his presentation called for six amendments in the Act. These include the power for the police to arrest offenders at polling units without waiting for an order from the Presiding Officer, the power to prosecute electoral offenders, that policemen be allowed to carry arms at polling units as security in the country have been highly militarised, stiffer punishment for electoral offenders, establishment of Electoral Offenders Commission and the unbundling of the Independent National Electoral Commission ( INEC).

Former Chairman of INEC, Prof. Attahiru Jega who said the Electoral Act 2022 was the best electoral legislation so far in the country said cross carpeting by elected political holders should not be subject of legislative interpretation stressing that the law should be strengthened that: “once you cross carpet, you lose your seat”.

According to him, INEC should not wait a day before withdrawing the certificate of returns of the elected person.

Samson Itodo, Executive Director of Yiaga Africa said if Nigeria wants Electoral justice where votes will count, then, there is need to unbundle INEC, establish Electoral Offences Commission and election petition should be heard and concluded before swearing in of perceived winner.

Mr. Timothy Bamidele who represented Center for Media and Society and International Press Center (IPC) in his presentation entitled :” Dealing with hate speech in Nigeria’s elections: Some proposals for the reform process” made five major recommendations:

One, Create some more space for citizens participation and expression. Government authorities (including security agencies), media and civil society should: Expand expression diversity through provisions of more platforms that give voice to underserved or marginalised groups. Expand Civic and Voter Education in innovative ways.
Undertake rigorous media and information literacy programme.

Two, Strengthen partnerships among electoral actors such as the Election Management Body (EMB), Civil Society, Media and Political parties. Three, the EMB, other agencies and civil society should; Strengthen the monitoring, analysis and reporting on hate speech in media content .Three, develop/strengthen Early Warning Systems (EWS) on hate speech and deal with the issues early before the elections.

Four, – Building; Civil Society and other groups should help train and re-train media professionals, politicians and party leaders and regulators. And five, Legislations and regulations: The National Assembly should make electoral legislations with strong citizens participation and ensure international standard provisions.
Regulators and other implementing agencies should ensure that legislations and regulations are interpreted and applied in a consistent manner.

Mboho Eno, Deputy Director Accountability Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development presented five recommendations: One, early voting for critical stakeholders, two, on disinformation, companies used in creating and sharing such should be severely punished, three, citizens should be allowed to vote wherever they are in Nigeria. Voters card should be used as an ATM card, four, the burden of proof should be on INEC, since it’s there process that’s being questionedand five, all litigations must be concluded before swearing in.

In his contribution entitled:” Need to reverse the Judicialization of the Electoral Process in Nigeria”, Prof. Edoba Omoregie, Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) of the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies, National Assembly, Abuja recommended the alteration of provisions of the Constitution and amendment of provisions of the Electoral Act,2022 which insert the courts too deeply into the fray in electoral disputes especially at the point of nomination.

Prof Omoregie also called for amendment in the provisions of the Electoral Act (Section 134) that allows a political party or it’s candidate to challenge the nomination of the candidate of another political party as a ground in an election petition.

The Nigerian Civil Defence Corps ( NCDC) in a presentation by Mr. Oliver Ogoja recommended that security agencies be allowed to carry arms at polling units, INEC Chairman’s salary be consolidated, NCDC officers to use sophisticated equipment, diaspora voting, Independent candidacy, criminalize unstamped ballot papers in polling units and offenders jailed five years without option of fine, criminalise over voting and any Presiding Officer in a polling unit with over voting should be sentenced to 15 years without option of fine.

Mr. Patrick Chukwu of the Brain Builders Youth Development Initiative recommended that voters registration should be a continuous process,mandate electronic transmission of results,remove the power to appoint Chairman of the Commission by the President, establishment of Electoral Offences Commission and abolishing use of voters cards.

National Organising Secretary of the Action Democratic Party (ADP), Dr. Alex Maiyanga said election structure in Nigeria should be changed from top to bottom o bottom up.

Hon. Adebayo Balogun, Chairman House of Representatives Committee on Electoral Reform informed Nigerians to send contributions to the committee’s website.

Senator Sharafadeen Alli, the Senate Committee Chairman said zonal town hall meetings would soon begin to harness opinion of Nigerians.

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