Jet back from Turkey, sign Electoral Bill -70 CSOs to Buhari

A coalition of over 70 civil society organisations working in support of credible and transparent elections in Nigeria on Friday told the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), to jet back from Turkey and sign the Electoral Amendment Bill.

The organisation under the aegis of Nigerian Civil Society Situation Room said the President was free to return back to Turkey after signing the Bill into law.

The NCSSR made the request during a press conference in response to a publication by The PUNCH that the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), had written the President warning him that Direct Primaries would throw Nigeria to chaos.

The briefing was jointly addressed by Ene Obi, Asma’u Joda, James Ugochukwu and all Co-Conveners and Founder/Executive Director of Albinos Foundation.

The NCCSR said, “We are responding to the situation responsibly. The President travelled on public jet, he can still jet back. He owes the country a duty to sign this Bill. The President should make a return, sign the Bill and jet back. Whoever is advising him not to sign this Bill is not doing this country any good.

“If you look at the man-hours spent on this Bill, it’s too much. If the President assents to this Bill, he can also do other amendments later. It will be a great disservice to the 9th National Assembly if he doesn’t sign this Bill.”

The CSOs expressed concern that since the passage of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill 2021 and the onward transmission to the President, the Bill had not been assented to by the President.

The text of the press conference reads in part, “Electoral reforms in Nigeria have been implemented mainly through the review of the Electoral Act. The Act has undergone many changes since the return to democracy. The current 2010 Electoral Act has been amended three times (in 2010, 2011 and 2015). A fourth amendment attempt in the 8th Assembly failed just before the 2019 elections.

“Situation Room notes that in 2018 President Muhammadu Buhari sent back the Electoral Act Amendment Bill on three occasions. In March 2018, he rejected the Bill, saying it will usurp powers of the Independent National Electoral Commission on Electoral matters.

“In September 2018, he rejected the Bill that some clauses needed adjustments and mechanical revision. In December 2018, he rejected the Bill on the account that it was too close to the 2019 General Election. Nigerians were left with the Electoral Act 2015 to conduct the 2019 general election. Now, this current National Assembly re-opened conversations on the reform of the Act ending up with a total repeal and re-enactment after putting in a lot of work to achieve this.

“The Bill has provisions that will address gaps in the current law on use of technology; electronic voting; collation and transmission of results; cost of campaigns; process for party primaries and nomination of candidates; and many others. Since the beginning of the amendment process, Nigerians have been very involved and expressed expectations for an Electoral Act, 2021, that will endure personal and partisan considerations and work for all Nigerians by creating an atmosphere for free, fair and credible elections. It is unfair that with all the input and recommendations made by stakeholders, calls are being made to decline assent.

“A key concern for us, are the calls by some Nigerian Governors regarding direct primaries in the Electoral Act Amendment Bill. Situation Room notes that these calls have asked the President to decline assent to the Bill that is set to become one of the most significant pieces of legislation made by the 9th Assembly because of the provision on direct primaries.

“With several of the progressive amendments in the Bill that will impact positively in our elections and contribute to deepening democracy in Nigeria, it will be a great disservice to the country if the Bill is not assented to in time for the 2023 general elections.

“We urge the President to sign the Bill into law without delay and it will still be within his prerogative to bring fresh amendments after signing the Bill like he did with the Petroleum Industry Bill for which he was highly commended.”


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