Ahead N’Assembly’s Resumption, CSOs Demand Rework, Passage of Electoral Bill

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Ahead N’Assembly’s Resumption, CSOs Demand Rework, Passage of Electoral Bill

Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in the country have asked the National Assembly to ensure the immediate passage of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill as they commence the 2022 legislative work on January 18.

The CSOs, in a statement on Monday jointly signed by Ariyo-Dare Atoye, Executive Director, Adopt A Goal Initiative; Jude Feranmi, Convener, Raising New Voices Initiative; Rachel Anyanwu, Human Rights Advocate and Godbless Obuture, Convener, Ready to Lead Africa, warned that under no circumstance should the January 18 resumption date set by the leadership of both chambers be postponed as any further delay will put in jeopardy efforts to ensure the passage of the bill.

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According to the CSOs, on resumption while the National Assembly may choose to override the president’s veto and go ahead to pass the bill into law, they may also choose to review the bill to meet the President’s demands and transmit back to him for assent.

While agreeing that the president’s refusal to assent to the bill has set back the advocacy for these democratic reforms, the CSOs however said they cannot rest until they ensure that the desire of Nigerians for a more credible electoral process where the people can elect leaders of their choice and their votes will count must become a reality.

They therefore advised the lawmakers to suspend rules of legislative business, protocols and bureaucracy and deal with the issue within 48 hours of resumption.

The statement read in part: “The 20th day of December last year, President Muhammadu Buhari wrote to the National Assembly citing varying reasons he had refused to assent to the Electoral Amendment Bill sent to him by both chambers. Mr President was quoted to have said that the ‘the conduct of elections for the nomination of party candidates solely via direct primaries as envisaged by the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill 2021 has serious adverse legal, financial, economic and security consequences which cannot be accommodated at the moment considering our nation’s peculiarities.

“This conclusion reached by the president drew various criticisms from the Nigerian populace and outright disappointment from the civil society organisations working to ensure the conduct of freer, fairer and more credible elections in the forthcoming exercises happening in Ekiti, Osun and the 2023 general elections.

“We are aware that the National Assembly has rules and timelines for bills and responses to Mr President in situations like this, but we are also aware that these rules and bureaucracy that may drag foot can be suspended in critical situations to meet the timing and urgency that this kind of bill demands.

“Cross-referencing errors which may cause issues in the interpretation of the law and the execution of the law by agencies should be corrected before passage or transmission to the president. These errors have been identified by civil society organizations and have been shared with the leadership of the National Assembly.

“For the consolidation of our democracy, and to really bring development to the people and an improved standard of living, our elections must be fair and seen to be fair. Our elections must be free and seen to be free. Our elections must be credible and seen to be credible. This is not beyond what we can do and what the current electoral amendment bill promises. We must make haste in passing this into law so that the people can begin to prepare for an election under this legal framework.”

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