Groups urge National Assembly to pass Electoral Amendment Bill

Aides to Nigerian lawmakers protest non-payment of 22 months salary arrears

A coalition of civil society groups has asked the National Assembly to quickly pass the Electoral Amendment bill.

This, they said, is one way to assure Nigerians of the genuineness of the ongoing constitutional review process.

The call was contained in a statement signed by five groups – The Electoral Hub, Centre for Liberty, Raising New Voices, Movement for Socialist Alternative and Aspilos Foundation.

“We are of the firm view that the most important and urgent business before the Senate is to conduct the passage of the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill into law.

“We are also of the view that the only way the Senate can assure the vast majority of Nigerians of the genuineness of its Constitutional Review processes is to carry out the passage of the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill.

“This is due to the fact that the Senate signposts electoral reforms as one of the cardinal points of her Constitutional Review, part of the statement read.

The groups also condemned the destruction of the offices of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in several states which they said, is already casting doubts on the 2023 general elections.

They said the passage of the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill remains the solution for the rising attacks on INEC offices because the Bill contains fresh provisions for digitalisation of the electoral process.

Should the bill not be given utmost priority, the group threatened to stage another #OccupyNASS protest to push their demands.

“We hereby give notice that if both houses of the National Assembly (the Senate and the House of Representatives) continue their reluctance to the question of passage of the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill, we will be left with no choice but to activate #OccupyNASS2 to push our demands.”

This is one of many calls to the legislators for the passage of the Electoral Amendment bill.

INEC had, on different occasions, made similar calls stating that the bill, if passed, will ease the process of the 2023 general elections and other polls to follow. The electoral umpire had also proposed about 34 amendments to the bill, which includes punishment for electoral violators.

Many other civic groups and political players like former presidential candidate, Kingsley Moghalu, have made the same call to the National Assembly.

Amendment Rejection

The Electoral Amendment bill among other things, seeks to resolve issues surrounding INEC’s introduction of modern technologies into the electoral process, particularly accreditation of voters.

It has suffered many setbacks in the previous assembly, with President Muhammadu Buhari rejecting it four times.

The first rejection was in March 2018 where he said the proposed law would usurp the constitutional powers of INEC to decide on election matters, including fixing dates and election order.

He rejected it again in 2018, citing “some drafting issues” that remain unaddressed following the prior revisions to the Bill.

And in December 2018, he sent back the bill to the National Assembly and this time, he said passing a new bill with elections close by could ‘create some uncertainty about the legislation to govern the process.’ At the time, the general elections were less than three months away.

It was reintroduced in the ninth Senate and has since scaled first and second reading stages.

However, since the public hearing in December 2020, no report has been submitted to the chamber for passage. No reason has been given for the delay as well.

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