By Angela Atabo
A Coalition of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), has repeated calls on President Muhammad Buhari to sign the Electoral Act Amendment Bill 2021 without further delay.
They made the call at a news conference on the imperative of timely assent to the bill in Abuja on Thursday.
Some of the CSOs were Yiaga Africa, International Press Centre (IPC) Centre for Citizens with Disability (CCD), Albino Foundation, CLEEN Foundation, Institute for Media and Society (IMS), Nigerian Women Trust Fund (NWTF) and Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ).
Mr Samson Itodo, the Executive Director, Yiaga Africa, a member of the coalition said that the Presidency on Nov. 19, acknowledged the receipt of the bill from the National Assembly for presidential assent.
Itodo noted the bill contained specific provisions directed at enhancing the quality and credibility of elections which also addressed certain lacunas in the existing electoral legal framework.
“Such provisions in the bill include: Legal backing for the use of electoral technologies for the purpose of voter accreditation, and electronic transmission of election results.
“Others include extension of restrictive timelines for electoral activities, concise definition of over voting and the conferment of legal authority on INEC to review questionable election results.
“The Civil Society Organisations welcome the decision of the President to invite comments from relevant government Ministries, Departments and Agencies on the bill,’’ he said.
Itodo said the input of INEC, Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Minister of the Interior, Minister of Finance and the Inspector-General of Police, would be probably most crucial in that regard.
He, however, urged those office holders to be guided by overriding public interest towards strengthening the electoral process in order to deepen democracy in the country.
“It is our firm belief that the bill in its current state will not only encourage increased citizens’ participation in the electoral process, it will also enhance the capacity of the democratic institutions to improve the transparency and legitimacy of electoral outcomes,’’ he said
Itodo said timely assent to the bill 2021 would facilitate early preparations for the 2023 general elections.
He noted that the successful conduct of any election was predicated on the certainty and clarity of election legal framework, amongst other factors.
Another member, Mr Lanre Arogundade, the Executive Director, International Press Centre, said that timely assent to the bill by the president would help in actualizing the will and aspiration of the people.
Arogundade urged the President to honour his commitment to bequeath to Nigerians an electoral system that guaranteed the conduct of credible, inclusive and peaceful elections.
According to him, the National Assembly can amend the bill in the next electoral cycle based on real and perceived lacuna identified in its implementation.(NAN)(nannews.ng)