President Muhammadu Buhari has rejected the Electoral Act Amendment Bill five time in five years, Elanza News can report.
If Buhari rejects the 2022 electoral act amendment bill, it would be the six time he failed to reform the Nigerian electoral legal framework.
Buhari, who has been contesting the presidential election since 2003 and cried on several occasions over electoral fraud, promised Nigerians in 2015 that he will reform the electoral process that brought him to power, the same reform process he rejected five times in five years.
Even though about 23 civil society organizations have commenced mobilisation of others with possible protest over the non-assent to the electoral act amendment bill, the CSOs are saying that the president can’t keep traveling while the electoral legal framework that should set the pace for the conduct of the 2023 general elections is still not ready.
Elanza News reports that the five times Buhari has declined assent to the Electoral Act Amendment bill in the last five years started in 2018.
In March 2018, Buhari rejected the Bill due to some provision that would usurp the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC’s) powers on electoral matters.
In July 2018, Buhari outrightly vetoed the Bill by refraining from making comments on it until the expiration of the 30 days’ timeline.
In September 2018, Buhari rejected the Bill on the basis of drafting errors and cross-referencing gaps.
In December 2018, Buhari again rejected the Bill because, according to him, it was too close to the 2019 General Election.
Also, Buhari rejected the current Bill in December 2021 based on the adoption of direct primaries as the only legally approved procedure for the nomination of candidates.
Elanza News reports that if Buhari rejects the current Electoral Bill, it will be the six times he would reject Amendment to the electoral legal framework work.
But CSOs have said that if the 2022 electoral act amendment bill suffers the same fate, it will amount to a subversion of popular will and national interest.
But speaking in a join press conference organized by 23 civil society organizations on Friday, the CSOs said they don’t want the 2023 general election dates to be shifted, calling on President Muhammadu Buhari to return home and give priority to the electoral bill.
“On the 31st January 2022, the National Assembly transmitted the Electoral Bill 2022 to the President for assent after expeditiously reworking the bill to meet the President’s expectations.
“The accelerated recommittal and eventual passage of the bill by the National Assembly in line with citizens’ demand deserve commendation.
“The civil society community is deeply concerned with the delay on the part of the President to give assent to the bill despite the resounding clamor for the speedy conclusion of the amendment process to avert legal uncertainties that will certainly occasion logistical, financial, and programmatic difficulties that threaten the integrity of the off-cycle elections in Ekiti, Osun and the 2023 general election,” the head of Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room, Amaka Obi, said.
The CSOs are: Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room; Yiaga Africa; Partners for Electoral Reform (PER); International Press Centre; Institute for Media and Society; Nigerian Women Trust Fund and The Albino Foundation.
Others are: Centre for Citizens with Disability; Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ); Transition Monitoring Group; CLEEN Foundation; Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) and Labour Civil Society Coalition (LASCO).
Others are: Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre (WARDC); Nigeria Network of Non-Governmental Organizations (NNNGO); Inclusive Friends Association (IFA); Enough is Enough; The Electoral Hub and Centre for Liberty.
According to Amaka, the concern of the CSOs are further heightened with the President’s delay in fulfilling a promise he made to Nigerians during an interview on national television indicating he will assent to the Electoral Bill if the National Assembly reworks the bill and expands the procedure for nomination of candidates.
“The undersigned CSOs note the provision of Section 58(4) of the 1999 Constitution, which gives the President a timeline of 30 days to assent or withhold assent to a Bill. However, a combination of the newly introduced timelines for electoral activities in the bill and imperative for INEC and other stakeholders to commence early preparations for the upcoming elections provides a compelling justification for immediate assent of the bill. For instance, Clause 28 (1) of the Electoral Bill 2022, requires INEC to issue Notice of Election not later than 360 days before the day appointed for an election.
“As indicated by INEC, the scheduled date for the 2023 Presidential and National Assembly election is 18th February 2023. Therefore, the Notice of Election for the 2023 general election should be issued on 22nd February 2022 because the total number of days from 22nd February 2022, to 17th February 2023, is 360 days.
“If the President gives assent to the bill on or before February 22nd, 2022, INEC will be legally bound to issue Notice of Election, and the dates for the 2023 elections will be maintained. However, if the President acts on the bill after 22nd February 2022, the dates for the 2023 election and other subsequent electoral activities will be affected.
“As the nation prepares for the off-cycle governorship elections in Ekiti and Osun and the 2023 general elections, a new legal framework is required to safeguard the integrity of these elections. The current Electoral Bill 2022 contains provisions that address electoral manipulation and the intractable problem of poor election logistics. Furthermore, the bill strengthens INEC’s financial independence, and the commission is empowered to reject falsified election results.
“The newly introduced timelines for key electoral activities such as early primaries and submission of list of candidates will facilitate early electoral preparations and promote issue-based political engagement,” the CSOs said noting that any further delay in concluding the process of enacting the Electoral Bill 2022 will directly impact preparations for upcoming elections, especially the 2023 General Election, which is just 366 days away.
“As indicated in previous statements issued by CSO groups, delaying assent to the Bill creates a climate of legal uncertainty,” Amaka said.
The CSOs called on President Buhari to, upon return from Brussels, sign the Electoral bill into law on or before 22nd February 2022 to enable INEC to issue Notice of Election and release the timetable and schedule of activities for the 2023 general election.
“Further amendments to the Electoral Bill 2022 can be proposed after assent has been granted. It is within the President’s prerogative to propose amendments after signing the bill like he did in the case of the Petroleum Industry Bill and 2022 Appropriation bill, an act which attracted commendation.
“The National Assembly should ensure gazetted copies of the Electoral Act 2022 are available to citizens as soon as the bill is signed into law,” the CSOs added.
Also speaking, the friends of democracy headed by Barr Ezenwa Nwagwu, said the CSOs would have resorted to legal battle if time would have been on their side.
“With the tittle time that we have, legal fight will not guaranteed signing. We want action so that we don’t shift the time and dates of the election. We will consult ourselves and know that to do next next, wether protest, lobbying, meeting peace commission and other CSOs situation room,” Nwagwu said.
The Executive director, The Albino Foundation, Jake Epelle said Buhari has no option than to come back to the country and sign the bill.
According to Epelle, the document sent to Buhari is an inclusive bill for the youth, women and people with disability.
“The delay in signing the bill is delaying the electoral circle. Nothing is important than the democratic development of the country. Comeback and sign the bill so that the country will remain one,” Epelle said adding that the CSOs are already mobilising for a National protest.
Meanwhile, civil society groups have declare 22nd February 2022 a national day of protest on the electoral bill.
The civil society community resolves to declare Tuesday, 22nd February 2022, as the National Day of Protest to demand immediate assent to the bill.
Civil society networks said it will organize peaceful public direct-action activities to further the demand to assent the bill.
“We urge citizens across the nation to call on President Muhammadu Buhari to act on this matter of urgent national importance,” the 26 CSOs said in a statement endorsed by Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room; Yiaga Africa; Partners for Electoral Reform (PER); International Press Centre; Institute for Media and Society; Nigerian Women Trust Fund; The Albino Foundation; Centre for Citizens with Disability; Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ); Labour Civil Society Coalition (LASCO); Transition Monitoring Group; CLEEN Foundation and Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC).
Others are: Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre (WARDC); Nigeria Network of Non-Governmental Organizations (NNNGO); Inclusive Friends Association (IFA); Enough is Enough; The Electoral Hub; Centre for Liberty; Take Back Nigeria Movement; International Peace and Civic Responsibility Centre (IPCRC); 100 Women Lobby Group; Women in Politics Forum; Raising New Voices; Millennials Active Citizenship Advocacy Africa and Ready To Lead Africa.
International Peace and Civic Responsibility Centre (IPCRC); 100 Women Lobby Group; Women in P