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Electoral bill more important than your foreign trip, CSOs tell Buhari

By Matthew Ogune, Abuja
18 December 2021   |   4:15 am
We remind the President that during his swearing in, he said that he belonged to nobody but everybody. If he truly belongs to everybody, he should sign the amended electoral bill without further delay so that his name can be edged in gold as a President that gave Nigeria...

Buhari

•’Return Now To Sign”

“We remind the President that during his swearing-in, he said that he belonged to nobody but everybody. If he truly belongs to everybody, he should sign the amended electoral bill without further delay so that his name can be edged in gold as a President that gave Nigeria an electoral reform that is digital in a digital era.”

With these words, yesterday, a Co-Convener of Nigerian Civil Societies Situation Room, James Ugochukwu, admonished President Muhammadu Buhari, who has travelled to Turkey, to quickly return to Nigeria and assent to the electoral bill presented to him by the National Assembly.

Ugochukwu, who described the bill as a result of serious consultation with the people through the National Assembly and CSOs, urged the President to sign it without further delay in line with his electoral promise to the Nigerians.

Other leaders of the groups under the Nigerian Civil Societies Situation Room, who, yesterday in Abuja, called for signing of the bill into law include Jake Epelle, the founder of the Albino Foundation.

To him, no international duty is more important than the 2021 electoral bill.

“We believe that the President travelled with the country’s jet and he can jet back and do the needful and go back and continue whatever he was doing. This is much more of a priority to this country than even where he has gone to.

“We are asking him to please reverse, sign the bill and go back to continue his international duties. This is not an occasion to start calling people to come out, but the fact remains that he owes this country a duty to sign this bill because everything he wanted is in it. Whosoever is propping him not to sign the bill is doing this country a disservice, “ he said.

The Situation Room Convener, Ene Obi, who lamented the President’s failure to sign the bill before embarking on international journey, said: “Electoral reforms in Nigeria have been implemented mainly through the review of the Electoral Act. The Act has undergone many changes since 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.

Obi said: “Situation Room notes that in 2018, President Buhari sent back the Electoral Act Amendment Bill on three occasions. In March 2018, he rejected the bill claiming that it usurps INECs powers on electoral matters. In September 2018, he rejected the bill claiming that some clauses needed adjustments and mechanical revision. In December 2013, he rejected the bill on the ground 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, the current National Assembly re-opened conversations on the reform of the Act, ending up with a total repeal and re-enactment.

“The bill has provisions that will address the gaps in the current law on use of technology with regard to electronic voting, collation and transmission of results, cost of campaigns, process for party primaries and nomination of candidates, among 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 is the calls by some state governors regarding direct primaries in the Electoral Act Amendment Bill.

“Situation Room notes that these calls have asked the President to decline assent to a bill that is set to become one of the most significant legislations made by the ninth Assembly because of the provision on direct primaries.”