INEC hangs 2023 election timetable on passage of electoral bill
• Warns parties against rancorous primaries
• Senate President, Speaker assure lawmakers will rework bill, pass amendment today
• IPAC seeks more funding for INEC, wants lapses from Anambra election rectified
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), yesterday, said it would not release the 2023 general election timetable until the Electoral Act Amendment Bill is signed into law.
INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, disclosed this in Abuja during the Commission’s first quarterly consultative meeting with political parties. According to him, the early passage of the bill is crucial in preparations for the 2023 election.
President Muhammadu Buhari had, in a letter to the National Assembly, withheld assent to the amendment bill due to controversies surrounding the mode of primaries by parties.
The INEC boss, however, noted that the Commission would release the 2023 election timetable once the bill is signed into law, adding that all critical preparations for the poll, which is just 396 days away, must be concluded this year.
He said: “On the Electoral Amendment Bill currently before the National Assembly, the Commission is encouraged by the Senate President’s assurance to give priority attention to the bill when the National Assembly reconvenes from its recess, and the commitment by the President to assent to the bill as soon as the issue of mode of primaries by political parties is resolved. We look forward to a speedy passage of the bill, which is crucial to our preparations for future elections.
“As soon as it is signed into law, the Commission will quickly release the timetable and schedule of activities for the 2023 general elections based on the new law.”
Yakubu also announced that the Commission would be deploying the new electoral technology, Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS), in the February 12 Federal Capital Territory (FCT) council election.
He disclosed that 8,260,076 eligible Nigerians have commenced the online pre-registration, completed the registration physically or applied for a transfer to new voting locations, replacement of their Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVCs) or updated their voter information records as required by law.
On the Ekiti governorship polls, Yakubu, who said all 18 political parties have served the mandatory notices for the primaries, warned parties to ensure a transparent and rancour-free primary.
He stressed the need for parties to conduct primaries in the constituencies where the election will hold as required by law, warning that primaries conducted outside the two states of Ekiti and Osun will not be monitored by the Commission and their outcomes will not be accepted.
He said: “Already, many parties have rescheduled their primaries several times. While the Commission has earmarked a period of between three weeks and four days (i.e. 25 days) for the conduct of the Ekiti governorship primaries, virtually all political parties have decided to hold their primaries in the last four days, between January 26 and 29.
“In fact, seven political parties have chosen the last day for their primaries. Similarly, no party has so far submitted its list of aspirants, the composition of its electoral panel, or the register of members or list of delegates depending on the chosen mode for electing its candidates. As at yesterday, only one party has indicated the venue for its primaries.”
Earlier, the Chairman of Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC) and the Chairman of Action Democratic Party (ADP), Yabagi Sani, lamented that a major impediment to the successful conduct of the 2023 general elections, is the lingering debacle between the executive and the legislature on the fate of the electoral bill.
He called on the National Assembly and the executive to quickly resolve the contentious issues and pass the new Electoral Act Amendment Bill, which he said should be signed into law by the President without further delay.
He said: “We at IPAC are anticipating the emergence of an Electoral Act that will address among others, the lingering and fundamental issues relating to the legalisation of electronic accreditation of voters as well as the transmission of election results; issues relating to substitution of candidates in the event of death in an election; a redefinition of what amounts to over-voting; early release of election funds to INEC; early commencement of campaigns by political parties and, the period that political parties are legally allowed to commence campaigns in the countdown to elections.
“There is a need for a more robust deployment of logistics and greater performance in the distribution of vital election materials. Very importantly, IPAC is recommending improvement in the operational conditions of all the biometric gadgets to reinforce the growing confidence in their use as reliable technological devices for the enthronement of credible and transparent elections.
“We are not, however, unmindful of the manifestations of incidents of hitches experienced with its deployment in the Anambra election last year. IPAC is, therefore, calling on INEC to take measures to rectify observed lapses in Anambra.”
PRESIDENT of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, has expressed hope that both chambers of the National Assembly will pass the bill today and it will be ready to be re-presented to President Buhari by end of this week.
Lawan spoke to newsmen after he met with President Buhari at the presidential villa, Abuja, yesterday, saying that he had gone to convey the feeling of constituents to him on some concerns, including the proposed removal of subsidy on petrol. He said: “By the grace of God tomorrow (today), both chambers, the Senate and the House of Representatives, will pass the bill. And I hope that before the end of the week, the bill could be brought back to Mr. President for his assent.
“I hope so, but one thing I’m sure, by the grace of God, is we are passing the bill, the Electoral Act Amendment Bill 2010, today (Wednesday) in both chambers, and we are happy that at the end of the day, we have been able to narrow down our differences and arrive at the very patriotic resolution that our country must have a new electoral law that will guide the 2023 general elections in the country, and Nigeria would have everything to benefit from this law.
“I hope that the cleaning process will not take more than a day. But if it does, then it has to be early next week. But I’m very optimistic that there is not much to clean because normally when we pass the bill like this, it goes to the legislative drafting unit of the National Assembly.”
Earlier, the Senate had assured that it would expeditiously look into the bill at plenary. In his welcome address after the Yuletide break, Lawan said: “the Senate postponed discussions on the consideration of the response of Mr President on the bill to enable us to consult with our counterparts in the House of Representatives and also consult with our constituents. Having consulted, the Senate will expeditiously look into the issue.”
Lawan also disclosed that the Senate will communicate the report of the Constitution review committee to the State Houses of Assembly within the first quarter of this year.
“The review of the 1999 Constitution is a major plank of our legislative agenda. Our committee on review of the 1999 Constitution has done so much work so far. Working with their counterparts in the House of Representatives, the report of the committee will be presented to the Senate for consideration soon.”
ALSO, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, has said the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill will be re-introduced in the house, reworked and passed today.
Gbajabiamila, in his opening address as the National Assembly, returned from break yesterday, restated the benefits of restricting political parties to direct primary while criticising the parties for lacking comprehensive membership registers.
According to him, a strict direct primary option would have forced the parties to have a documented register.
The Speaker noted that the general elections in 2023 are fast approaching, hence the need for the lawmakers to fast-track work on the electoral reforms.
He said: “Unfortunately, that bill did not receive presidential assent and it is unlikely that it will in its current form. Now, we have to choose between sticking to our guns regarding the provision to mandate direct primary for political parties or reworking that provision to save the rest of the bill.
Gbajabiamila also decried the errors said to have been discovered in the bill, noting that the version transmitted to the President was different from the one being scrutinised by the public.
The Speaker said he had, however, set up a technical committee to peruse the legislation, which is expected to report back by Thursday.