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‘Why Electoral Act Amendment Bill should be passed now’

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A group, The Electoral Hub (TEH), has described the “delay or refusal” by National Assembly to pass the Electoral Act Amendment Bill as an attempt by politicians to manipulate the electoral system for self-interest.

The Team Lead of TEH, an organ of the Initiative for Research, Innovation and Advocacy in Development (IRIAD), Princess Hamman-Obels, told The Guardian, in an interview, that the foot-dragging by the lawmakers on matters concerning electoral reform revealed that they “have no interest in safeguarding the integrity and credibility of the electoral process.”

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Hamman-Obels, who described moves by Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to introduce technology into the electoral system as commendable, pointed out that the fear expressed by the commission regarding a new legal framework to guide its action was valid.

She warned that unless the proposed Electoral Act Amendment Bill is passed to give INEC adequate time to implant, internalise and implement the law, the consequences of using technology in the forthcoming Anambra State governorship election would be colossal, posing a huge threat to the credibility and integrity of the polls.

She urged decision-makers in the country to draw lessons from the outcome of the 2017 Kenya presidential elections where the late adoption of an electoral framework and failure of the result transmission system during the elections contributed to the violence that followed the announcement of the result.

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“The rejection of election outcomes resulted in the cancellation of the first elections by the courts. We all know that Nigeria is in a volatile and fragile state presently. Therefore, to ensure peaceful and credible elections, the Electoral Act Amendment Bill must be passed now”, she said.

On the reasons for the delay, Hamman-Obels said: “I don’t think INEC has any hand in the refusal of the National Assembly to pass the new Act. In my opinion, INEC desires the passage of the new legislative framework more than we do. The laudable efforts of INEC during the Ondo and Edo governorship elections demonstrate the commission’s commitment to safeguarding the integrity and credibility of the electoral process.

“Also, my conversations with some staff of the commission revealed that INEC is frustrated with the delay in the passage of the new Act. This delay is actually impeding INEC in carrying out relevant activities.

“For instance, should INEC conduct training with the old law or the anticipated new law? What about the printing of materials – what law should guide and be stated in these materials? What about engagement with the public - what should these engagements be anchored on? On voters’ education - what should be the messaging? Literally, every aspect of INEC’s work is affected.”

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