A coalition of nine civil society organisations (CSOs) has raised the alarm over alleged plan by some persons to cause the abandonment of the much-talked-about Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill, 2021, which is currently before the National Assembly.
The civil society groups, which include Center For Liberty, Raising New Voices Initiative, ReadyToLead Africa, Speak Out Africa, Project Vote Initiative, The Nigerian Alliance, The Art and Civics Center, CDNDC, and Free Nigeria Coalition, said they have uncovered the plot designed to plunge the Electoral Bill into another mines of perpetual delay and foist a cul-de-sac on the nation as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) prepares for the 2023 general elections.
At a press conference in Abuja on Thursday addressed by Dare Ariyo-Atoye on behalf of the coalition, the groups described what they called a conspiracy against credible electoral system in Nigeria as unpatriotic.
“The undersigned Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) would like to draw the attention of the leadership of the National Assembly, the Presidency, INEC, political parties, stakeholders and the entire country to this unpatriotic conspiracy.
“The fallout of the Section 52 (2) of the Senate version of the Electoral Bill on Electronic Transmission of Results is to trigger an executive veto and cause the bill to be returned to the National Assembly, by which time the National Assembly would be busy attending to the Appropriation Bill.
“The elements behind this shameful plan, who had earlier infiltrated the Senate to ensure the insertion of a clause that is in clear violation of the 1999 Constitution (FRN-aa), would also be the goons to use the backdoor to prevail on the Attorney General of the Federation to impress it on the President not sign the bill because it contravenes the constitution,” they said.
The coalition added that the conspirators intend to achieve their motive of creating an executive-legislative fiasco in the first phase, and then from 2022, throw the electoral reform matter into the murky water of politics including making it an object of North-South divide.
“For those in doubt of this plot, we wish to draw your attention to two things:
“A joint committee of the National Assembly had agreed to a bill that in Section 52 (2) gave INEC to the exclusive power to transmit results as at when practicable. But like a thief in the night, the Senate version was doctored ahead of presentation and clause by clause adoption, and the country is yet to recover from this unpatriotic conduct.
“One of the CSOs partners, Adopt A Goal for Development Initiative had through their legal representative issued a 14-day ultimatum to the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) to retract the statement its agents made to the House of Representatives which downplayed Nigeria’s capacity to transmit election results electronically. But curiously in their reply, the NCC said: “we are currently investigating your allegations and we shall respond in due time.”
“While the NCC is yet to respond to Adopt A Goal, note that it did not say that we stand by the statement made by our agents to the House of Representatives. Unfortunately, this is the same NCC that Senate is constitutionally mandated to clear INEC before results can be transmitted electronically. Also, recall that the Senate did not deem it fit to invite the NCC and INEC and had progressed into this legal error a day before the NCC was invited by the House.
“Why is the Senate insisting on taking the path of illegality when INEC has said it has the capacity to transmit elections results? Why will an NCC representative make false claims in the House of Representatives when the INEC and NCC Joint Technical committee on Electronic Transmission of Result had found that mobile network adequately covered 93% of polling units? Why is the Senate ignoring data and interested in sticking to an unconstitutional proposal?
“You may therefore, wish to recall that the President had during a meeting with INEC in June 2021, assured the nation that “we will make available to them (INEC) everything they need to operate efficiently, so that no one will say we don’t want to go, or that we want a third term.” Why is the Senate working at a cross-purpose?
“In the same vein, the President, had equally vowed that: “There will be no excuse for failure. We will meet all of INEC’s demands.” We consider this commitment by the President as inclusive of the demand by INEC for Electronic Transmission of Result.
“And, since INEC and the overriding legal opinions have confirmed the Senate version of Section 52 (2) of the Electoral Bill passed is in clear violation of the 1999 Constitution (FRN-aa), why is the Senate, at this crucial juncture, not avoiding clauses and provisions that could trigger an executive veto or create a constitutional crisis?
“In the spirit of Section 14 (2) of the 1999 Constitution (FRN-aa), which states that: “sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria from whom government (including the National Assembly) through this Constitution derives all its powers and authority,” we are urging the National Assembly to allow Constitutionality and national interest to prevail in the Harmonisation of the bill. In the spirit of our Constitution we demand that the National Assembly, and do concludes this process it in a fashion that will builds the confidence of excite the electorates and strengthen our democracy.
“The people of Nigeria are eager to have the Electoral Bill harmonised, transmitted and signed by President Muhammadu Buhari, even before the Anambra governorship election on November 6, 2021.
“Whilst the President has openly and frankly expressed his readiness to sign the bill, it is instructive that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on the other hand, has shown the commitment to implement the law,” the coalition stated.