As the 9th National Assembly enters its midterm, some Nigerians have cried out over the delay in the passage of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill, stating that time is running out.
The Senate has, however, given assurances that the law will be passed before the year runs out.
President Muhammadu Buhari had declined his assent to the amended Electoral Act in 2019, citing delay in its passage by the members of the National Assembly and certain technical errors.
Nigerians who spoke to LEADERSHIP Sunday say they want the president, who had contested several elections and cried out over
electoral fraud, to give the future generation a befitting document that will minimize electoral malpractices.
With the 2023 general election fast approaching, Nigerians are eager to see the passage of the Electoral Act by the National Assembly members to give legal backing to the card reader and all forms of electronic voting.
“Time is running out. The National Assembly members will be judged by the progressive laws they have passed,”
the executive director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) Awwal Musa Rafsanjani said while complaining about the delay by the lawmakers in passing the electoral act amendment bill.
“They will be judged by the honest and sincere oversight they have carried out on government policies and programmes. They will also be judged on how accountable they are to their constituents. They will be judged by their contribution to ensuring a transparent electoral process in the country,” he said.
Rafsanjani said that as someone who contested election several times and complained of electoral fraud, President Muhammadu Buhari should have prioritised electoral reform in his first tenure.
“He has the opportunity to amend and correct those areas in the electoral laws that help to perpetuate electoral malpractices and, unfortunately, his first tenure has gone without him addressing the issues.
“Now we are in the middle of the second tenure. Nothing is coming out on that. That, for me, shows the fundamental breach in the yearning of Nigerian people for responsible electoral laws that will guarantee the people’s vote.
“If the National Assembly and the president fail to carry out the electoral amendment, they will have left a terrible integrity in our electoral system,” Rafsanjani said.
“They must act and correct these anomalies in the Electoral Act. If Mr President is not able to do it, the National Assembly should do it. It has happened during Saraki. They should rise up to do it. But if the presidency and the legislature fail to correct the anomalies in the Electoral Act, that will be a big betrayal towards sanitising our electoral system,” he said.
“Mr President and his people should wake up and realise there was a commitment they made towards improving the electoral process of the country. The time is fast moving. There is no justification whatsoever that the government can’t take proactive measures to correct this issue of electoral fraud we are facing in the electoral law now.
“If it fails to do that, it means that the government has no plan for any reform in the electoral system. Because if the government had a plan of electoral reform, then by now we should have been able to see a more progressive, more transparent and accountable electoral system in place.
“But because the government appears not to be interested in the issue of electoral reform, that is why it has taken the first term without doing it. It has now taken half of the second term without anything.
“What Nigerians expected from the Muhammadu Buhari, if there is anything he is to focus on it is first to start with the amendment of the Electoral Act. He should have done it based on the fact that he has been a victim of the electoral fraud in Nigeria. Now he has the opportunity to help the future generation.
“Politicians in Nigeria are only interested in themselves, not for correcting the system for the public interest.
“Many people who found themselves in positions of authority, they want to maintain the status quo without correcting it. That is very sad,” Rafsanjani added.
The immediate past secretary general of Arewa Consultative (ACF), Anthony Sani, said since the Electoral Act guides the conduct of elections, the lawmakers must rise to the challenge.
He said: “Last time, the president withheld his assent to the amended Electoral Act and cited several factors that included time.
“Nigerians had thought the 9th Assembly would this time around amend the Electoral Act and send to Mr President in good time in order to enable INEC prepare for the 2023 elections.
“But the manner the passing of the Electoral Act is being delayed unduly does not suggest the legislators are bothered about the place and quality of the Electoral Act in the elections. They should therefore make haste and do the needful.
“And in doing so,” the ACF member added, “they should at least legalise the use of card readers, and in order to save cost and avoid bandwagon effect in elections, we suggest all elections be held on the same day.
“If Kenya in Africa can conduct about five elections on the same day, Nigeria can also conduct all its elections on the same day.”
A social commentator, Shedrack Best, said the existing electoral framework excluded Nigerians from voting, urging the lawmakers to act fast.
“The electoral framework deliberately disenfranchises Nigerians and makes voting inaccessible. For instance, we see how armed thugs chased away voters during the 2019 elections just to ensure that the political demography is affected. The lawmakers must look at these issues critically,” Best said.
But the National Assembly has allayed the fears of Nigerians concerning the Electoral Act amendment, giving assurance that it will be passed this year.
“On this issue of Electoral Act, there is no delay. You can only talk about delay when you have stipulated a timeline,” the spokesman of the Senate, Basiru Ajibola, told LEADERSHIP Sunday.
“The president of the Senate made some concluding remarks before we went on recess. One of them is the readiness of the Senate to receive a report from the committee on INEC.
“And he said that before we proceed on annual recess this year, the Electoral Act would have been completed,” Ajibola said.
On his part, the president of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan said the committee on INEC would still do some work on the Electoral Act amendment bill before presenting it to them on their return from the Sallah break.
“Our committee on INEC will still have to do some little work and we hope to pass the Electoral Act amendment before we go on summer recess,” Lawan said.
“The parliament and parliamentarians are always the first place of call when there is distress. Nigerians will always remember the National Assembly and the National Assembly members. We will continue to be available to our constituents and we should continue to do our best,” Lawan added.