A coalition of civil societies under the aegis of Alliance of Civil Society Organizations for Expansion of Electoral and Democratic Space (ACCESS) has slammed the National Assembly for delay in passing the Electoral Act 2010 (Amendment) Bill and enact the Independent National Electoral Commission Act 2021.
The group of CSOs said this on Wednesday as it marched to the National Assembly and the 36 States’ House of Assembly of the country under an #OccupyNASStoday protest to demand the passage of the bill.
The eighth national assembly had passed the bill and transmitted it to President Muhammadu Buhari for assent.
But Buhari withheld his assent to the bill on the grounds that the proposed law would usurp the constitutional powers of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to decide on election matters and would create “some uncertainty about the legislation to govern the process”.
The ninth senate, however, reintroduced the bill and it passed first and second reading.
“We are worried that Nigeria’s 9th National Assembly is yet to pass the new Electoral Act despite our engagement of the National Assembly as a Civil Society in the last 15 months,” the group said in a statement published by the Abuja and Lagos spokespersons of the group. Ariyo-Dare-Atoye and Ayo Ademilua, respectively.
The Bill for an Act to Repeal the Electoral Act No. 5, 2010 (As Amended) and enact the Independent National Electoral Commission Act 2021 seeks to correct gaps in the present Nigerian electoral system. And by delaying the bill from passage of the bill, the coalition alleged that the national assembly may be part of the conspiracy to make 2023 election less credible and open to fraud.
The coalition’s statement continued, “The leadership of the two Houses of the National Assembly must demonstrate that they are not part of an emerging conspiracy within the current ruling political elite to scuttle the conduct of the 2023 elections.
“They must immediately ensure passage of the Electoral Act 2021 on or before June 9, 2021, when the 9th Legislative Session shall clock two years, to show Nigerians that they are patriotic and committed to free, fair, credible elections.”
The statement further urged the National Assembly to have passed the bill ahead of the November Anambra gubernatorial election.
“We also want this Act in place to guide the conduct of the Anambra governorship election scheduled for November 6, 2021. This will also enable the commission and other stakeholders to adjust to the new realities of conduct of elections ahead of subsequent off circle elections.
“We may be forced to take further steps to drive home our demands, if there is no positive response after today’s March and engagement.
“Finally, we stress that the passage of the Electoral Act 2021 must bring much advancement to our electoral system by ensuring biometric (electronic) accreditation of voters and electronic transmission of results (votes), while capturing the 10-for-10 sacrosanct citizens’ demands already submitted by CSOs to the National Assembly.”