Politics, Legislature

Yiaga, EiE, others protest NASS ‘dangerous manipulation’ of Electoral Bill

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Fifteen (15) Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) have shown their discontent at the move by the National Assembly (NASS) to alter the changes proposed in the Electoral Amendment Bill.

The NGOs in a joint communique titled: ‘ELECTORAL ACT: TIME TO RESIST THE DANGEROUS MANIPULATION BY THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY‘ noted; “barring any last-minute changes, the Bill is expected to be passed by both chambers on Thursday”.

The statement protesting the Electoral Amendment Bill was signed by Center For Liberty, The Electoral Hub, Yiaga Africa, Ayisha Osori, Raising New Voices, Ready To Lead Africa, MACAA, Speak Out Africa Initiative, Centre for Development Alternatives Research and Studies, Aspilos Foundation, Free Nigeria Coalition, Adopt A Goal for Development Initiative, Concerned Nigerians, SING Nigeria, and Enough is Enough (EiE).

The Communique reads in full;

As everyone may be aware, the National Assembly will pass the Electoral Amendment Bill (2021) this week. Barring any last-minute changes, the Bill is expected to be passed by both chambers on Thursday.

A few proposals canvassed by citizens were adopted in the Bill e.g., timely release of money to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), and new timelines for submission of list of candidates. However, some key priority amendments were rejected by the leadership of the National Assembly, eg electronic transmission of results has been prohibited (S.50(2)) and the limits on campaign expenses have been increased (S.88). We also consider as unacceptable the rejection of the proposal empowering INEC to review results declared under duress or where a declaration is made in contravention of INEC guidelines (S.65). Following, the events of the 2019 general elections, we are convinced that this amendment is important to curb politicians who believe they can go through the backdoor to win election and steal electoral mandate at gun point!

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It is instructive to note that following the completion of work on the initial draft by the Join Committee of the National Assembly on Electoral Amendments, a new draft which is at variance with the main copy has surfaced. According to a ThisDay Newspaper report, this “might result in a showdown amongst the lawmakers, when the draft is tabled for debate this week.”

We wish to state that this alleged unilateral doctoring by a section of the joint committee does not represent the interests of the Nigerian people and we therefore consider it a forged document that must not be substituted for our legitimate demands. Five examples of discrepancies noted are summarised below.

IssueApproved TextForged Text
Release of INEC funds – Section 3(3)To be released in yearly instalments starting two years before election and ending not later than 180 days to the electionTo be released not later than one year before election (no provision for    instalments)
Electronic Transmission of Results – Section 50(2)Procedure for voting and transmission of results to be determined by INECProcedure for voting of results to be determined by INEC, provided that transmission of results shall not be electronic
Declaration of Scores Under Duress – Section 65Decision of a Returning Officer on declaration of scores and return of candidate shall be final, provided that INEC can within 7 days review the declaration and determine that is was made under duress or contrary to the provisions of the lawDecision of a Returning Officer on declaration of scores and return of candidate shall be final (no power of INEC to review)
Judicial Review of INEC Decision – Section 76INEC’s decision not to register a party can be challenged in court, provided that legal action is commenced within 14 days from the date of receipt of the decisionINEC’s decision not to register a party can be challenged in court, provided that legal action is commenced within 45 days from the date of receipt of the decision
Campaign Financing – Section 88Limits on campaign expenses: President N1B; Governor N200M, Senate N40M , House of Reps N30M, State House of Assembly N10MLimits on campaign expenses increased as follows: President N15B; Governor N5B, Senate N1.5B, House of Reps N500M, State House of Assembly N50M

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In particular, the manipulation of Section 50(2) undermines INEC’s effort to improve the election results management regime, considering that we recently witnessed the successful introduction of the Election Results Viewing Portal in some of the off-cycle elections, which improved the integrity of the process greatly. Since INEC has shown the determination, commitment, and practical demonstration to transmit results, the National Assembly must never be seen as the impediment to free, fair, credible, and transparent elections.

In addition, the dramatic increase in spending limits, should be of great concern to all Nigerians. It is an indication that the National Assembly is committed to entrenching a political system that is heavily monetised.

We are worried about the grave implications these underhanded manipulations and illegal actions will have on our Electoral Process. We call on Senate President Ahmed Lawan and Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, to speak up clearly that they are not aware of these amendments and are not part of any attempt to subvert the voices of Nigerians.

We also urge Nigerians to stand up to resist this latest attempt by the National Assembly to manipulate the Electoral Act for self-perpetuation and self-interest. We must ensure this bill is not passed on Tuesday, July 6, 2021.

We will continue to make the contact information of National Assembly members available so that Nigerians can engage their representatives directly.

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