YIAGA Africa held a town hall meeting over the weekend in which participants discussed the electoral bill.
The event held physically and virtually on January 16, served as a platform for INEC officials, political party representatives, civil society organisations and other national stakeholders to deliberate on the now contentious electoral bill.
NewsWireNGR recalls that, on December 21 2021, President Buhari declined assent to the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill which is designed to increase participation in Nigeria’s electoral processes by making it more credible, transparent and inclusive.
Here are the highlights of the Town Hall Meeting below in case you missed the broadcast from our channels.
(1) The former Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof. Attahiru Jega, during the event, cautioned members of the National Assembly not to override President Muhammadu Buhari over the stalemate on the Electoral Act Amendment Bill
According to him, since 2010, the country have not had any substantive improvement on electoral laws, while in the 2021 Electoral Bill, there were a lot of substantive things.
Jega said, “With the way the provisions of the bill stand, the National Assembly should do the needful, rather than contemplating overriding the President by removing the contentious provisions.”
He said that the Electoral Act Amendment Bill contained quite a lot of good things that could enhance electoral integrity.
According to him, what was key was to give INEC the law to improve ahead of the 2023 general election and also the off-season elections before the 2023 polls.
He said that the Electoral Act bill contains quite a lot of good things that can enhance electoral integrity.
He said, “The challenge is what the National Assembly introduced in the Electoral Bill which is without serious contemplation.
“It is very important that we have a lot of legal frame work. I think clearly the electoral process would have better integrity if we do direct primaries appropriately.
“Any governor that manipulates direct primaries can the manipulate indirectly the primaries indirectly.” he maintained.
(2) Also, present as a discussant during the interactive event was Governor Abdullahi Sule of Nasarawa State who highlighted the position of governors saying they were not against direct primaries.
Speaking on Sunday at the citizens’ town hall, Sule said what they opposed was limiting the choices of the people.
“The governors are not against it. As a matter of fact, going back to 2019, a lot of the states chose whether to do direct or indirect primaries within the same political party. A good example is Niger State; they conducted direct primaries.”
“It’s not that the state governors are against direct primaries. What the governors said when we had our meeting is ‘why do we want to box ourselves into just an option in cases there is going to be another problem? There are so many states right now that even if you say direct or indirect primaries, they can’t do any. Like Zamfara, because of the security situation, we have right now and so many others”.
The governor argues that direct primaries are “similar to what you’ll call a general election. So, what we said was that ‘why don’t you leave the options open?’ The Electoral Bill is more than just the direct or indirect primaries. There are so many important things there. Why are we boxing ourselves to either direct or indirect?”
“In our own party, the APC, if you look at our own constitution, it actually says three options. The very first option is consensus. If consensus is not possible, you can do indirect, if that one is not, you can do direct.
“So, we say give the political parties the opportunity. By the time the opportunities are given, you’ll be shocked that in the 2023 elections, a lot of states will still do direct primaries.
“The governors are only saying options should be provided. Don’t box us into just one option. In case something comes up that that option is not possible, are we going to go back to the constitution, or are we going to have concessional issues?”
(3) In his remarks, the President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Olumide Apata said, “I am so disappointed with the way things have turned up. Everything about the Electoral bill spelt progress but we can’t get it right if steps are not taken.
“Everything about the bill spell progress for the country. The bill should have been passed long ago. The president and the National Assembly being of the same party should have ironed this out to avoid this logjam.”
The NBA leader also said the booby trap set may catch up with the nation and send the country back to square zero.
He, therefore urged the National Assembly to take out the provision of direct primaries and transmit immediately to the president for assent, who should be given the benefit of doubt.
(4) The Executive Director, Yiaga Africa, Samson Itodo, who declared the event open with an introductory remarks, said the timely passage of the bill will be in the interest of deepening democracy and national development
Itodo said the non passage of the bill into law rob Nigerians the opportunity of implementing important innovations for the forthcoming FCT council elections and the governorship election in Ekiti and Osun states.