• Friday, July 12, 2024
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Again, Nigeria’s effort at salvaging electoral process at risk

Again, Nigeria’s effort at salvaging electoral process at risk

Nigeria’s efforts at salvaging its electoral process are again at risk over pressure by the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF) on President Muhammadu Buhari to decline assent to the Electoral Amendment Bill 2021 that was recently passed by the National Assembly.

The bone of contention is the provisions that allow political parties to conduct direct primaries into elective offices, a position the NGF sees as likely to work against their interest.

While the majority of Nigerians applauded the new law, which seeks to regulate the conduct of elections into the federal, state and local councils in Nigeria, the governors kicked against the inclusion of “Direct Primaries” for the political parties.

Clause 87 of the newly amended bill deals with the nomination of candidates and the National Assembly adopted and passed the option of direct primaries, as against indirect arrangement or leaving the option open for the political parties to decide.

Governors of the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) flatly rejected Clause 87 and vowed to oppose presidential assent to the bill.

Following the crises generated by the new bill, President Buhari recently wrote to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for advice.

The senior special assistant to the President on media and publicity, Garba Shehu, in a telephone interview with BusinessDay, debunked claims that the President may have declined assent to the bill. He said that the President was consulting to ensure that the right things are done.

“There is no truth in the story that he has declined signature on the bill. He has not taken a decision yet. The President is widely consulting. I believe there is nothing to worry about. There is still time. I believe he still has up to December 19th or thereabouts,” Shehu said.

The executive director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) and coordinator of Transparency International (TI), in Nigeria, Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, however, said the President should not miss this “unique opportunity to check electoral fraud in Nigeria, by signing the 2021 Electoral amendment Bill into law.”

Read also: 2023 Elections: Hitting rock bottom, finding a way up

According to him, “We in the civil society group believe that as someone who suffered one of the greatest injustices in the electoral system, having contested presidential election three times before succeeding in the fourth attempt, he should leave a legacy of addressing the problem of electoral fraud in Nigeria.”

Rafsanjani noted that now that the Independent National Electoral Commission has admitted that they can conduct the direct primaries, the President has no choice but to sign the bill into law.

He also urged President Buhari not to follow the path of those who benefitted from the fraudulent process of the past, but rather stand with the people who are usually the victim of the process by signing the bill into law.

“He claimed that he was a victim of electoral fraud, so we had expected him to address the issues that lead to fraudulent practices during elections, but six years down the line, he has not addressed any. Nigerians have advocated and spoken widely concerning the Electoral Act to sanitise the process,” he said.

A coalition of civil society groups has also called on President Buhari to urgently assent to the Electoral Bill 2021 in time for a smooth democratic process.

In a statement after a meeting at Transcorp Hilton Hotel, in Abuja, some civic groups said the bill would address the hurdles derailing the electoral system in Nigeria.

According to Premium Times, the CSOs which include Yiaga Africa, Premium Times, Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ) and International Press Centre (IPC), in their recommendation urged the President to continue to encourage an environment that promotes credible, inclusive and peaceful elections.

Other CSOs that co-signed the statement are Centre for Citizens with Disability (CCD), Albino Foundation, CLEEN Foundation, Institute for Media and Society (IMS), and Nigerian Women Trust Fund (NWTF).

Recall that the legal framework governing Nigeria’s 2019 elections remained unchanged following President Buhari’s rejection of the 2018 Electoral Act Amendment Bill on December 7, 2018.