• Saturday, June 22, 2024
businessday logo

BusinessDay

What the signed Electoral Act means for the electorate

Honour your words to upload Imo, Kogi, Bayelsa results – PDP to Yakubu

With less than a year to the 2023 general election in Nigeria, the signing of the re-worked Electoral Act Amendment Bill into law last week by President Muhammadu Buhari has evoked new optimism toward the electoral process among Nigerians.

Having a credible electoral framework is crucial for the integrity of elections and the leadership recruitment process.

Stakeholders say that the signing of the amended Electoral Bill into law marks a significant milestone in the nation’s electoral history as it would aid the growth of democracy and party politics.

Observers say that it contains salient provisions that could positively revolutionise elections in Nigeria through the introduction of new technological innovations that would guarantee the constitutional rights of citizens and improve the effectiveness and transparency of the electoral process.

“You can see the reaction of Nigerians when it was signed into law; it is a step forward for democracy here. There are clauses in the bill that would benefit the conduct of the election; so that we can move away from all the controversies that have held us down for long.

“I think with the legislation available and signed into law the ball is now with INEC to do the right thing and Nigerians are watching,” Eddy Olafeso, a former vice national chairman South West of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), said.

There have been a lot of challenges with the conduct of elections in Nigeria from pre-independence to date.

On return to civil rule in 1999, the first Electoral Act was passed in 2001. This was revised in 2002, 2006 and 2010. Indeed, there has always been an attempt after every election to amend the Electoral Act to take care of deficiencies or mischief noticed during the elections.

The new development marks a new chapter for the Nigerian electorates who have increasingly become disillusioned with the electoral process; this can be seen in the increasing apathy among eligible voters.

The recent amended Electoral Act provides for the structure of the INEC, its powers and guidelines for registering voters, procedures for the conduct of elections, the registration and regulation of political parties, electoral offences and the determination of election offences.

Read also: 2023: Optimism grows on back of INEC timetable release

Among the electorates, there has been euphoria on some clauses in the bill such as Clause 3(3), which deals with early release of election funds to INEC.

The Clause provides that all funding required for a general election is released not later than one year before the general election. This would obviously help INEC to prepare in advance for the election.

Also, clause 50 of the signed law, allows INEC the authority to decide whether election results are sent electronically or manually.

Similarly, Clause 65 of the electoral bill empowers INEC authority to evaluate declarations and returns made under dubious circumstances. The measure will radically alter the results management process, discouraging politicians from pressuring electoral workers to declare manufactured election results that can only be disputed in court.

There is also, Clause 29(1) which says that each political party must submit its list of candidates to INEC, who must have arisen from lawful primaries held by the political party, not later than 180 days (6 months) before election day.

Meanwhile, Political Scientist, Kunle Okunola has expressed concern about INEC capacity to implement the law, while warning that political elite should not use the loopholes in the law to destroy the import of it which is to smoothen the electoral process and avoid electoral ambiguity.

According to him, “The electoral law is long overdue for the cleansing of our electoral process that has been bedevilled by so much electoral manipulation. The law, if duly enforced, will definitely sharpen the electoral system and bring about sanity.

“Most of our laws, if sincerely implemented, would help in revamping the system. The electorate need to be upright to partake actively in ensuring the Electoral Act is followed to the letter. For instance, voters and civil society organisations should ensure the provisions of the law are guided in the execution of any election circle.”

Similarly, Adelaja Adeoye, a former national publicity secretary of the Action Democratic Party (ADP), noted that the amended Electoral Bill gives back power to the people and would improve the electoral process, most especially in the areas of electronic transmission of results, check irregularities and thuggery on the day of election.

“If the process is not compromised chronologically during the election, I believe power will return to the hands of Nigerians. In spite of many shortcomings of President Buhari, this bill will write his name in the good books of Nigerians, and only a credible poll will be delivered by INEC in 2023.

“So, it is a commendable effort, and kudos to the President. What we need now is for all stakeholders, politicians, INEC, Police and others saddled with certain responsibilities about the elections to allow the bill to work without compromising the process,” Adeoye said.