Time running out for passage of Electoral Act

Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, INEC Chairman

The moment the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) released the timetable for the 2021 Anambra Governorship Election, one would think the National Assembly would at least show more anxiety to resume from recess and get to work to speed-up the passage of a new Electoral Act. Thus the news that the National Assembly has postponed its resumption from January 26 to February 9 is not cheering news as far as the matter of the electoral amendment is concerned.

Recall that the National Assembly had initially promised to ensure passage of a new Independent National Electoral Commission Act to regulate the conduct of federal, state and area council elections and other related matters in December, 2020.

However, this did not happen as the legislators understandably prioritized the passage of the 2021 budget even though there was ample time to consider the equally important legislation.

On December 9, 2020, the Joint National Assembly Committee on INEC held a public hearing to repeal the Electoral Amendment Act 2010, and enact a new act for the commission to regulate conduct of elections. The public hearing was indeed a very vital step towards improving the electoral framework and thereby giving Nigerians an electoral law that will serve the good of everyone.

The array of recommendations provided by Civil Society Organisations, groups and other stakeholders do not just go a long way to show the magnitude of loopholes in Nigeria’s electoral system, but the urgency needed to fix the system.

Some of the recommendations have to do with the independence of INEC, deployment of technology for elections, establishment of an Electoral Offences Commission, inclusion of women, youth and persons with disabilities.

Other important recommendations have to do with diaspora voting and voting by Internally Displaced Persons, limitation of candidates’ nomination fees, and criteria and limitation of election expenses.

Establishment of an electoral offences commission will not just ensure effective prosecution of electoral offenders but also ease the commission of some of its burden that hasn’t enabled them function effectively.

Recommendation on limitation of spending is also aimed at enabling young people to participate in the process. Legalizing electronic voting could potentially enhance the integrity of elections and citizens’ participation as it will address some logistical challenges plaguing elections in Nigeria.

As a matter of fact, the chairman of INEC, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, during a citizens’ town hall on electoral reform declared that the commission will adopt electronic voting for the November Anambra Governorship election.

The deployment of the INEC Result Viewing (IREV) during the Edo and Ondo governorship elections shows effort to automated voting system, however it needs a legal back up to fully implement.

While the Anambra Governorship election is coming up in November, activities leading up to the elections commence as early as June where political parties must conduct primaries or democratically nominate candidates for the elections. The commission and indeed political parties will no doubt need ample time to adjust to any new legislation that will impact on the political party primaries.

It is no brainer that the National Assembly must prioritize the election amendment bill and must be willing and committed to making the necessary sacrifice in the overall interest of the country for the timely passage of this bill.

Nigerians yearn for an improved electoral law that will not only guarantee the sanctity of votes but also lead to an increase in voter turnout during elections.

Nigerians demand an electoral process where citizens can easily and freely participate and for elections where the rule of the minority does not result in the oppression of the majority. Missing another deadline will cast doubts over the willingness of the legislative arm to promote credible elections.

Source: The Nation

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