Electoral Amendment Bill: Coalition demands speedy passage



By Chimezie Godfrey
The Coalition for Constitutional and Electoral Reforms has urged the 9th National Assembly to fast track the passage of the Electoral Amendment Bill into law.
The Coalition said this is necessary in order that the December time frame for a new electoral law can be achieved.
The Executive Director, Centre for Liberty, Ariyo Dare Atoye made the assertion during a press briefing on Monday in Abuja.
Atoye noted that elections remain the most fundamental aspect of democracy across the world, pointing that its evolution and improvement can only be measured in terms of processes, procedures,
technology and outcome.
He however noted that while elections continue to experience improvement in several other parts of the world, Nigeria’s elections have witnessed inadequate improvements for a growing democracy in the face of electoral fraud, violence, voter inducement, intimidation, bribery and corruption.
He added that challenges have also undermined Nigeria’s democratic credentials among the comity of nations.
Atoye lamented that the atmosphere always surrounding the country’s electoral process has been that of heightened uncertainty, fear and distrust laying a precedence to all the ills affecting the growth and development of Nigeria.
He stressed that in the wake of challenging new realities, such as the corona virus pandemic (COVID-19), it has become even more necessary to reflect on the gaps inherent in the current electoral framework.
 He urged the lawmakers to use this time to deliberately accommodate all required amendments and improved measures in conducting elections, without compromising the general health of citizens.
“Observers reports from the Nasarawa bye-election as well as pre-election reports detailing dangerous rhetoric by contestants/political parties and
unwholesome practices in Edo and Ondo states amidst COVID -19 already shows very worrying trends and concerns on the electoral outcome, with regards to the integrity of the election and the health and safety of citizens.
“Principally, the wave of incessant
violence and voter suppression, that has lampooned the conduct of our elections overtime, thereby becoming a standard practice must be reversed.
“It is therefore noteworthy that electoral reform, amidst these new and disturbing COVID-19 realities, portrays that a new electoral framework is sacrosanct to the health and safety of
citizens.
“We therefore implore this 9th National Assembly to rise to the occasion, and it
is our hope that history will be kind to them.
“While it is noteworthy that the National Assembly has already commenced work on the
electoral amendment bill, we have more than enough reason to believe that the process
has not been given the urgency, seriousness and attention that it deserves,” he said.
Atoye expressed optimism that the electoral frame work will be achieved by December, considering recent commitment by some lawmakers.
“Considering recent public commitments made by some National Assembly members and principal officers, including the Speaker of the House of Representatives, towards
ensuring that electoral reform tops its priority list as the National Assembly reconvenes.
“We are therefore optimistic that indeed, a timely and practical constitutional and
electoral reform framework will be laid and achieved by December 2020.
“We appreciate the efforts of over eleven thousand Nigerians who have signed the petition for electoral reforms, thereby reiterating the need for realization of the December timeframe in delivering this new Electoral Act.
“This is necessary so as not to be distracted by heightened politicking ahead of the 2023 general elections.
“It is also crucial to the Independent National Electoral Commission’s readiness in its efforts to conduct hitch-free elections, going forward,” he stressed.
He noted that these commitments displayed by the National Assembly and its leadership resonates with the deep yearnings of the totality of Nigerian citizens whose interest they represent and swore to protect.
“And if truly, the National Assembly is anchored on the fabrics of
citizen’s power, then it is therefore a matter of obligation on the part of the National Assembly, that upon resumption of plenary on September 29, 2020, they concede to the collective demand of citizens by ensuring that electoral reform is achieved, incorporating all aspects relating to an improved election environment and processes that guarantee fee, fair and credible elections in Nigeria.
“We specifically as a coalition demand for established framework to strengthen the election management body, financial independence for INEC, integration of technology in our electoral process, inclusion of all marginalized groups, transparency in campaign financing and provision of a framework to ensure the enforcement of our electoral laws,
amongst others,” Atoya said.
He also called on citizens and all relevant stakeholders in the forthcoming election in Ondo State to draw inspiration from the conduct of the Edo State election and improve on the wins recorded.
“We must not drop the ball. We must refrain from any act that tends to undermine the integrity of the elections.
“Young people must not allow themselves to be used as willing tools by politicians to disrupt the process.
“We encourage registered voters in Ondo State to come out and
vote with their PVCs, we urge them to abide by all necessary election and COVID-19 related guidelines and safety protocols throughout the process,” he said.
Atoya also also urged the INEC to
remain impartial and double-up in its efforts to conduct free, fair, and credible elections.
He further  called on relevant security agencies, particularly the Nigerian Police Force, to ensure
the safety of citizens and electoral materials.
The Coalition is made up of Yiaga Africa, Centre for Liberty, NESSACTION, Raising New Voices Initiative, Millennials Active Citizenship Advocacy Africa, GiveUsElectoralReform, FixElectionsNg and ElectoralReformNow.