Nigeria requires new law to safeguard elections integrity- CSOs

By Angela Atabor

A Coalition of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) says a new legal framework is required to safeguard the integrity of elections in the country.

Ms Ene Obi, the Convener of the Coalition, said this at a news conference on Friday in Abuja.

Obi that said such law was required as the country prepare for off-cycle governorship election in Ekiti and Osun, and the 2023 general elections.

According to her, the Electoral Amendment Act Bill 2022 contains provisions that can address electoral manipulation and poor election logistics.

“Furthermore, the bill strengthens INEC’s financial independence, and the commission is empowered to reject falsified election results.

“The newly introduced timelines for key electoral activities such as early primaries and submission of list of candidates will facilitate early electoral preparations and promote issue based political engagement,’’ she said.

The CSOs were Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room, Yiaga Africa, Partners for Electoral Reform (PER) The Albino Foundation, International Press Centre, Institute for Media Society and Centre for Citizens with Disability.

Others included Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ), Transition Monitoring Group, CLEEN Foundation, Labour Civil Society Coalition (LASCO) Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre (WARDC) Inclusive Friends Association, Enough is Enough and The Electoral Hub.

“The CSOs note that any further delay in concluding the process of enacting the Electoral Amendment Act Bill 2022 will directly impact preparations for upcoming elections, especially the 2023 general election which is just 366 days away.

“As indicated in previous statements issued by CSO groups, delaying in assenting to the bill creates a climate of legal uncertainties for upcoming elections,’’ she said.

She said the country might lose the opportunity to test the efficacy of innovations introduced in the bill before deployment for the 2023 general election.

Obi appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to sign the bill on time to enable INEC issue notice of election.

“It is within the President’s prerogative to propose amendments after signing the bill like he did in the case of the Petroleum Industry Act and 2022 Appropriation Act which attracted commendation.

“For instance, Clause 28 (1) of the Electoral Bill Amendment Act Bill 2022, requires INEC to issue Notice of Election not later than 360 days before the day appointed for an election.

“As indicated by INEC, the scheduled date for the 2023 Presidential and National Assembly election is Feb. 18, 2023,’’ She said.

Obi said the Notice of Election for the 2023 general election should be issued on Feb. 22.

“This is because the total number of days from Feb. 22 to Feb. 17, 2023 is 360 days.

“If the President gives assent to the bill on or before Feb. 22, INEC will be legally bound to issue notice of election, and the dates for 2023 elections will be maintained,’’ she said.(NAN)