You are here
Home > EDITORIAL > Parliament: Release Electoral Bill now

Parliament: Release Electoral Bill now

Parliament: Release Electoral Bill now

Please follow and like us:

  • 0
  • Share

DISAGREEMENTS between the National Assembly and President Muhammadu Buhari, provoked by amendments to the Electoral Act, seem to have ended with the former’s correction of the errors and deletion of controversial provisions noticed in the new bill, for which the President had withheld his assent. But any hope of the bill being assented to quickly may have been dashed with the latest deferment of parliament’s resumption date from September 25 to October 9. The selfish-driven delay is deleterious to our democratic process especially as it affects the 2019 elections.

The electoral law is the legal framework stakeholders, particularly the Independent National Electoral Commission, are waiting for to be maximally animated for the elections.  INEC requires much time to meet due process requirements before making procurement. As the Joint Committee on Electoral Matters of the Senate and House of Representatives rounded off its sitting, the Chairman, Suleiman Nazif, noted with a sense of relief that “the National Assembly, INEC and the Executive are (now) on the same page.”  Yet, the amendments have to be adopted and passed by each of the chambers, before being forwarded to the President for assent. The recent amendments are the fourth in a series that stoked the animus between the Legislative and the Executive arms of government.

In March, the President spurned the third amendments, citing an avalanche of reasons. Besides the drafting blunders, other provisions were inconsistent with the 1999 Constitution, as amended, and the Principal Act itself. For instance, the lawmakers sequenced the polls to begin with theirs, followed by the governorship, state assembly and presidential elections. But Buhari demurred; as did INEC.

INEC’s  rejection was based  on the attempt to strip  it of its powers  enshrined in the constitution, in the Third Schedule, Section 15 (a), which states that it will “Organise, undertake and supervise all elections…” Accordingly, it earlier released the timetable for the polls on March 9, 2017, in the following order: Presidential and National Assembly on February 16, 2019; and Governorship and State Assembly on March 2, 2019, only for the lawmakers to reorder them.

Curiously, Section 87 (14) of the rejected bill had an amendment stipulating the period which political party primaries were expected to hold, with inherent unintended effect  of INEC having only nine days for collation and compilation of list of candidates in 91 political parties as well as supervise their primaries. This was clearly in conflict with the Principal Act,  which states that the “dates for primaries shall hold earlier than 120 days and not later than 90 days before the date of election to the office.” The electoral crisis this would have created, if it had not been rectified, would have been overwhelming.

Instructively, the use of Card Reader and other technological devices, which improved the conduct of the 2015 polls, have now been legalised, just as the criteria for candidates’ substitution, timeline for the submission of candidates’ lists, the 21-day notice to INEC for party primaries, among other imperatives, have been addressed. Nevertheless, the National Assembly should be held responsible for the hiccups for waiting till close to next year’s elections before making the necessary amendments to the Act, which should have been carried out shortly after the 2015 polls. This is a clear lack of commitment to its responsibilities. In thriving democracies, lawmakers painstakingly take steps to strengthen the democratic process. Playing politics with the amendment as the lawmakers have done, with their selfishly inspired shift in their resumption date, is an unpatriotic act, to say the least.

However, the problem of elections in Nigeria since 1999 has never really been lack of niceties in the Electoral Act, but the failure of INEC and other political authorities  to rigidly enforce  its provisions that outlaw rigging, ballot box-snatching, thuggery and all forms of violence. These shortcomings were much in evidence in the 2007 general election. The European Union Election Observer Mission dismissed it as “far short of basic international standards.”  The EU also observed that at least 30 people were killed on April 11, 2015 Election Day. Yet, the killers and their masterminds were never unfurled.

The brigandage of vote-buying, which reportedly featured in the recent governorship elections in Edo, Ondo, Ekiti and, to a lesser degree, Osun states, should be addressed. The extreme of this electoral banditry was buying of Permanent Voter Cards. INEC has acknowledged the existence of these challenges; and it is why it barred the use of handsets at the polling booths to prevent using them to snap ballot papers, indicating the party a voter cast his vote for in Saturday’s Osun State governorship poll.

The Electoral Act 2010, as amended, in Article 130, forbids any person from giving money to anyone directly or indirectly to corruptly influence electoral behaviour after the date of an election has been announced. Anybody found culpable will pay a fine of N100, 000 or 12 months imprisonment or both. Unfortunately, politicians brazenly violated the law with massive electoral misconduct in 2011 and 2015 without consequences.

Therefore, the 2019 elections require an Electoral Act, whose provisions will not be treated as mere tapestries, but one that radiates the authority of the state with its strict enforcement. Anything short of this will further enfeeble our already wobbly democratic enterprise.

Copyright PUNCH.

All rights reserved. This material, and other digital content on this website, may not be reproduced, published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed in whole or in part without prior express written permission from PUNCH.

Contact: [email protected]


(Visited 47 times, 16 visits today)
Facebook Comments

Please follow and like us:

  • 0
  • Share

Leave a Reply