Wed. May 29th, 2024

Ngozi James

A coalition of 26 Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) has demanded that President Muhammadu Buhari gives assent to the Electoral Act Amendment Bill on or before February 22, 2022.

The CSOs also resolved to embark on a protest on Tuesday if the President fails to assent to the bill as requested. The coalition urged its partners to converge on the Unity Fountain, Abuja, for the demonstration.

This was made known in a statement signed by all the CSOs to include; Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room, Yiaga Africa, Partners for Electoral Reform, International Press Centre, Institute for Media and Society, Nigerian Women Trust Fund, The Albino Foundation, Centre for Citizens with Disability, Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism, Labour Civil Society Coalition, Transition Monitoring Group, CLEEN Foundation and Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre.

Others are Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre, Nigeria Network of Non-Governmental Organisations, Inclusive Friends Association, Enough is Enough, The Electoral Hub, Centre for Liberty, Take Back Nigeria Movement, International Peace and Civic Responsibility Centre, 100 Women Lobby Group, Women in Politics Forum, Raising New Voices, Millennials Active Citizenship Advocacy Africa and Ready To Lead Africa.

On January 31 2022, the National Assembly transmitted the reworked bill to the President for assent.

Buhari consequently forwarded it to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN), for legal advice.

Malami had hinted that he might advise the President to withhold assent if he (Malami) found the reworked bill to contain proposals hinged on personal interests.

The coalition said the bill allowed electronic transmission of results, strengthened the financial independence of the Independent National Electoral Commission and empowered the commission to reject falsified election results.

The statement read in part, “Further aware, the bill, when signed, requires INEC to issue Notice of Election not later than 360 days before the day appointed for an election. Therefore, the President has to give assent to the bill on or before February 22, 2022 if the dates announced for the 2023 elections are to be maintained.

“We are concerned that the delay in granting presidential assent to the Electoral Bill, 2022 will create legal uncertainties that threaten the integrity of the off-cycle elections in Ekiti, Osun, and the 2023 general election, which is 366 days away.

“The civil society community resolves to declare Tuesday February 22, 2022 as the national day of protest to demand immediate assent to the bill. Civil society networks will organise peaceful public direct-action activities to further the demand to assent the bill. We urge citizens across the nation to call on President Muhammadu Buhari to act on this matter of urgent national importance.”

The President has not shown any significant sign of signing the reworked bill 20 days after it was transmitted to him by the National Assembly.

By law, the President is expected to respond to the National Assembly’s proposal not more than 30 days after receiving it.

The bill was transmitted to him on January 31, 2022, meaning he has barely 10 days left to act on it. The President has in the last five years rejected electoral amendment bills five times.

The INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, had said last month that the commission would quickly release the timetable and schedule of activities for the 2023 general elections based on the new law once the bill is signed by the President.

However, there are indications that INEC will go ahead with its preparations rather than allow Buhari’s failure to sign the bill to delay its activities.

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