Nigerians from all walks of life have rejected have rejected the Electoral Amendment Bill (2021) being proposed by the National Assembly that seeks to remove the electronic transmission of election results by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The Southern Governors Forum as well as election observer group, Centre for Transparency Advocacy (CTA) and a coalition of 42 civil society organisations
said such move will erase the recent gains made by INEC in ensuring the credibility of the nation’s elections.
In a communique issued at the end of its meeting on Monday in Lagos, the Southern Governors Forum said, “In order to consolidate our democracy and strengthen the Electoral process, the Southern Governors’ Forum reject the removal of the Electronic transmission of the election result from the electoral act”
In the communique signed by Ondo state governor and Chairman, Southern Governors’ Forum, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Odunayo Akeredolu, the Governors also rejected the confirmation of exclusive jurisdiction in pre-election matters on the Federal High Court.
On its part, the CTA in a statement by its executive director, Faith Nwadishi, said they are concerned that the National Assembly is about to pass a revised Electoral Bill neglecting citizen’s inputs that satisfies Nigerians’ objectives for free, fair, and credible elections.
“We are worried that the National Assembly seems to be more interested in reforms that will benefit them instead of improving our elections and the integrity of the electoral process across the entire electoral value chain.
“The National Assembly must not be seen as sabotaging the efforts of the Election Management Board by making laws that are retrogressive, unproductive, negative and retards the growth of Democracy,” the CTA stated.
On the provision not to transmit election result electronically, the CTA said it negates the gains made from the Edo and Ondo States 2020 governorship elections and other bye or rerun elections thereafter.
It said the use of the INEC’s election result viewing portal was plausible and therefore increased citizens confidence in the electoral process and integrity of results.
Nwadishi said the CTA is worried with the provision inserted by the NASS in the Amendment which seeks to give Returning Officer final power on ballot
Section 65 (1) of the Amendment states that the decision of the Returning Officer shall be final from any question arising from or relating to
1. Unmarked ballot paper,
2. Rejected ballot paper,
3. Declaration of scores of candidates and the return of a candidate
The CTA said this provision stripes INEC of the powers to intervene in the process of result declaration in cases where results are declared through duress or any other fraudulent manner.
She said, “In our opinion, INEC should be allowed to review declarations of results that negates free, and fair process. A situation in which politicians force returning officers or corrupt returning officers declare results that are devoid of transparency and integrity does not augur well for Nigeria’s democracy and electoral credibility.”
On plan to increase election campaign expenses, she said, “We are concerned that the National Assembly intends to increase election expenses by 1500 percent, particularly for presidential elections, despite citizens’ wishes that the initial one billion naira be cut to allow for more inexpensive campaigns.
“Effectively, women and young persons are disenfranchised as the campaigns are highly monetized and affordable to only the rich. This provision will inadvertently promote vote trading during elections.”
Also, a coalition of 42 civil society organisations have rejected the Electoral Amendment Bill (2021) being proposed by the National Assembly.
The CSOs in a statement said the manual transmission of election results would be used to manipulate the outcome of polls.
Some of the CSOs are Center for Liberty, The Electoral Hub, Yiaga Africa, Raising New Voices, Ready To Lead Africa and Speak Out Africa Initiative, Centre for Development Alternatives Research and Studies, Sustainable Development and Peace for Social Responsibility Centre, Aspilos Foundation, Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre and South-South Professional Women Association.
“As everyone may be aware, the National Assembly will pass the Electoral Amendment Bill (2021) this week. Barring any last-minute changes, the bill is expected to be passed by both chambers on Thursday.
“Some proposals canvassed by citizens were adopted in the bill e.g., electronic voting, financial independence of the Independent National Electoral Commission, and new timelines for submission of list of candidates. However, there are discrepancies between the approved version of the bill and the alleged final copy, where some key provisions have been manipulated.
“In the alleged final copy, some key priority amendments were rejected by the leadership of the National Assembly, e.g. electronic transmission of results has been prohibited (S.50(2)) and the limits on campaign expenses have been increased (S.88). We are also concerned that the National Assembly has rejected the proposal empowering INEC to review the declaration of scores and return of candidates made by a Returning Officer, and determine that the declaration was made under duress or contrary to the provisions of the law (S.65).
“Following, the events of the 2019 general elections, we are convinced that INEC needs to have this power in order to prevent politicians from going through the backdoor to win election and steal electoral mandate at gunpoint! It is instructive to note that following the submission of the Electoral Amendment Committee’s report, the National Assembly leadership undertook an additional review of the report to insert and reject some amendments unilaterally, without going through the established process for such insertion,” the statement partly read.