42 CSOs Allege Plot by NASS to Manipulate Key Provisions of Electoral Act Bill

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Presiding officers can’t determine the outcome of the amendment, says Lawan

By Henry Umoru & Luminous Jannamike, ABUJA

A coalition of  42 civil society organizations yesterday alleged that the National Assembly was planning to pass a manipulated copy of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill in a plenary scheduled for July 8.

The CSOs, under the aegis of Alliance of Civil Society Organisations for Expansion of Electoral and Democratic Space, made the allegation in an emergency briefing in Abuja. Organizations represented at the briefing were Enough Is Enough, Yiaga Africa,  Centre for Liberty,  The Electoral Hub, and 38 others.

Speaking on behalf of the group, a former Chairman of Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC, Mr. Sam Amadi, claimed there were discrepancies between the approved version of the Bill and the alleged final copy where some key provisions have been allegedly manipulated.

He cautioned the National Assembly that such a plot to manipulate the electoral process would be a direct invitation to a crisis. He said:  “The worst thing that anyone can do for the government and people of this country is to deliberately implant an electoral process that is not credible.

“In the alleged final copy, some key priority amendments were rejected by the leadership of the National Assembly as follows; the electronic transmission of results has been prohibited, the limits on campaign expenses have been increased, and the proposal empowering INEC to review the declaration of scores and return of candidates made by a Returning Officer under duress or contrary to the provisions of the law has been rejected.

“If it is passed, we would perceive it as an elite conspiracy to ensure Nigeria fails as a country.”

“We, therefore, consider it a forged document that must not be substituted for our legitimate demands. The National Assembly should give us an electoral law that will stand the test of time in promoting credible elections,” he said.

While calling on the Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, and the Speaker of House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, to declare that they were not part of the alleged attempt to subvert the voices of Nigerians, the 42 CSOs urged the people to stand up to resist any attempt to manipulate the approved version of Electoral Act Amendment Bill for selfish reasons.

Speaking on the issue yesterday, President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, said presiding officers of both chambers of the National Assembly were not in any position to determine the outcome of amendments to the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill under consideration.

Lawan made this known against the backdrop of insinuations and misgivings by some Nigerians that the leadership of the National Assembly was bent on accommodating contentious clauses in the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill currently before it, that would stop the transmission of election results electronically.

Speaking at the inauguration and swearing-in ceremony of the Chief Commissioner and Commissioners of the Public Complaints Commission in Abuja, Lawan disclosed that the upper chamber would consider the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill within the next two weeks upon presentation of a report by the Committee on INEC.

Lawan said, “The National Assembly is embarking on the amendment of the Electoral Act, probably by next week or within the next two weeks.

“It is very important that those who feel very strongly about any amendment that they think should be effected in the Electoral Act should contact or talk to their members of the House of Representatives as well as Distinguished Senators.

“So, it is very important that in the same way, the Public Complaints Commission is utilized properly by the general public.”

The Senate President further charged the newly sworn-in Commissioners of the Public Complaints Commission to shun acts that would stifle fairness, transparency and accountability in the discharge of their duties.

Lawan reminded them that the Commission is a machinery for the control of administrative excesses, non-compliance or non-adherence to administrative procedures, or abuse of power.

“It is principally an organ of government set up to redress complaints lodged by aggrieved citizens or residents of Nigeria against administrative injustice”, he said.

The Senate President assured the Commission of the support of the National Assembly in the area of funding and amending the Public Complaints Commission Act 1975, which has not been amended in the last forty-five years since its enactment.

“We are not unaware of some challenges confronting the Commission, the National Assembly is making efforts to overcoming the challenges facing the Commission, and that is largely funding.

“The Ombudsman institution is acclaimed worldwide as the machinery for the control of administrative excesses and providing the due reliefs and redress to citizens and foreigners residing in Nigeria”, Lawan added.

Earlier, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, said the Public Complaints Commission was conceived to, amongst other things, address issues of Human Rights abuses.

“It is clear that the Public Complaints Commission is a product of necessity due to Human Rights abuses, societal victimization, high-handedness and other forms of practices of maladministration.

“Such ugly practices had long been noticed in Nigeria of all places, and promoted the birth of the Commission in 1975, and its metamorphosis into a statutory vehicle in 2004”, Gbajabiamila said.