HARMONIZE PROVISIONS OF THE ELECTORAL BILL 2021 TO REFLECT WISHES OF NIGERIANS – EUSDGN

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29th September 2021

Distinguished Senator (Dr.) Kabiru Gaya
Chairman, Senate Committee on INEC
National Assembly
Three Arms Zone
FCT, Abuja
Nigeria

 

Dear Senator Gaya,

A CLARION CALL TO HARMONIZE PROVISION OF THE ELECTORAL BILL 2021 IN TANDEM WITH CITIZENS DEMAND FOR CREDIBLE ELECTIONS IN NIGERIA

We congratulate you on your appointment to the Conference Committee, set up to harmonize the Electoral Act Amendment Bill as passed by both chambers of the National Assembly. We consider your membership of the committee as an important opportunity to advance the public interest by ensuring the Electoral Bill 2021 reflects the will of the Nigerian people and its provisions guarantee transparent, inclusive, and peaceful elections in Nigeria.

In July 2021, the Senate and House of Representatives considered and eventually passed the Electoral Act Amendment Bill, 2021 with some disparities in some clauses. The clause-by-clause consideration in both Chambers was followed with keen public interest, as was demonstrated by public reactions to the National Assembly’s position on some of the proposed amendments. As the Committee commences its deliberations, we call on you and your colleagues in the Committee to support the adoption of key proposals that reflect the wishes of Nigerians for whom you hold power in trust. Nigerians expect the harmonization process to be devoid of sentiments and partisanship. In this regard, priority should be placed on leaving a legacy of an electoral legal framework that ensures sustained reforms in Nigeria’s electoral process.

As the committee begins its all-important harmonization function, we specifically implore the committee-in-conference to adopt the following recommendations, amongst others:

  1. The Senate version of Clause 43, which recognizes “voting devices” alongside election materials. The integration of ‘voting devices’ integrates electronic voting into the electoral process.
  2. The Senate version of Clause 49, which recognizes “other technological devices” alongside “Smart Card Readers” for voter accreditation. In furtherance of INEC’s constitutional responsibility and in line with best practices, the commission should be vested with discretionary powers to deploy effective and efficient technological devices for accrediting voters during elections. For example, INEC tested the new Biometric Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) during the Isoko South 1 Constituency bye-election into Delta State House of Assembly and plans to deploy the same device in subsequent elections.
  3. The House of Representatives Version of Clause 52, which gives INEC the power to determine the procedure for voting and transmission of election results. The power to determine the procedure for transmission of results should be exclusively vested with INEC without interference from any individual or government agency. This position safeguards INEC’s independence.
  4. The Senate Version of Clauses 63 and 76 increases the sanctions imposed on a presiding officer who contravenes the Electoral Act with respect to the proper counting of ballots, the accounting for votes and the announcement of results. We believe that sanctions should place high retributive demand (financial or otherwise) on the offender, in order to discourage electoral offences.
  5. The Senate version of clause 87, which gives political parties the option to adopt either direct or indirect primaries. The focus should be on strict adherence to the guidelines for each mode of party primary adopted.
It is our hope that the conference committee will consider the proposals listed above in the interest of our democracy. Our expectation is that the committee will accelerate the harmonization process to facilitate timely transference to the President for assent fo a new Electoral Act by October 2021. History will be kind to you and your colleagues if the public interest is not sacrificed for other political considerations. We reckon that this is a historic moment in Nigeria’s democratic journey and Nigerians will be looking to you to properly interpret and represent their voices as the harmonisation process commences.

As you commit to accede to these citizens’ demands, please be assured of our solidarity and support in our joint quest to deepen the integrity of elections in Nigeria.

Signed:

  1. CLEEN Foundation
  2. Institute for Media and Society (IMS)
  3. International Press Centre
  4. Nigeria Women Trust Fund (NWTF)
  5. National Peace Committee
  6. Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ)
  7. The Albino Foundation
  8. Yiaga Africa