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CSOs urge NASS to prioritise Electoral bill on resumption, Jan 18

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Coalition of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) operating in Nigeria on Monday urged the National Assembly to prioritise the consideration and passage of the Electoral bill, 2021 on resumption from the Christmas and New Year holiday.

The CSOs position was contained in a communiqué issued and signed by Executive Director of Adopt A Goal Initiative, Ariyo-Dare Atoye; Convener, Raising New Voices Initiative, Jude Feranmi; Convener, Human Rights Advocate, Rachel Anyanwu and Godbless Obuture, Convener, Ready To Lead Africa.

While frowning at the decision of President Muhammadu Buhari for withholding assent to the Electoral bill, 2021, the lawmakers urged the Parliamentarians not to postpone the scheduled date for resumption with a view to accelerate the passage of the legislation.

The communiqué read: “On the 20th day of December last year, President Muhammadu Buhari wrote to the National Assembly citing varying reasons he had refused to assent to the Electoral Amendment Bill sent to him by both chambers.

“Mr. President was quoted to have said that the ‘the conduct of elections for the nomination of party candidates solely via direct primaries as envisaged by the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill 2021 has serious adverse legal, financial, economic and security consequences which cannot be accommodated at the moment considering our Nation’s peculiarities’.

“President Buhari also said that the introduction ‘has implications on the rights of citizens to participate in the government as constitutionally ensured’.

“This conclusion reached by the President drew various criticisms from the Nigerian populace and outright disappointment from the civil society organisations working to ensure the conduct of freer, fairer and more credible elections in the forthcoming exercises happening in Ekiti, Osun and the 2023 general elections.

“To say the least, Mr. President’s refusal to assent to this bill has set back the advocacy for these democratic reforms. However, as civil society organizations, we cannot rest on our oars and must ensure that the desire of Nigerians for a more credible electoral process where the people can elect leaders of their choice and their votes will count must become a reality.

“It is for this reason that we are here today to call the attention of the National Assembly to make the following demands.

“Under no circumstance should the January 18 resumption date set by the leadership of both chambers for members of the Senate and House of Reps be postponed. Any further delay will put in jeopardy our efforts to ensure the passage of this bill.

“The first rule of business upon resumption should be the issue of the Electoral Reforms Amendment Bill. While the National Assembly may choose to override the President’s veto and go ahead to pass the bill into law, they may also choose to review the bill to meet the President’s demands and transmit it back to him for assent. We are asking that this step, whatever the members may decide should be the first business of legislation.

“The rules of legislative business, protocols, and bureaucracy should be suspended and this should be dealt with within 48 hours. We are aware that the National Assembly has rules and timelines for bills and responses to Mr. President in situations like this, but we are also aware that these rules and bureaucracy that may drag foot can be suspended in critical situations to meet the timing and urgency that this kind of bill demands.

“Cross-referencing errors which may cause issues in the interpretation of the law and the execution of the law by agencies should be corrected before passage or transmission to the President.

“These errors have been identified by civil society organizations and have been shared with the leadership of the National Assembly. They pose another obstacle to the passage of this bill. We must not forget that errors like these were one of the reasons that President Buhari gave in the 8th National Assembly for refusing assent to the bill.

“For the consolidation of our democracy, and to really bring development to the people and an improved standard of living, our elections must be fair and seen to be fair. Our elections must be free and seen to be free. Our elections must be credible and seen to be credible.

“This is not beyond what we can do and what the current electoral amendment bill promises. We must make haste in passing this into law so that the people can begin to prepare for an election under this legal framework,” the coalition said.

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