CSOs threaten to occupy NASS

NEWS DIGEST – A coalition of Civil Society Organisations has threatened to occupy the National Assembly after Ramadan fasting, if the lawmakers fail to pass the Bill for an amendment of the Electoral Act.

The CSOs which include Center for Liberty, Concerned Nigeria, The Electoral Hub, and Raising New Voices Initiative, issued the threat at a joint news conference on Thursday in Abuja.

The Co-convener, Centre for Liberty, Dare Ariyo-Atoye, who read the joint speech of the CSOs, said they were worried that the 9th National Assembly was yet to pass the bill.

According to him the passage of the bill could have given them lasting legacies and written their names in gold.

Mr Ariyo-Atoye said that in the last 15 months, CSOs had consistently engaged lawmakers and appealed to the NASS to make the passage of a new Act a major priority.

He said that the bill for an Act to Repeal the Electoral Act No. 5, 2010 (As Amended) and enact the Independent National Electoral Commission Act 2021, remained the most important document before the 9th National Assembly.

He, however, said that the leadership of NASS and the joint committee of the National Assembly on Electoral Matters, had failed the solemn pledge made to Nigerians on Dec. 9, 2020, at the public hearing conducted on the electoral bill.

“As at today, the National Assembly has failed to meet two dates and deadlines (December 20, 2020 and March 11, 2021) set for the passage of the electoral bill.”

Mr Ariyo-Atoye said that at this juncture, Nigerians must get ready to peacefully occupy the NASS and prevail on the lawmakers to immediately pass a reformed electoral act.

The act according to him, would bring integrity to Nigeria elections, embrace technology, enhance transparency and accountability.

“The time has come for young members of the political parties in Nigeria, women, activists, journalists and other concerned Nigerians to join us in #Occupying the National Assembly (#OccupyNASS) to demand for the passage of a reformed electoral act.

“Except the bill is tabled and passed, we shall be left with no option than to occupy NASS after the Ramadan.

“We deserve free, fair and credible elections; we deserve good leaders that credible polls will throw up; we deserve good governance that good leaders will bring; Nigeria deserves the best,” Mr Ariyo-Atoye said.

He said that the CSOs had also written letters to some Nigeria’s foreign partners on democratic governance to alert them on the actions of the National Assembly on the delay by NASS to pass a new Electoral Act.

“We have equally informed them to review their partnership with the National Assembly and predicate future support on the passage of the Electoral Act.”

Mr Ariyo-Atoye said that as a nation and people, Nigerians had chosen the path of democracy; hence it was also inevitable that laws must be put in place to correct mistakes and strengthen institutions that would guarantee credible polls.

The speech was jointly signed by Ariyo-Dare, Deji Adeyanju of Concerned Nigeria Princess Hamman-Obels of The Electoral Hub and Jude Feranmi – Raising New Voices Initiative.

Ms Feranmi, in her contributions said that the CSOs would not fold their arms and lament the delay by the National Assembly.

“Collectively we are holding the NASS accountable and asking them to make good on their promise to pass the Electoral Bill into Law.

“The Bill must be passed into law ‘now’. This is to give the Electoral Commission (INEC) sufficient time to implant, internalize and implement the bill,” Ms Feranmi said.

She added that early passage of the bill was key for INEC to prepare for 2023 general elections as well as avoid electoral violence as witnessed in Kenya during their 2017 elections.
NAN