Protest in Abuja as CSOs demand assent to Electoral Bill
NEWS DIGEST – A coalition of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to uphold his democratic obligations and sign the proposed electoral bill as they gathered in their numbers at the Unity Fountain in Abuja on Tuesday morning for a protest.
The coalition includes Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room, Yiaga Africa, Partners for Electoral Reform, International Press Centre, Institute for Media and Society, Nigerian Women Trust Fund, The Albino Foundation, Centre for Citizens with Disability, Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism, Labour Civil Society Coalition, Transition Monitoring Group, CLEEN Foundation, and Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre.
Others are Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre, Nigeria Network of Non-Governmental Organisations, Inclusive Friends Association, Enough is Enough, The Electoral Hub, Centre for Liberty, Take Back Nigeria Movement, International Peace, and Civic Responsibility Centre, 100 Women Lobby Group, Women in Politics Forum, Raising New Voices, Millennials Active Citizenship Advocacy Africa and Ready To Lead Africa.
Speaking at the protest, the Executive Director, YIAGA Africa, Samson Itodo said the bill is a pathway to a credible electoral framework that will bring sustainable reform to Nigerian electoral practice.
He noted that the bill guarantees INEC’s financial independence, which in turn will ensure INEC gets early funding on time to prepare for the election.
“The bill has a provision that addresses multiple voting and voting by proxy as well as tampering with elections results at the results collation centers. It will also give INEC the exclusive rights and independence to review results announced under duress. In other words, the bill bars politicians from influencing or harassing polling officials from declaring fabricated results”, he said.
Also speaking at the protest ground, the Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) Comrade Auwal Rafsanjani described the delay by the President to sign the bill as very disappointing.
He said “This is very disappointing, this a President that has been shouting and claiming to be a victim of electoral fraud. Seven years after, he is not doing anything to address electoral fraud in Nigeria. And the implication of this is that he appears to be enjoying what he has been complaining about before. Otherwise, we cannot understand seven years as elected president he has not been able to initiate anything to address electoral fraud in Nigeria.
“It’s very disheartening, given the timeline that we have now to ensure that we have a free, fair, transparent, and credible election, there’s no option than for the President to assent to what Nigerians has demanded to improve electoral transparency in Nigeria. Failure to do this within this time framework will draw us back to the era of analog, to the era of perpetual rigging, to the era of electoral violence, electoral manipulation and destruction of public trust on the electoral process”, he said.
When asked if the clamor for the electoral bill was politically motivated, Rafsanjani said: “We are not politicians, we don’t do politics, the one that I belong to and my colleagues here are not politicians. We only advocate for the public interest, and knowing the implications of not signing this act, we have the duty as the conscious segment of the society to draw the attention of the lawmakers, the executive, and every stakeholder to ensure that we sign this electoral act that will help us improve our electoral process in Nigeria”.
Convener of Situation Room, Ene Obi while reacting to the President’s failure to sign the bill said signing the bill is a positive step that will help move the electoral process forward. She however urged the National Assembly to veto President Muhammadu Buhari if he fails to sign the bill.
Representative of the Albino Foundation, Collins Ogbu in his reaction appealed to the President to sign the bill stating that the proposed bill makes provision for persons with disability, and failure to sign the bill will amount to harming them.
Recall that President Muhammadu had on five occasions failed to sign the bill. During an interview on National TV, he however promised to sign the bill if all identified errors had been rectified.
Following the rectification of the errors by the National Assembly, all eyes are on the President as Nigeria awaits his response.