Firstly, President Buhari shouldn’t stress this matter. He should give his assent already. This Electoral Amendment Act 2022 is in the best interest of this country.
In November 2021, an amended Electoral bill was sent to the President for his assent but the President, after exhausting the legitimate timeframe, objected to the included restriction of political parties to direct primaries as their sole mode of the selection of candidates for elections.
This particular objection wasn’t deviant in any way as political parties have the right to choose a certain mode of selection. The President further noted that if this finding could be reviewed to protect the right of political parties, he would certainly grant his assent. Subsequently, the National Assembly adhered to the direction of the President by reviewing the Electoral bill and replacing the direct primary mandate with an option of indirect primaries, direct primaries and consensus candidacy. The National Assembly’s general Committee included a provision (Clause 84); that any political official – Ministers, Commissioners, Special Advisers, Personal aides and others must renounce such position before eligibility to participate in the electoral process.
In view, this addition from the National Assembly is highly laudable but extra from President Buharis’ direction. Media reports initially indicated that this addition is unwanted from the President. Recently, Femi Adesina, the president’s spokesman, stated in a feature that the President would assent to the bill in a matter of ‘hours’. All we concerned citizens can do right now is wait for confirmation from the President.
Consequently, if this bill is not signed in time, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) would have to change the dates for the 2023 general elections. According to section 28(1) of this Electoral bill, INEC is required to issue a notice of election in 360 days before the appointed date for an election. In other to convene with this provision, the deadline was February 22, 2022. But by the provision of Section 58(4) of the 1999 Constitution the president still has time (March 2) to sign this Bill. INEC would still have to reschedule the 2023 elections.
In this proposed Electoral bill, there would be electronic transmission of results in elections to appraise credibility and accountability. Also, this Bill guarantees INEC financial independence. The Electoral Bill 2022 also provides that no INEC official should be affiliated to a political party and that if an official is caught, he or she would be liable to conviction to a fine or imprisonment for two years or both. Therefore, INEC personnel are required to be Neutral. This Bill provides for the inclusion of persons with disability in the electoral process. In a clause in this Bill, political parties are required to submit the list of its candidates in not later than 6 months prior to Election Day.
In summary, this Amendment bill would guarantee credible elections in Nigeria and would amount to democratic principles in the electoral process.Meanwhile, a coalition of Civil Society Organisations, on February 22, met at Abuja to protest President Buhari’s delayed assent to the Amended Electoral Bill, using placards containing the different advantages.
There shouldn’t be any hidden motives in any democratic process. To uphold and preserve democracy in Nigeria, the President should assent to this laudable Electoral Bill. At least for posterity, he owes every Nigerian his signature.