CSOs demand electronic voting, task NASS to expedite action on passage of electoral bill

• Stage peaceful protest amidst security beef-up

The coalition of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), on Tuesday, staged a peaceful protest at the National Assembly complex, Abuja to press home their demands for quick passage of the amendments to the Electoral Act before May 29, 2020, with the view to validation of electronic voting and e-transmission of election results.

Cynthia Mbamalu, YIAGA Africa and Eze Nwagu harped on the need to reform the Electoral Legal Framework founded on the broad-based consensus by Nigerian citizens’ and electoral stakeholders that will encourage active citizens’ participation and guarantee their rights in electing leaders and representatives that will provide good governance
by addressing gaps in the current electoral legal framework.

“The Senate President at the time promised Nigerians a new Electoral Act by March 2021. That timeline has come and gone! Elections remain the fulcrum and constant cardinal feature in a democracy. It is important to protect all conditions and instruments required to conduct free, fair and credible elections to ensure that ‘the sovereign will of the people’ prevail always.

“The seeming lack of progress in the National Assembly on the Electoral Act Amendment bill is therefore worrisome. Nigerians demand that their elected representatives respond to the urgent need for an electoral legal framework that genuinely strengthens the electoral processes and procedures, promotes inclusivity and addresses impunity. The continued delay in concluding the process is reminiscent of the failed process in 2018 and the attendant impact on the 2019 General Election.

In considering the Bill, the urged National Assembly on the need to: “undertake an in-depth consideration of the citizens’ priority issues to address Identified gaps in the current electoral legal framework. These priorities include: Strengthening the financial and operational independence of the Independent National Electoral Commission ([NEC); Publication of Polling Unit level results by INEC to promote transparency in the result collation and transmission process; Protecting the voting rights of the blind and visually impaired voters.”

The coalition also stressed the need towards: “reducing the cost of the nomination of candidates to promote a level playing field for all contestants; Promoting the inclusion of Women, youth, and persons with disability in politics; Legitimizing the use of technology in the electoral process with particular emphasis on the biometric voter register, biometric accreditation of voters; electronic voting, electronic collation and transmission of results; Ending impunity for electoral offences by the establishment of the Electoral Offences Commission and Tribunal; Improving election security and promote professionalisation and non-partisanship in the conduct and behaviour of security personnel on election duty; Introduction of early/special voting for Nigerians on essential election duty; Eliminating the impact of judicial actions on citizens will and choices in elections.”

In his remarks, Co-Convener, Centre for Liberty, Mr Ariyo Dare Atoye urged the National Assembly to expedite action on the passage of the amendment to the Electoral Act before May 29, 2021.

“Basically we are here today to ask the national assembly to have a rethink and consider the passage of a new electoral law that will inspire confidence in Nigeria that will help to revive the interests of Nigerians in the electoral process.

“In order to firm this process up quickly, we have told them to pass this bill before May 29 so that the president and sign it into law on June 12 as part of activities marking the June 12 Democracy day so that it will be symbolic and be really democratic in celebration so that it could be a reference point and part of the legacy that the president will take away.

“We also want the leadership of the National assembly Femi Gbajabiamila as a speaker, Senator Ahmad Lawan as Senate President to side with Nigerians, because twice they failed, they failed in December 2020 to pass it, they failed on March 31, 2021, these two dates were the dates they set by themselves. Since they set date for themselves and they failed, the people of Nigeria have resolved to set a date for them as represented by us.”

According to him, the key reforms include; electronic platform validation, full biometric for accreditation, e-transmission of result, conduct all elections in one day.

“Of course, this bill will be meaningless if the reforms and presentations made by the people of this country during December 9, 2020, public hearing are not sufficiently captured.

“Those recommendations include: giving electronic platform validation to the process of conducting our elections, candidates to elections must emerge at least six months before the elections so that we can put issues of litigation behind us.”

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