By Auwal Musa Rafsanjani
In light of the importance of fostering democratic processes and institutions to the Nigerian people and the failure of President Muhammadu Buhari to assent to the Electoral Act (Amendment) 2021 Bill, the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) is worried that years of hard work by the National Assembly with input from the Independent National Electoral Commission, civil society organizations and the public could go to waste.
The Bill seeks to improve the electoral system by providing the legal backing for the use of technology in the accreditation of voters and transmission of election results. It seeks to enhance timelines for electoral activities, including voting, collation and announcement of results, and adequately defines over-voting, confers authority on INEC to review questionable election results and monitor direct primaries for all political parties.
Elections remain the most critical aspect of democracy as it is the gateway for all citizens to achieve their aspirations for democracy and a transparent election can only be achieved by creating a legal framework, its implementation and c. It is, however, unfortunate that it appears as the president has listened to a few beneficiaries of electoral fraud that seek to undermine or injure our democracy and democratic institutions.
Not assenting to the bill will no doubt cripple the electoral process and strip away the right of Nigerians to choose their leaders in free, fair and inclusive stages of elections.
This country would remember the President had once called himself the biggest victim of electoral fraud in Nigeria and expressed his interest in leaving behind a stronger electoral system as part of his legacy, but by withholding assent for the second time, he could leave the Electoral System worse than he found it amidst rising challenges. The current system without the amendments will only create more victims of electoral irregularities.
I, therefore, call on the 9th Assembly to etch its name in gold in the right pages of our history by exercising its powers under S. 58 (5) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (As Amended) which states that “Where the President withholds his assent and the bill is again passed by each House by two-thirds majority, the bill shall become law and the assent of the President shall not be required.”
If the National Assembly vetoes the president, it will prove to Nigerians that it is not a rubberstamp arm of the government and that they respect the view of the constituents that gave them the mandate to legislate on their behalf.
NASS can simply not afford to disappoint Nigerians!
Auwal Musa Rafsanjani is Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) and Chairman, Transition Monitoring Group (TMG)