Nigerian lawmakers, currently working on the draft of a new electoral bill to guide the management of future elections in the nation have dropped key recommendations that would enhance future elections.
The lawmakers are currently brainstorming at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel in Abuja to design a new template for the proposed electoral act.
The new law, when passed, will repeal the Electoral Act No. 6, 2010 and enact the Electoral Act 2021, to regulate the conduct of elections at the Federal, State levels and Area Councils in the Federal Capital Territory.
However, sources with insight on the new draft worry that the review panel has already built in crippling clauses and eliminated key proposals that would have strengthened the democratic credentials of the new law.
PREMIUM TIMES understands that the National Assembly Joint Committee on Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and Electoral Matters, at its review stage, threw out recommendations to encourage the participation of women and people with disabilities in election processes as well as “prudent language in the bill to constrain the excessive influence of money in future elections”.
For instance, in an attempt to guarantee the accessibility of Persons Living with Disabilities (PWDs) to the polling unit, civil society organisations had proposed a mandatory clause that would compel INEC to provide access for people with disabilities during elections with the ‘strong verb’ of ‘shall’ in in Section 56 (2) of the Electoral Act, 2020 which the review committee has now been watered down to ‘may’.
“This attempt to mandate INEC to make adequate provision for persons with disability in the voting process was thrown out,” a source familiar with the workings of the review committee told PREMIUM TIMES.
The source said once the bill is passed, “it means PWDs will only be attended to at the mercy of the INEC officials rather than the law”.
Women, youth participation
With an eye to also mandate parties to include provision that could enable women, youths and people with disability to sponsor in an election, an additional subsection to Section 31(1) of the Electoral Act, 2010 was proposed “but thrown out by the review team”, sources added.
Considering the widespread impunity in the spending culture of politicians during elections, provisions to bridge the gaps in laws guiding parties’ campaign finance were also proposed but ignored by the committee.
For instance, a recommendation to limit the amount a party can generate from sales form and campaign funding was also thrown out, PREMIUM TIMES learnt from sources.
There was exclusion of many recommendations aggregated, mostly from memos received from many sectors of the nation’s life and particularly from civic groups.
Source said the current bill which would have enriched the country’s democratic process represent, as one commentator put it, “a lost opportunity missing priorities from Nigerian populace”.
PREMIUM TIMES had reported in March 2020, how INEC had said it was proposing about 34 amendments to the Electoral Act 2010 Amendment Bill that will include punishments for electoral violators.
The Commission also said the bill will make provisions for the security of lives and property during elections.
The INEC chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, said this in Lagos at a retreat on the review of the electoral legal framework.
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