A coalition of civil society organisations has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to sign the Electoral Amendment Bill before it is hijacked by politicians benefiting from the existing imbalance in the Electoral Act.
It also faulted reports of Mr Buhari’s purported rejection of the bill over the removal of indirect primaries from the document.
The coalition stated this in a statement on Thursday in Abuja.
Ariyo-Dare Atoye of Adopt A Goal for Development Initiative; Jude Feranmi of Raising New Voices Initiative and Kenneth Eze of Speak Out Africa Initiative jointly signed the statement.
Quoting an unnamed senator, the Sun newspaper on Thursday reported that Mr Buhari had returned the bill to the National Assembly through a letter addressed to the two principal officers of both chambers.
According to the newspaper, the bill was largely rejected on the grounds of the high cost of conducting direct primaries by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
About N500 billion was quoted as the alleged cost implications of direct primaries on the INEC ahead of the 2023 General Elections.
Following the report, PREMIUM TIMES, on Thursday evening, reported the commission’s chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, taking a neutral stance on the cost of such internal political activity.
“On the primaries, when we discussed with him, he specifically told us the role of INEC in direct or indirect primaries which he said is just minimal. He said the responsibility lies with all the political parties. He said conducting primaries is the role of political parties and not INEC.
“For direct primaries, what the INEC Chairman told us is that only the political parties have the responsibility on primaries and the funding of the primaries,” the chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations, Muktar Batera, told journalists after a meeting with Mr Yakubu, on Thursday in Abuja.
On the backdrop of this reality, the CSOs, in a statement, dismissed the report by the newspaper as “fake news” sponsored to discourage Mr Buhari from signing the bill.
“We can authoritatively confirm that Mr President has not forwarded any letter rejecting the Electoral Amendment Bill to the National Assembly. The interview granted by one of the APC governors published as news and stating that Mr President has rejected the bill based on the phantom N500 billion costs of logistics for monitoring the direct primaries of political parties is a barefaced lie.
“While it is known to the people that some politicians are habitual liars to the public, have no integrity whatsoever and do not care about the public trust for the office which they occupy even when they attain such positions crookedly, an issue as dear to the heart of the Nigerian people as the Electoral Amendment Bill will not be allowed to be derailed by these kinds of politicians,” the group said on Thursday.
The coalition called for an investigation into the report that published the rejection of the bill.
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