Some civil society organisations in the country on Tuesday in Abuja protested the delay by President Muhammadu Buhari to assent to the Electoral Act Amendment Bill.
The National Assembly had on January 31 transmitted a clean copy of the reworked Electoral Bill to Mr Buhari for assent.
But worried by the inaction of the president, the organisations declared February 26 as a day for national protest to demand immediate assent to the bill.
Among the organisations that protested were Partners for Electoral Reform, Nigeria Civil Society Room, Yiaga Africa, Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development, International Press Institute, Cleen Foundation, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, Enough is Enough and the Electoral Hub.
Others were Institute for Media and Society, Nigeria Network of Non-Governmental Organisation, Centre for Liberty, Labour Civil Society Coalition, Transition Monitoring Group, Nigerian Women Trust Fund, Centre for Disability, and The Albino Foundation.
Women in Politics, Take Back Nigeria Movement, 100 Women Lobby Group, Raising New Voices, Ready to Lead Africa and Millennials Active Citizenship Advocacy Africa also took part in the protest.
The organisations gathered at the Unity Fountain in Abuja for several hours during which they condemned the delay by the president to sign the bill into law.
In a statement they jointly signed during the protest, the 25 CSOs asked the president to sign the bill within the 30 days timeline and thereafter propose any amendments if he so desired as he did to the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB).
“Further amendments to the Electoral Bill 2022 can be proposed after assent has been granted. It is within the President’s prerogative to propose amendments after signing the bill like he did in the case of the Petroleum Industry Bill and 2022 Appropriation bill, an act which attracted commendation”.
“We call on President Buhari to sign the Electoral bill into law on or before the expiration of the 30 days’ timeline on the 1st March 2022 to enable INEC to issue Notice of Election and release the timetable and schedule of activities for the 2023 general election,” the statement said.
Clause 28 (1) of the bill requires INEC to issue notice of election not later than 360 days before the day appointed for an election.
Speaking on the protest, the Deputy Director at the Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID), Mboho Eno, said signing the bill will be to the credit of the president and that it would give the nation a new breath of fresh air in the electoral process.
“It is an opportunity for the president to speak loudly that he is a President for the citizens and he listens. He should not see the call by the CSOs as “playing cheap politics” as opined by his special adviser – Femi Adesina – yesterday,” he said.
“CSOs are partners in nation-building and they are playing their roles like that. CSOs pressure or not, Nigeria deserves a new, improved and citizen-friendly which the new bill represents” he said.
The National Assembly transmitted the reworked Electoral Bill to Mr Buhari on January 31.
In December last year, the president had rejected the bill earlier sent to him on November 19, citing his disagreement with the provision of only direct mode of primaries in the bill.
The legislators, upon their resumption from the Christmas/New Year, reworked the bill and included other modes of primary elections, namely indirect and consensus.
A day before the protest, the Presidency had berated the organisations, alleging that they wanted to cash in on the delay by the president to foment civil disorder and muddy the waters.
On Tuesday, presidential spokesperson, Femi Adesina, in a television interview, assured that Mr Buhari would assent to the bill “any moment from now.”
If the president declines to assent to the bill, it would be the fifth time he would do so since 2018.
In March 2018, he rejected the bill on grounds that it could usurp the powers of the electoral umpire, INEC. In July of the same year, he rejected the bill citing drafting issues.
In September, he failed to act on the bill until the time frame elapsed. In December, his reason was that it was too close to the 2019 general elections.
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