Eighteen political parties recognised by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has mounted pressure on the commission to impress it on the National Assembly to pass the new electoral laws before the next general election in 2023.
The eighteen political parties also expressed concern over the delay, silence and lack of information on the status of the electoral bill currently before the National Assembly.
Their concern, they said, was based on the inability by the two chambers of the National Assembly to expedite action on the bill after the electoral reforms bill has passed second reading.
The political parties maintained that efforts of INEC would amount to a nullity without a legal backing with the passage and assent of the new electoral act by President Muhammadu Buhari.
In a motion moved by the National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Uche Secondus,at the meeting with INEC and sponsored by the National Chairman of the Young Progressives Party (YPP), Bishop Amakiri, the political parties told INEC that all their efforts at the expansion of polling centres and the continuous voters registration (CVR) would amount to nothing if there was no new electoral act that would guarantee a free and fair election as was the case in Edo State last year.
Secondus said, “We appreciate what you are doing, but we state here unanimously that it will amount to nothing, if there is no new and efficient electoral law to give life to it.
“We, as leaders of political parties here gathered, are appealing to you to impress it on the National Assembly to ensure that a new electoral law is passed and signed into law by the President. It is only then that Nigerians will appreciate all efforts.
“We are unanimously asking for election results to be transmitted as was done in the Edo and Ondo governorship elections. This is our position. Please help us to ensure that there is an efficient election law that would guarantee an efficient and transparent election,” Secondus added.
However, speaking further after their meeting with INEC, Secondus said, “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 attendant impact on the 2019 General Election,” he stated, noting that, elections remain the fulcrum and constant cardinal feature in a democracy, as such, “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 urgent need for reforming the Electoral Legal Framework is founded on the broad-based consensus by Nigerian citizens’ and electoral stakeholders on the need for a more credible and improved electoral process.
“A process that will encourage active citizens’ participation and guarantee their rights in electing leaders and representatives that will provide as the Senate President at the time promised Nigerians, a new Electoral Act by March 2021. That timeline has come and gone.”
Secondus said the ninth National Assembly, under the leadership of the Senate President, Ahmed Lawal and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, promised Nigerians a people-responsive Electoral Act by the first quarter of 2021.
“We are now in the second quarter of 2021 and the Electoral Act Amendment Bill is yet to be presented for third and final reading in both chambers of the National Assembly. This process is required before the Bill can be transmitted to the President for his assent,” he said.
The PDP National Chairman, therefore, urged the National Assembly that in considering the Bill, they must undertake an in-depth consideration of the citizens’ priority issues to address identified gaps in the current electoral legal framework.
He reiterated the political parties’ belief in a new electoral law that would strengthen the financial and operational independence of INEC.