The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Yiaga Africa have called on the National Assembly to accelerate the passage of the Electoral Reform Amendment Bill.
Mr Ayuba Wabba, NLC President made the call at a Roundtable meeting on Electoral Reform in collaboration with Yiaga Africa on Wednesday in Abuja.
According to Wabba, having participated in elections from 1999, NLC feels there is a need for improvement in our electoral process, especially the aspect of the law that deals with how to chose a candidate.
He said there is a need to ensure inclusiveness, particularly gender and youths.
“These are areas we need to critically reform, therefore, we do not need reforms that will come in the eve of the elections. We want them to come a bit earlier so that people will get used to those reforms or the amendment Act.
“I think it is the right time to canvass for this and we have gotten the commitment from the National Assembly that they are willing and ready to make sure that the reforms process are driven much earlier.
“The National Assembly has also said that by December, all will be set and done on the new electoral law. If you remember in the last dispensation, Mr President was not able to assent to the amendment that was made because it was during the eve of the election,” he said.
Wabba noted that having such a process at the eve of the election would not provide the necessary environment for citizens to participate properly or for the new amendment Act to be effective.
Mr Samson Itodo, Executive Director, Yiaga Africa, also called on the National Assembly to accelerate the process for December to be a definite timeline for the Electoral Reform amendment.
He said that the move has become necessary so that we do not have the reoccurrence of what happened in the 8th Assembly.
“By December, the electoral amendment should have been passed as we have only 943 days to 2023 general elections, so they should fast track the process and conclude all reforms to the electoral legal framework by December,” he said.
Itodo also called on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), political parties, and other stakeholders to also prepare ahead of the 2023 general elections.
He added that “we do not want to see uncertainties with respect to the electoral laws. So, the National Assembly should be committed and pass the amendments. We urged them to do so in the interest of our democracy.”
He also urged the 9th Assembly to address the issues of the cost of election campaigns and to limit the cost that parties can charge aspirants running for an office on their platform.
Itodo said that the 2015 amendment Act confers some powers on INEC to request and effect deployment of security personnel for elections from the various security agencies, but that has not been the case.
According to him, what we see is that our security agencies undermined the process and in some cases do not give INEC the required coverage needed.
“As we go to Edo and Ondo elections, it is very important that our security agencies are ensured to uphold the principles of professionalism, accountability, patriotism, and transparency,” he said.
Speaking, Prof. Okechukwu Ibeanu, INEC National Commissioner, noted that the future looks bleak with a situation whereby the courts now assumes the role declaring winners of the election.
He added that the quick passage of the electoral reforms amendment bill would address the challenges faced by the commission, political parties, among others, and ensure accountability.