CSOs to Buhari: Don’t sign electoral bill unless…

President Buhari: CSOs told him not to sign Electoral Bill into law

By Angela Atabo

A coalition of over 125 Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) on Monday appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari not to ascent to the Electoral Amendment Bill unless sections 52(2), 65 and 88 were deleted from the amendment.

The CSOs include the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth, Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development, Campaign for Transformative Governance, Social Development Integrated Centre (Social Action), among several others.

One of the spokespersons of the group, Ms Vivian Bellonwu, Executive Director, Social Development integrated Centre, said at a news conference in Abuja that the call was imperative to guarantee credible future elections.

She said allowing those sections would erode the independence of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), and would ultimately lead to electoral crisis which the president must not allow to happen.

“The president should only give assent to the Electoral Act Amendment Bill 2021 after the deletion of section 52(2) that requires transmission of election results by INEC to be subjected to the clearance of the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) and the National Assembly.

“The deletion of section 65 will remove the powers of INEC to review results declared under duress or in contravention of electoral law and guidelines.

“The deletion of section 88 which has completely monitised the democratic process, as only moneybags can contest elections in Nigeria as campaign expenses for presidential election increased.

“For president it was increased from N1 billion to N15 billion, for governorship from N200 million to N5 billion, senate from N40 million to N1.5 billion and house of representation from N30 million to N500 million,’’ she said.

Bellonwu said that in a country where the national minimum wage is N30,000, only the stupendously rich, who might have stolen public funds or sponsored by drug barons could run for public offices.

She said that the coalition believed that the National Assembly and the NCC misled Nigerians on the issue of electronic voting.

According to her,  this was because INEC met with the technical committee on electronic voting which NCC was part of, and NCC agreed in 2018 that INEC could conduct electronic voting and transmission of results.

She said that the group therefore gave the Inspector General of Police 14 days ultimatum to investigate NCC staff who reported to the National Assembly that Nigeria was not ready for electronic voting.

Bellonwu said the group has urged INEC to ignore all the alleged orchestrations and courageously dedicate itself to conducting a free, fair and credible elections and importantly transmit voter tallies electronically as it has the backing of Nigerians.

She said that the benefits of electronic transmission of results could not be over-emphasised, because they were as myriad as they were profound.

She said that transmitting results electronically, drastically reduces credibility issues associated with manual transmission of vote tallies during elections.

”It also reduces costs and associated risks to persons handling manual transmission,” she said..

Another spokesperson of the group, Jaye Gaskia, from Campaign for Transformative Governance, said that NCC staff that came to National Assembly needed to be checked to avoid lying under oath, since the same NCC agreed in 2018 that INEC could transmit elections electronically.

He said that since INEC had test run electronic voting and transmission of results and it worked, it should be allowed to do its work.

“It is our duty as citizens to act to compel the right thing to be done.

“If nothing is done, citizens will be compelled to act because electronic voting and transmission is one reason why our votes will count,’’ he said.

Another speaker, Chima Williams, from Environmental Rights Action, said that over 125 CSOs across Nigeria came together to address the issue of the rejection of electronic transmission of results.