•APC not sincere with exercise –Senator Ogba
•The intention is to manipulate the electoral process – CISLAC’s Executive Director, Auwal Rafsanjani
There is palpable apprehension that the Electoral Act Amendment Bill currently before the National Assembly for passage might be deliberately delayed, so that it won’t be ready for use in the 2023 General Elections. Senator Obinna Ogba, a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), representing Ebonyi North Senatorial District, who spoke on the matter in an interview with Saturday Telegraph, called on Nigerians to resist any attempt to frustrate early passage of the Bill.
Reacting to insinuations in some quarters that there was a deliberate design to delay the passage of the Bill so that it would not be ready for 2023 polls in order to achieve some sinister intentions, Ogba said that such would not be accepted by Nigerians.
He also hinted that the opposition party was already planning to demonstrate against the speculated plot by the ruling party to frustrate the passage of the Bill. He said: “I agree with you; we have been putting pressure on the President of the Senate to bring the Bill for consideration and passage by the Senate. “The PDP is about to do a demonstration on the matter.
I also urge Nigerians to rise and protest against it. “We are seriously concerned that the APC is not sincere because we heard that the President is saying that it’s getting late to pass and sign the Bill into law”. However, commenting on the same issue, Senator Matthew Urhoghide (PDP, Edo South), said that he would like to give the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, benefit of the doubt that the National Assembly would pass the legislation before going on annual recess in July. Lawan had consistently assured Nigerians that the Electoral Act Amendment Bill was one of the bills to be considered and passed by the National Assembly before the lawmakers would embark on their 2021 annual vacation. Responding to fears expressed by some sections of the public on the Bill, Urhoghide said that since the amendment to the Electoral Act was one of the items in the legislative agenda of the 9th Senate, he was optimistic that the leadership of the apex Chamber would ensure its passage. He said: “The amendment is one of the agenda of the leadership of the Ninth Assembly.
The President of the Senate said that the Electoral Act Amendment Bill will be passed before we go on recess in July. So, I have no reason to doubt what he said. “The INEC Committee is working and we will do clause by clause consideration. We are working within the time table set by the leadership. So, let’s wait and see how it goes. But I hope that the leadership will keep to its words”. Also commenting on the Act, the Executive Director of the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Mr. Auwal Rafsanjani, said that the refusal of the National Assembly to amend it would affect the credibility of the 2023 General Elections. Rafsanjani said that it was very disappointing that the present government has spent six years without any effort to amend the Electoral Act, which he said would have restored confidence in people and ensure that the next election is free and fair.
In an interview with Saturday Telegraph, the activist said that it was surprising that the 9th National Assembly, which just marked its two years, had not made efforts to ensure that the Electoral Act amendment saw the light of the day. “Now, we will be moving to the third year and no green light on some of the areas that can ensure the credibility of the election and create a good atmosphere for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct free, fair and credible election. “The reasons some people are doing this are to manoeuvre and manipulate the electoral process.
Both the executive and legislative arms of government are not proactive in terms of amending the Electoral Act. “What they should have done as a National Assembly was to embark on a very progressive reform that can give confidence to Nigerians and even the international community about our electoral system,” he said. He maintained that refusing to do that and continuing with constitutional amendment, which he said could not be concluded by the current administration because of the contentious issues that have not been discussed or negotiated, would affect the nation’s future elections.
He noted that it is on record that the current administration has said that they would not go into the report of the 2014 Constitutional Conference and the previous constitutional amendments that were conducted by the past National Assembly.
He said: “It means that they are just buying time because they cannot do any Electoral Act amendment six months before the elections as stipulated by the regulations. “The only thing is that some people do not want credible elections in Nigeria, which is why they are holding on to this reform that could help the electoral system. “With this, they will continue to alienate decent Nigerians who want to participate in the electoral process.”
He stressed that with what is happening now many decent Nigerians would not be interested in the electoral process. This, he said, meant that “crooks and people with questionable characters will continue to hijack political power in Nigeria due to the privatisation and commercialisation of the electoral process.”