Neither the executive nor the legislature has the right to initiate amendments to Electoral Act, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Chairman Prof Yakubu Mamood said yesterday.
He said the slow pace of work on the reworked Electoral Act Amendment Bill is beginning to take a toll on the commission’s preparation for the general election in February next year.
￼Yakubu spoke yesterday in Abuja at a one-day Policy Dialogue organised by the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS) in collaboration with Westminister Foundation for Democracy (WFD).
He was represented by his Chief Technical Adviser, Prof Bolade Eyinla.
The INEC boss said with the new Electoral law still being awaited, the commission has not been able to come up with clear-cut guidelines for the conduct of the 2023 polls.
On who should initiate amendments to Electoral Act, he said the INEC, and neither the executive, nor the National Assembly, should initiate proposed amendments to the Electoral Act as it is being practiced in neighbouring Ghana.
“The situation at hand now is that roughly a year to general election, the anticipated laws are not yet approved, meaning that the extant one will be used aside the fact that the process has not enable INEC to come up with clear cut guidelines for the conduct of the elections,” Prof Eyinla said.
Yakubu’s predecessor Prof Attahiru Jega also expressed reservations on the delay in assenting to the reworked bill by President Muhammadu Buhari.
He flayed what he described as a growing lack of sense of urgency on the executive and the legislature to complete work on the Electoral Bill.
Warning against foot-dragging on the all-important bill, Jega said the country cannot afford to go into fresh elections next year with the same old laws.
But a Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate) Babajide Omoworare told participants that President Muhammadu Buhari is desirous of signing the bill transmitted to him 11 days ago by the National Assembly.
According to Senator Omoworare, the President was in crucial consultations with the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami and other stakeholders for a guide on the document.
He spoke on a day the House of Representatives said it was not the business of the National Assembly to the lobby the presidency over bills.
Omoworare said: “A very crucial consultation is going on between Mr. President, the Attorney-General of the Federation and other critical stakeholders on the content of the bill for the required assent.
“If not for this programme, I am supposed to be at that the very important meeting,” Omoworare said.
The Presidential aide noted that Buhari is inclined to sign the reworked document this time around, especially as all the grey areas raised by him in the rejected Electoral Act Amendment Bill (2021) have been attended to by the National Assembly.
“Personally, I think in few days’ time, Mr. President will do the needful since the contentious aspect of the bill, had been addressed in the reworked version transmitted to him on Monday, January 31, 2022.
“Time as it is, is of essence. But I believe that Mr. President will do the needful,” Omoworare said.
Organisers of the event corroborated Omoworare’s claim that Buhari has started consultation with relevant stakeholders. They said the AGF had excused himself from the public conversation because he was in talks with the President on the matter.
The Executive Director, YIAGA Africa and the proponent of Not-Too-Young-To-Run, Samson Itodo, who joined in the conversation virtually believed that the current document before President Buhari is good and has all the essential ingredients to enhance the integrity of Nigeria’s electoral system.
He agreed with Omoworare that President Buhari will look favourably at the Electoral bill this time around and deliver it as a legacy to the Nigerian people.
In their opening remarks, NILDS Director-General Abubakar Sulaiman and Country Representatives, Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD), Adebowale Olorunmola, expressed confidence that the bill when signed into law, will help curb the observed anomalies in the nation’s electoral system.