The Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) has expressed concern over the delay by President Muhammadu Buhari in assenting to the 2021 Electoral Act Amendment Bill transmitted to him by the National Assembly last month.
This is just as civil society organisations (CSOs) have written formally to the president urging him to assent to the Electoral Biil as his birthday gift on December 17, when he will be a year older.
Also, representative of the Center for Socio-Legal Studies (CSLS) and expert in Electoral Law and Justice, Dr. Akin Oluwadayisi, have said Buhari signing the bill into law, would not only make history but would have succeeded in enthroning himself as the “father of true internal democracy.”
The deadline for the president to sign the bill into law or risk an override by the National Assembly expires this week.
The National Publicity Secretary of PANDEF, Ken Robinson, told THISDAY on Sunday that PANDEEF as a responsible organisation stands for anything that would improve the nation’s electoral process.
According to him: “We want free, fair and credible elections in the country, 2023 and beyond. Where the votes of citizens would truly decide who gets elected at any level in the electoral process.
“Anyone, who for whatever reason, solicits the President not to sign the Bill is doing a great disservice to Nigeria.
“PANDEF, therefore, calls on President Muhammadu Buhari to jettison partisan considerations and assent to the bill without further delay, to strengthen the nation’s democracy”.
On their part, CSOs under the aegis of the Civil Society Partners on Electoral Reform (CiSPER) and other concerned groups have written to President Buhari, urging him to invite representatives of youths, women, People Living with Disabilities and CSOs as well to the signing ceremony of Electoral Bill on his birthday.
The CSOs in the letter entitled “Electoral Bill: Invite Representatives of Youths, Women, PLWD and CSOs to the Signing Ceremony,” dated 11th December, 2021, expressed optimism that Buhari would sign the Electoral Amendment bill into law as he celebrates on his birthday.
The organisations stated that they were encouraged by Buhari’s statement at the virtual summit on democracy organised by President Joe Biden of the United States that he would ensure elections are conducted in a free, fair and transparent manner.
They also said the invitation to grace the electoral bill signing ceremony would go a long way in assuring Nigerians and the International community of his commitment to inclusive participation in our democratic process.
According to the CSOs, a new Electoral Act would help to put in place necessary legal framework to build back better democratic institutions and sustainable democratic values.
The letter read in part, “As the clock ticks, we are increasingly assured that you will side with the people and act in the overriding public interest to give your assent to the electoral bill as a legacy for deepening electoral reforms and strengthening our democracy.
“It may interest you to know, Mr. President, that the Biden administration is already facing some criticism for its guest list for the virtual summit, and Nigeria is fingered as one of the ‘nations with spotty records on democracy, the rule of law and human rights,’ as reported the CNN and other global media.
“We are glad that you used the occasion to state unequivocally that democratic rule in the West African sub-region “is currently being threatened by undemocratic takeover of government by the military.”
The CSLS’ position was contained in a press statement dated December 12, 2021 and made available to journalists.
“The current Electoral Amendment Bill before the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria for assent demands immediate and urgent assent in the interest of the electorates and entrenchment of parties’ internal democracy.
“In the first place, Section 14(2) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) declares that sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria from whom government itself derives all its powers and authority. And it is through the direct participation in political parties’ primaries that the participation by the people in their governments shall be ensured.
“Indirect primaries deny them this right of grassroot participation”, the statement read in part.
The law expert who remarked that political parties over the years had failed to allow direct election of delegates when primaries are conducted, argued that if the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was given the powers to supervise the process, it would not only ensure credibility but also build confidence of the people in the future general elections that will be conducted.
“Mr. President’s will also be breaking the jinx governorship godfatherism and perhaps, father true internal democracy from political party level if he assents to the Bill.
“The governors of states in Nigeria have been tested with the required true democratic involvement of local governments but failed through selfish interest, dominating control and financial manipulation of the local government authority,” he said.
According to him, allowing indirect primaries into the legislative bodies is to further empower the governors to play the role of gods in determining the future of Nigeria’s democracy, good governance and sacrifice direct participation of the electorates’ desires.
Oluwadayisi stressed that the bill would benefit the political parties, especially the ruling party more in that when the party members are given the freedom to choose active and responsive legislators, their performances and delivery will go a long way to promote the party’s image and collective interest of the people who have chosen them.
He noted further that major countries of the world including the United States where Nigeria borrowed the presidential system of government no longer practice indirect form of primaries for selection of candidates as voters can directly vote and determine the top candidates who will advance to the general election.
“The presidential assent to the bill is the adoption of the ideal form of democratic practice now being practice by developed nations of the world that the nation emulates,” he added.
Deji Elumoye, Alex Enumah, Udora Orizu in Abuja