A group of protesters under the aegis of Alliance of Civil Society Organisation for Expansion of Electoral and Democratic Space (ACCESS) has accused the leadership of the National Assembly of delaying the passage of the Electoral Act.
The protesters, who gathered at the entrance of the National Assembly on Wednesday, said Senate President Ahmad Lawan and Speaker of the House of Representatives Femi Gbajabiamila should prove to Nigerians that the delay in the passage of the bill was not to rig upcoming elections.
Spokesperson for the coalition Ariyo Dare Atoye said Nigerians were worried that the National Assembly had failed to meet two deadlines for the passage of the electoral bill.
Atoye said the group was aware that the Joint Committee of the National Assembly had completed the technical process needed for the third reading and passage of the bill.
“…We are left to believe that, until proven otherwise, that the leaderships of the two National Assembly are obstructing the transmission of the same (bill) to the Plenary,” said Atoye.
He noted that the bill was necessary to prevent irregularities and discrepancies in the electoral process of Nigeria.
He insisted that the National Assembly must pass the bill before the Anambra elections, and before 9th June when it would be two years in office under Lawan and Gbajabiamila, to show Nigerians that lawmakers did not have ulterior motives
A human rights activist Usman Austin, who was also at the protest, said over the last weeks, several offices of the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) were subjected to attacks, stressing that it was a sign that the era of analogue politics was over.
He noted that Nigerians were demanding the digitisation of the electoral process to ensure a truly democratic process.
“The only way the National Assembly can help in keeping this nation together is by giving the power back to the citizen. At this time, it is obvious that the judiciary now decides who is elected, this should stop. The world has moved forward and we are being left behind,” Austin noted.
A few weeks ago, Governor of Rivers State Nyesom Wike had accused the Nigerian government of deliberately delaying the passage and signing into law of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill in order to manipulate the 2023 general elections.
In 2018, the Electoral Bill was passed by the Bukola Saraki-led Senate, but President Buhari rejected it, citing an error in the bill. The rejection in 2018 was the fourth time that Buhari had dismissed the bill.
However, the National Assembly had said it would ensure the passage of the bill, saying that it was ‘firmly committed’ to it.