CSOs task NASS on review of legal framework

By Sarauniya G Usman,Abuja

The Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room, a coalition of over 70 organisations has called on the National Assembly to work on the review of the electoral legal framework to curb irregularities.

Convener of the civil society groups,Mr Clement Nwankwo,
made the call in Abuja at the group’s situation room review meeting on the Nov. 16, Kogi and Bayelsa governorship election.

Nwankwo said part of the reason for the meeting was to have conversation on the group’s experience while observing the Kogi governorship and senatorial election as well as the Bayelsa election.

He said this was with the aim of reviewing what happened and being able to take lessons from that.
He explained that it was also important to look at reports from the field because the election threw up lots of lessons that raised the question on what needed to be done.

“Since 2006 the country has been tinkering with its electoral laws, yet we still find that each time there is an election there seems to be some urgency about reviewing the legal framework and Kogi election has again thrown up that urgency.

“Rather than just reviewing and passing again another electoral act amendment, the entire electoral act should be reviewed with the aim of achieving what is called a comprehensive electoral act repel and re-enactment.

“This is in order to have a one stop document for all electoral laws not scattered in one, two, three, four and five documents as we have.
“You will be shocked that some of the judges presiding over election petitions tribunals had to come to us to ask for the copy of the electoral act because we had produced copies of the compendium of electoral laws,’’ he said.

Nwankwo said that the groups would be pushing for a comprehensive review of the electoral act for use.
He added that there was enough time for stakeholders, executive and legislators to push through fresh electoral act reform bill.

“This is much more urgent than the hate speech bill so we will be disappointed if the hate speech bill has its first hearing before the electoral bill,’’ he said.
Nwankwo said that this would go a long way to curb electoral violence among other irregularities and deliver credible electoral process.

INEC National Commissioner, supervising Kogi,Mr Mohammed Haruna,said that too much attention was focused on the commission rather than other players like political parties and candidates.

Haruna said that the commission knew a foretime that Kogi election would be problematic and the violence witnessed was predicated especially after the impeachment of the deputy governor.
He said there was need for an attitudinal change to the electoral law otherwise any form of electoral reform would still not hold sway in terms of deterring people from malpractice.

Political Counsellor, British High Commission, Mr Dominic William,
commended the civil society groups for their work in letting the citizens know what happened on the Election Day.

William said that the level of electoral malpractices in the election was a call to really start holding politicians and government agencies to account.
He added that one challenge the Kogi and Bayelsa election showed was lack of matured political culture in the country.

William said lots of the challenges in Kogi were traced to political parties and that was why the role of CSOs was important to hold political actors accountable with a view to having a change in the political culture.

INEC National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee,Mr. Festus Okoye
said, the whole issue about electoral reforms is that electoral reforms alone will never and can never solve the problem of electoral violence and challenges unless we have an unappealing of the democratic spirit.

“There no provision of the law that gives the commission power to cancel the law give the commission the power to postpone an election and go back if the condition has improved”.

“There are challenges and there are problems with our electoral process and our plea is we must understand some of this challenges and then profer a solution to them”.

“I want to assured you that this particular commission has the courage,has the presence of mind and has the drive to bring in new innovation and new creative ideas inorder to Improve our electoral process but we need the support of Civil Societies organisation and all Nigerians to achieve it”.

“We must find a solution to the issues of smart card reader, the smart card reader has lost its efficacy, the smart card reader has lost its vibrancy in relation to the electoral process, because the political elite have find a way around it,so rather than use a smart card reader, they just ignores it because ultimately they know that when they get to the court, court will say that you want to prove over voting,we want to see voters register,we want to see INEC form,as far as am concerned the smart card reader has become redundant”.

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