Jega, Olamide take stand on new Electoral Act
Story from Aisha AUYO, Abuja
The former INEC chief, Professor Attahiru Jega, while speaking at a town hall meeting organised by Yiaga Africa on Sunday, said it is necessary that the country goes into the 2023 polls with a new electoral law.
Jega advised President Muhammadu Buhari to assent to the electoral act amendment bill before the conduct of the forthcoming general elections and also advised the National Assembly to remove the compulsory direct primary provision for political parties from the bill.
He stated that the electoral bill contains quite a lot of good interventions and the issue of direct or indirect primaries should not be made to deter the electoral process.
Jega, however, lamented that direct primaries may also be problematic because of the loopholes within the system.
According to him, with the way the provisions of the bill stands, the National Assembly should do the needful rather than contemplating overriding the President by removing the contentious provisions.
He said, “The Electoral Act bill contains quite a lot of good things that can enhance electoral integrity. Since 2010, the country has not had any substantive improvement on electoral laws and in the 2021 Electoral bill, there are a lot of substantive things.
“What is key is to give INEC the law to improve ahead of the 2023 General Elections and also off-cycle elections before the 2023 polls. The challenge is what the National Assembly introduced in the Electoral Bill, which is without serious contemplation.
“It is very important that we have a lot of legal frameworks. I think, clearly, the electoral process would have better integrity if we do direct primaries appropriately.”
Jega stated that INEC made 31 recommendations to the amendment of the 2010 Electoral Act to conduct credible elections, adding that only 25 were approved by the National Assembly.
Speaking at the event, the President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Olumide Apata, said, “I am so disappointed with the way things have turned up. Everything about the Electoral bill spelt progress but we can’t get it right if steps are not taken.
The bill should have been passed long ago. The President and the National Assembly, being of the same party, should have ironed this out to avoid this logjam.”
The NBA leader noted that the booby trap set might catch up with the nation and send the country back to square zero.
He, therefore, urged the National Assembly to take out the provision of direct primaries and transmit immediately to the President for assent, who should be given the benefit of doubt.