The Southern and Middle Belt Alliance (SaMBA) has mounted pressure on President Muhammadu Buhari to quickly sign the 2021 Electoral Act Amendment Bill into law to douse the apprehension of Nigerians.
The group in a letter submitted to President Buhari dated December 6, and signed by its General Secretary, Marcel Ngogbehei, said the proposed amendment has addressed the issue raised in the amendment of the Electoral Bill passed by the eight National Assembly.
The Alliance reminded the President of his pledge in January 2019, while inaugurating the APC presidential campaign council in Abuja, to leave a legacy of credible elections in Nigeria and stated, “that this is the foundation of political stability and peace in any nation.”
SaMBA urged all relevant stakeholders, particularly the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to continue to constructively engage the Nigerian people so that the lessons learned from the recent use of technology during the Anambra and Edo state elections are not lost and ensure that every Nigerian who has registered for the coming 2023 elections is able to retrieve his or her voter’s card seamlessly to avoid the incessant case of disenfranchisement of eligible voters.
The letter titled “Re: Take Advantage of The Electoral Act Amendment Bill to strengthen our Democracy”, reads: “We the members of the Southern and Middle Belt Alliance (SaMBA) urge you to sign the 2021 Electoral Act Amendment Bill into law.
“We recall that on November 9, 2021, the House of Representatives and the Senate chambers passed into law amendments to the Electoral Act.
“The most topical items of amendment included the adoption of direct primaries for internal political parties’ contestants and the use of technology in the conduct of general elections in Nigeria.
“The need was also identified for the expansion of the powers of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to develop guidelines as it deemed fit towards the deployment of technology during elections in Nigeria.
“The President will recall that majority of Nigerians had described the 2021 amendments of the Electoral Act as one of the most progressive enactments that Nigeria has had in a long time. This is also the view of the SaMBA, whose press statement dated 23rd September 2021, strongly urged the Senate to “redeem their battered image by adopting the House of Representatives’ version of Section 53(2) of the Bill” and not subject the powers of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to the approval of the National Communication Commission.
“Nigerians are apprehensive at the delay in signing the Bill into law, seeing that the President had on three previous occasions declined assent to this Bill, for varied reasons – In March 2018, you believed that the proposed law could usurp the constitutional powers of INEC to decide on election matters; On another occasion you were concerned that the new electoral act would “create uncertainty and confusion” as Nigerians approached the 2019 elections.
“Fortunately, the proposed 2021 Amended Electoral Act, has addressed your fears, there should be no reason to delay your assent. This is more so as we recall that In January 2019, while inaugurating the APC presidential campaign council in Abuja, Mr. President, you expressed your desire to leave a legacy of credible elections in Nigeria. You stated that this is the foundation of political stability and peace in any nation.
“SaMBA however, cautions that the passage of the 2021 amendment to the Electoral Act is only a journey and not the destination. We urge all stakeholders, especially INEC to continue to constructively engage the Nigerian people to ensure that the lessons gleaned from recent and remote deployment of technology during the Anambra and Edo state elections are not lost
“We also call for confidence building measures by INEC, particularly through voter education and sensitisation, transparency and security of the software and hardware components of technology to be deployed for elections, involving all stakeholders to scrutinise and review the software and hardware components prior to procurement, deployment, and operations, and returning internal party democracy to the people through direct primaries, so that democracy in Nigeria will live up to its fullest and truest meaning.”