The United Kingdom has urged Nigeria to ensure quick passage and enactment of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill currently pending before the National Assembly.
UK’s Minister for Africa, James Duddridge gave the advice in an interview with newsmen in Abuja.
Mr Duddridge said that passing the amendment bill would build more confidence in the country’s electoral process.
According to him, confidence in election results plays a very important role in democratic governance.
“It is very important. I will meet the senate and I will be asking when the Electoral Act Amendment Bill is going to be passed.
“You know, democracy is not a static thing. It has to evolve; you have to make elections increasingly secure.
“So, I think it is really important to make an Act that will give the Nigerian people and the international community greater confidence that the elections are free, fair, and a reflection of what the people voted.
“If you have not got that in actuality or perception, democracy starts to crumble and we see where that leads.
“Democracy is the main pillar alongside a capitalist free market that drives social progress and allows us to function,” he said.
According to him, one of the components that build confidence in the electoral process is the electronic transmission of results such that the final results declared correspond with each of the local results.
He said that though the UK was interested in seeing Nigeria’s democracy become stronger, it could only play an advisory role and not dictate to Nigeria what it should do.
“We can offer practical advice on election processes working with Non-Governmental Organisations and youth groups to make sure that young people are not only more likely to be registered for elections but also that their voices are heard.
“In the UK parliament, we have got members of parliament in their 20s and it is the richer for it.
“We wouldn’t want a parliament full of 20-year-olds. Equally, we do not want a parliament full of 70 and 80-year-olds.
“We need a balance to reflect society and everyone brings different experiences,” he said.
Similarly, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Wednesday expressed disappointment over the delay in the passage of the Electoral Act amendment bill, saying barely a year and nine months to the 2023 general election, the National Assembly is yet to pass the Bill.
The INEC Chairman, Prof Mahmoud Yakubu, expressed the displeasure during a public hearing on the Electoral Offences Commission Bill in Abuja.
Yakubu said the 2023 general election will hold on Saturday, 18 February 2023, and the commission is anxious to know the legal framework to govern the conduct of the polls.
He said the timetable for the election would be released immediately after the Anambra governorship election scheduled to hold on November 6, 2021.
He said:” In order to do so, there should be clarity and certainty about the electoral legal framework to govern the 2023 general election. The public hearing on the Bill was being done 13 years after the recommendation of the Uwais Committee in 2008. And beyond that there had also been so many reports basically calling for action on electoral offenders.
” INEC is saddled with a lot of responsibilities ranging from the registration and regulation of political parties to conduct elections to registration of voters, delineation of constituencies, conduct of elections, by-elections, referendum recall and the elections appear unending.
“So, it is important as we consider this bill to take into consideration those enormous responsibilities that the commission discharges. We look forward to the day when highly placed sponsors of thuggery including chieftains of political parties and candidates will be prosecuted.”
The INEC boss noted that since the 2015 general election, 124 cases have been filed in court and are being prosecuted.
According to him, the commission has achieved 60 convictions out of the 124 cases, adding that INEC will like to see more prosecution of election offenders and their sponsors.
Earlier in his keynote address, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on INEC, Senator Kabiru Gaya, explained that the bill provides for the commission to investigate and prosecute electoral offenders on the powers of the Attorney General, adopt measures to prevent, minimize and eradicate electoral offences.
He said:” There have been a lot of controversies in the news lately that some of the recommendations submitted to the joint Committee of the National Assembly on INEC and Electoral Matters have not been considered. Let me clarify here that every memorandum on the Electoral Bill 2021 has gone through a joint technical committee and the representative to draw a conclusion to the process and seek the president’s assent within this quarter.
” The Senate Committee on INEC and the leadership of the National Assembly sincerely appreciate your continued positive participation in improving our laws and your support in lending your hands to building democratic institutions required for the sustenance of our developing democracy.”