The Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD-West Africa) has renewed its call on the National Assembly to yield to the yearnings of Nigerians and deliver an electoral law that will secure and deliver an electoral ecosystem that respects the choices of Nigerians.
The Director of CDD, Idayat Hassan in a press statement issued in Abuja.
In a position paper titled “ Still work to do on Nigeria’s Electoral Bill 2021”while acknowledging positive changes reflected in the Bill, adding that CDD-West Africa has highlighted some amendments proposed that are capable of reversing gains recorded in the past decades.
She explained that of a particular concern is the prohibition on the transmission of votes electronically.
She said the Electronic transmission of votes is a core component of the recommendations for full digitization of the electoral process that we made ahead of this amendment.
“As a long-standing election monitor, CDD-West Africa has documented the chaos associated with manual elections collating, which are “often messy, incoherent and susceptible to manipulations by individuals and political parties.
“Again, the proposed Bill gives Returning Officers (RO) powers to correct unit results. While CDD acknowledges that there are occasions where unit results genuinely need to be changed, there is a need to include provisos that will prevent abuse of these powers.
“ A 2019 survey by CDD-West Africa that sampled respondents from all geopolitical zones in the country and the Federal Capital Territory, 41% of respondents concluded that INEC staff often favored candidates of the ruling party.
“The position paper also highlights the drastic increase in the campaign spending limits in the new Bill. While acknowledging that elections are expensive to run and that the naira’s declining value has made previous campaign funding limits unfeasible.
“The proposed limits in the Bill are disproportionate with inflation levels and, if sustained, are capable of favouring big spenders, particularly incumbents while preventing vulnerable constituencies like women and youths from contesting for public office.
While commending the full financial autonomy that the bill proposes for INEC, she explained that the position paper points out that without clearly making provisions for a three-year rolling plan and twice yearly disbursement of budgeted funds to INEC as recommended by ECOWAS Network of Electoral Commissions, the electoral body would still struggle to meet the logistical requirements of delivering credible elections.
“This concern is not conjecture – the last three general elections were postponed as a result of the ad hoc nature of election funding in the country.
“A final matter of concern is that the Bill denies INEC powers to review already declared results in situations where there is evidence that an RO declared results and returned the wrong candidate as winner under duress.
“This was a key recommendation by election observers after an RO stated that he declared a winner under duress in the 2019 elections following threats to his life.
“CDD-West Africa believes that ignoring this provision puts the lives of ROs at risk, as there is a likelihood that politicians will further explore this method of rigging.
She recommended a full use of digital technology across the electoral spectrum to enhance the efficiency of elections and credibility of outcomes
She also recommended increase in the limit on campaign spending should be proportionate to the percentage of inflation and sensitive to wealth distribution to keep our democracy representative of vulnerable constituencies like women and youths.
She also called that INEC should have powers to review already declared election results, where there is clear evidence that the RO was forced to declare a false election result.