Electoral Act amendment: CSOs threaten to occupy NASS

A coalition of Civil Society Organisations has threatened to occupy the National Assembly after Ramadan fasting, if the lawmakers fail to pass the Bill for an amendment of the Electoral Act.

A coalition of Civil Society Organisations has threatened to occupy the National Assembly after Ramadan fasting, if the lawmakers fail to pass the Bill for an amendment of the Electoral Act.

The CSOs which include Center For Liberty, Concerned Nigeria, The Electoral Hub, and Raising New Voices Initiative, issued the threat at a joint news conference on Thursday in Abuja.

The Co-convener, Centre for Liberty, Mr Dare Ariyo-Atoye, who read the joint speech of the CSOs, said they were worried that the 9th National Assembly was yet to pass the bill.

According to him the passage of the bill could have given them lasting legacies and written their names in gold.

Ariyo-Atoye said that in the last 15 months, CSOs had consistently engaged lawmakers and appealed to the NASS to make the passage of a new Act a major priority.

He said that the bill for an Act to Repeal the Electoral Act No. 5, 2010 (As Amended) and enact the Independent National Electoral Commission Act 2021, remained the most important document before the 9th National Assembly.

He, however, said that the leadership of NASS and the joint committee of the National Assembly on Electoral Matters, had failed the solemn pledge made to Nigerians on Dec. 9, 2020, at the public hearing conducted on the electoral bill.

“As at today, the National Assembly has failed to meet two dates and deadlines (December 20, 2020 and March 11, 2021) set for the passage of the electoral bill.”

Ariyo-Atoye said that at this juncture, Nigerians must get ready to peacefully occupy the NASS and prevail on the lawmakers to immediately pass a reformed electoral act.

The act according to him, would bring integrity to Nigeria elections, embrace technology, enhance transparency and accountability.

“The time has come for young members of the political parties in Nigeria, women, activists, journalists and other concerned Nigerians to join us in #Occupying the National Assembly (#OccupyNASS) to demand for the passage of a reformed electoral act.

“Except the bill is tabled and passed, we shall be left with no option than to occupy NASS after the Ramadan.

“We deserve free, fair and credible elections; we deserve good leaders that credible polls will throw up; we deserve good governance that good leaders will bring; Nigeria deserves the best,” Ariyo-Atoye said.

He said that the CSOs had also written letters to some Nigeria’s foreign partners on democratic governance to alert them on the actions of the National Assembly on the delay by NASS to pass a new Electoral Act.

“We have equally informed them to review their partnership with the National Assembly and predicate future support on the passage of the Electoral Act.”

Ariyo-Atoye said that as a nation and people, Nigerians had chosen the path of democracy; hence it was also inevitable that laws must be put in place to correct mistakes and strengthen institutions that would guarantee credible polls.

The speech was jointly signed by Ariyo-Dare, Deji Adeyanju of Concerned Nigeria Princess Hamman-Obels of The Electoral Hub and Jude Feranmi – Raising New Voices Initiative.

Feranmi, in her contributions said that the CSOs would not fold their arms and lament the delay by the National Assembly.

“Collectively we are holding the NASS accountable and asking them to make good on their promise to pass the Electoral Bill into Law.

“The Bill must be passed into law ‘now’. This is to give the Electoral Commission (INEC) sufficient time to implant, internalize and implement the bill,” Feranmi said.

She added that early passage of the bill was key for INEC to prepare for 2023 general elections as well as avoid electoral violence as witnessed in Kenya during their 2017 elections.

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A press statement by the Embassy on Friday, said: “During the visit, Townsend met with the Nigerian President’s Chief of Staff, Ibrahim Gambari, and National Security Adviser, Babagan Monguno, to discuss regional security issues and to express the command’s gratitude for the assistance provided during a hostage rescue operation last year.

“When we asked for their help, the Nigerian government answered the call. Our hostage recovery mission in October would have been impossible without their support.

“They quickly provided assistance that helped the U.S. military to save an American life. That is a strong example of our partnership with Nigeria.”

Townsend also met with senior military officials, including the Minister of Defence, Bashir Salihi Magash, and the Chief of Defence Staff, General Leo Irabor, to talk about on-going cooperation in the region and greater maritime security and threat mitigation.

Nigeria is a key partner in countering violent extremist organizations throughout the Lake Chad Basin.

Townsend said furthermore: “The bilateral relationship between Nigeria and the U.S. is built on several pillars including security cooperation.

“U.S. Africa Command will do our part to advance the security cooperation pillar, so that Nigerians can enjoy the more secure future they all deserve.”

As close partners, the U.S. and Nigeria have worked at ensuring the collaborative relationship continues to grow to include a commitment to interoperability. Nigeria purchased 12 A-29 Super Tucano light attack aircraft, which will be delivered later this year.

“Nigeria’s purchase of A-29 Super Tucano aircraft is another example of their commitment to interoperability and security in the region,” he added. “Our economic relationship with Nigeria is already strong, and we look forward to the continued strengthening of security relationships. Nigeria’s leaders understand the importance of a collaborative approach to ensuring stability in West Africa and partnering on areas of mutual interest.”

The Commander also met with the U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Beth Leonard.

Leonard said: “General Townsend’s visit to Nigeria demonstrates the strategic importance the United States places on our bilateral relationship with Nigeria.

“Our security cooperation partnership with Nigeria’s military will strengthen the country’s capabilities to secure land and sea borders, enhance overall security, and combat terrorism in the North East.”

As part of the visit, Townsend participated in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Nigeria Military National Cemetery to honour those who have given their lives in the service of their nation.

During the visit, the delegation expressed their condolences for the seven service men killed in the crash of a Nigerian Air Force aircraft in Abuja.