Electoral reform has remained at a front-burner of political discussions as stakeholders across the country continue to intensify efforts to stimulate the passage of a reviewed electoral law before the end of 2020. Thus, as part of its consistent endeavour to mobilize stakeholders towards ensuring quick passage of the electoral act, the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) partnered with Yiaga Africa to build a consensus on electoral reforms in Nigeria. This is part of the ongoing nationwide #FixElectionsNG Campaign aimed at inspiring citizens’ participation in the electoral process.
As a very important stakeholder, the NLC has also thrown its weight on the call for passage of an electoral law that will enable the use of technology, improve the management of the process and ensure political inclusion. During the roundtable held on Wednesday 19 August 2020 in Abuja, President of the NLC Comrade, Ayuba Wabba reiterated the need for critical reforms and the quick passage of an improved electoral law for Nigeria.
According to Wabba, “We have seen that there still a lot of rooms for improvement, in our electoral process, be it on the aspect of the law, be it on the aspect of how to choose candidates, be it on the aspect of inclusion particularly gender and youth, those are areas that we need critical reforms.”
He said “Having participated in the process of election from 1999 to date, we have seen that there are still a lot of rooms for improvement in our electoral process, be it on the aspect of the law, be it on the aspect of how to choose candidate, be it in the aspect of inclusion, particularly gender and youths.”
“Those are areas that we need critical reforms and therefore we don’t want reforms that will come at the eve of the election. We want these reforms to come a bit earlier before the election so that people get used to those reforms or amendments to the acts and I think this is the right time to try to canvass for that.”
“And we have gotten the commitment of the National Assembly to say that they are willing and ready to make sure that reforms processes are driven much earlier. They gave a commitment to the effect that by December, all set and done we should be discussing the new electoral act.”
Similarly, Executive Director of Yiaga Africa, Samson Itodo urged the Federal Government to strengthen the financial capacity of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) by providing legal timelines for the release of funds to the commission. The financial timelines among other critical issues were some of the reforms needed to ensure the holding of credible elections in the country, according to Itodo.
He said “If you look at our 2019 election report, we have it on good record that a large chunk of funding for the 2019 election was not provided to INEC until about a few weeks to the election. And it was clear that the government intentionally delayed funding for INEC to perform and deliver on the 2019 elections. That is very problematic for the integrity of our electoral process.
“And so it’s important to have legal stipulations on clear timelines of when funds should be released to INEC for the conduct of elections and this needs to be addressed immediately.”
He also decried the security challenges of elections saying, “the 2015 amendment to the act confers some powers to the INEC to request and inform deployment for election security the operation, but that is not the case, what we still see is that our security agencies undermine the process in some cases and not give INEC the required cooperation that they need.”
“As we go for the Edo and Ondo elections, it is very important that our security agencies ensure they uphold the principles of professionalism, patriotism, transparency, and accountability in the management of the election security operation,” Samson said in tasking the security agencies.
While reiterating the importance of sticking to the December 2020 timeline, he said the National Assembly needs to accelerate the process to avoid what happened in the 8th assembly. “We don’t want to see postponement in our elections anymore; we don’t want to see these challenges and uncertainties towards electoral laws. If the National Assembly is truly committed, it should be able to pass the Amendment Bill by December 2020” he said.
“The National Assembly and the executives have an opportunity to write their names in gold and live a lasting legacy, as the president has said, so as to fast track this process and ensure that the electoral amendment process is concluded by December so that INEC and political parties can prepare ahead of elections,” he added.