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07 May
0

Yiaga Africa Supports Public Hearing as Stakeholders Review Public Health Emergency Bill

Having held a roundtable to review the excesses of the Company and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) 2020, Yiaga Africa with the support of the Luminate group has sustained its effort to review other controversial laws. This is generally aimed at reversing the nation’s shrinking civic space.

As part of its intervention to prevent the Nigerian legislature and the state from enacting laws that are injurious to human rights and the practice of democracy in the country, Yiaga Africa Centre for Legislative Engagement with the support of the Luminate Group supported the public hearing to repeal the quarantine act 2004 and enact the Public Health Emergency Act 2021. The public hearing provided an opportunity for stakeholders and the general public to make recommendations to enrich the proposed; aimed to establish a comprehensive legal framework to manage health emergencies in Nigeria.

The Bill sponsored by Chairman, Senate Committee on Primary Health and Communicable Diseases, Senator Chukwuka Utazi became imperative due to the challenges that confronted Nigeria in battling the Coronavirus pandemic. According to Senator Utazi, it became apparent to the National Assembly and other concerned stakeholders that the extant Quarantine Act of 2004 which was enacted in 1926 is not only deficient for the purpose of enforcing Quarantine and self-isolation of infected persons during the outbreak of dangerous contagious epidemic.  

He also said the Quarantine act is outdated in many aspects especially since such ailments as cholera, yellow fever smallpox, and typhus that warranted the enactment of the quarantine act do not require the same quarantine measures as today’s complex and deadly epidemics such as Ebola and COVID-19.

Thus, the proposed health emergency bill is an updated comprehensive legal and administrative framework for handling outbreaks of infectious and contagious diseases that portends major threats to public health safety within Nigeria or other emergencies.

Speaking after the public hearing, Dr. Ernest Ereke, Coordinator, Yiaga Africa Center for Legislative Engagement expressed satisfaction with the extent of engagement by stakeholders and the possibility of stronger legislation to battle disease outbreaks in the country. He said Yiaga Africa’s stand on the bill is that it must not derogate from citizens’ rights saying stakeholder engagements with the lawmakers revealed that the quarantine Act is anachronistic and should be re-enacted to effective legislation to react to the outbreaks in the future.

Other stakeholders who made presentations during the public hearing include the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Emmanuel Ehanire, and Director General of Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC) Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu. Both raised concerns around the ambiguity of key responsibility between the task force in the proposed bill and the existing responsibility of the NCDC.  The minister raised concern that some key responsibility as proposed in the bill overlaps that of the NCDC in terms of preventing, monitoring, and controlling the spread of infectious diseases. 

Also, Dr. Ihekweazu also called for the establishment of the Public Health Emergency funds to enable the country to prevent an outbreak of pandemics saying funds will help in conducting research and prepare the nation ahead of any pandemic. He also called for clarification on what constitutes a public health emergency, who declares the emergency, and based on the advice of whom. 

Other presentations from the National Agency for the Control of Aids (NACA), National Agency for the Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) Veterinary Council of Nigeria, Ministry of Agriculture, Nigerian Governors Forum, Civil Society Organisations, raised other concerns which the chairman of the Committee promised to review.

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04 May
0

Policy Brief : Expanding Voter Access to Polling Units in Nigeria: Matters Arising

The planned expansion of voter access to polling units in Nigeria by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) may resolve an age-long crisis of insufficient polling units and poor polling units’ management. Elections in Nigeria are currently conducted in 119,973 polling units across the 774 Local government areas in 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja. These polling units were established in 1996, to serve approximately 50 million voters at the time. Notwithstanding the exponential population growth in the country, twenty-five years later, the same number of polling units now serve approximately 84,004,084 voters. The continued use of the same number of polling units regardless of emerging trends in population growth and population movement dynamics has resulted in limited voter access to polling units, crowded and congested voting facilities, and susceptibility of the voting process to manipulation. While INEC’s plan to commence expanding voter access to polling units is crucial for addressing these challenges, INEC must ensure that the process is fair, transparent, inclusive and acceptable by citizens and key actors. Yiaga Africa seeks to draw the attention of critical stakeholders to the necessity of expanding voter access to polling units while ensuring that the process is data-driven and meets integrity standards.

Although the Electoral Act confers administrative powers on INEC to establish polling units and allocate voters to polling units, previous attempts by INEC were unsuccessful. The legality of the process, human rights considerations, necessity and timeliness, are important considerations informing Yiaga Africa review of the policy. In INEC’s Discussion Paper on the State of Voter Access to Polling Units in Nigeria, the Commission highlighted three approaches for expanding voter access to polling units. The Commission’s discussion paper highlighted justifications for their preferred approach of ‘converting existing voting points and voting point’s settlements to polling units’. While this approach seems to be more accessible and less controversial, the practicality in its implementation raises questions which the commission has not sufficiently addressed. Informed by the findings from Yiaga Africa’s previous election observation initiatives, this analysis seeks to respond to the following issues: the strategy for the relocation of polling units, allocation of voters to polling units, the guiding principles, the communication strategy for citizens engagement, the time-frame for the process, the framework for future expansion of voter access and the prospects of harmonizing voter registration data with the national database of citizens. Within the conversation for expansion of polling units is also the issue of the national census and how the absence of accurate and updated data on the voter population impacts the credibility of the voter’s register and the polling unit’s expansion.

In the light of these matters arising, Yiaga Africa recommends that….

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03 May
0

Weekly Updates on #EndSARS Judicial Panels of Inquiry – No. 18

The Judicial Panels of Inquiry set up across Nigeria to investigate the excesses of the Nigeria Police Force and other security agencies have continued sittings in the FCT and these 11 states in the week under review: Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Ekiti, Enugu, Kaduna, Kogi, Lagos, Ogun, Osun, Oyo and Taraba.

The ongoing Judicial Panels of Inquiry provides an opportunity for the Nigerian government at the federal and state levels to meet major yearnings of Nigerians, which is justice for all victims and survivors of police brutality and implementation of the recommendations of the Judicial Panels. The Judicial Panels of Inquiry are a response to the 5 for 5 demands of the #EndSARS Movement for accountability; end to impunity for police violence in Nigeria and justice for all deceased victims of police brutality and appropriate compensation for their families.

On Monday, March 15, 2021 the Governor of Ekiti State, Kayode Fayemi, presented cheques to victims of human rights violations totalling a sum of N7.4 million. The cheques were paid to petitioners who were awarded compensations by the Ekiti State Judicial Panel of Inquiry into cases of human rights abuses by the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). During the presentation, the Governor apologized to the victims of police brutality for the hurt and negative psychological effects of their experiences.

On Tuesday, March 16, 2021, The Akwa Ibom State Panel ended its public hearing and officially closed the
Panel’s assignment. The Panel is expected to submit its Final Report and recommendations to the state government for implementation.

The Human Rights Special Intervention Group (HRSIG) in Kogi on Tuesday, March 16, 2021 at its inaugural sitting received six petitions and complaints on human right violations by law enforcement agencies in the state. The HRSIG functions as the Judicial Panel of Inquiry set up in the state. The Chairman of HRSIG in Kogi State, Barr. Ibrahim Alhassan, disclosed this at a Public Hearing on #EndSARS Protest, Complaints and Petitions on Human Rights Violations and Brutality By Law Enforcement Agencies. The HRSIG was constituted by the Kogi State Government through the office of the Public Defender and Citizens Rights Commission (PDCRC).

Borno, Jigawa, Kano, Kebbi, Sokoto, Yobe, and Zamfara States have consistently refused to constitute Judicial Panels of Inquiry in total disregard of the directive of the National Economic Council (NEC) to establish Judicial Panels of Inquiry by governors in Nigeria to investigate complaints of police brutality and extra-judicial killings.

Yiaga Africa and EiE Nigeria’s observation of the Panels of Inquiry will continue to provide information to promote transparency and accountability and build citizens’ confidence in the process.

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02 May
0

Weekly Updates on #EndSARS Judicial Panels of Inquiry – No. 17

The Judicial Panels of Inquiry set up across Nigeria to investigate the excesses of the Nigeria Police Force and other security agencies have continued sittings in the FCT and these 11 states in the week under review: Akwa Ibom, Anambra, Bayelsa, Benue, Enugu, Imo, Lagos, Nasarawa, Ogun, Oyo and Plateau.

The ongoing Judicial Panels of Inquiry provide an opportunity for the Nigerian government at the federal and state levels to meet major yearnings of Nigerians, which is justice for all victims and survivors of police brutality and implementation of the recommendations of the Judicial Panels. The Judicial Panels of Inquiry are a response to the 5 for 5 demands of the #EndSARS Movement for accountability; end impunity for police violence in Nigeria and justice for all deceased victims of police brutality and appropriate compensation for their families.

On Wednesday, March 3, 2021, the Ondo State Panel ended its public hearing and officially closed the Panel’s assignment. The Panel is expected to submit its Final Report and recommendations to the state government for implementation.

In the FCT and 18 states, the Judicial Panels of Inquiry have closed submission of petitions, while the Panels in Adamawa, Delta, Edo, Gombe, Niger, Katsina, Kwara, Ondo and Rivers states have concluded sittings/hearings. The Judicial Panels of Inquiry in Niger and Kwara have submitted their recommendations to the government for implementation. The Governor of Kwara State, while receiving the report promised to set up an implementation committee on its recommendations. The reports of the Panels in Adamawa, Delta, Edo, Gombe, Katsina and Rivers states are yet to be submitted to the various state governments for implementation.

On Monday, March 8th, 2021, the Kaduna State Judicial Panel of Inquiry suspended its sitting for 7 days, while the Anambra State Panel resumed sitting on Tuesday, March 9th, 2021 following the suspension of the sittings over unpaid allowances to Panel members. The Chairman of the Panel, Hon. Justice Vero Ngozi Umeh (Rtd.), announced that the Anambra State Government approved 16 (sixteen) additional sittings for the Panel. However, out of 310 cases before the Panel, over 270 are yet to be concluded. The number of approved additional sittings are grossly inadequate compared to the number of petitions yet to be concluded. The Panel is required to thoroughly investigate all the petitions that have been submitted in the interest of fairness and justice.

In Enugu State, the Panel is seeking an extension of the timeframe for the Panel in order to thoroughly investigate all the petitions submitted to the Panel.

Yiaga Africa and EiE Nigeria’s observation of the Panels of Inquiry will continue to provide information to promote transparency and accountability and build citizens’ confidence in the process.

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30 Apr
0

Public Health Emergency Bill 2020

A Bill for an Act to Provide for an effective National Framework for the control of outbreaks of Infectious Diseases endangering Public Health during periods of Public Health emergencies and for Other Related Matters. 

 

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30 Apr
0

Facts Sheet on National Electoral Offences Commission Bill 2021

Over the years, Nigeria has experienced elections that are bedeviled with electoral malpractices, electoral corruption, and more worrisome, electoral violence. As a cardinal feature in a democracy, elections should in all sense be free, fair, credible and transparent. It should guarantee the rights of voters to choose their leaders and ensure that the process is not manipulated at the expense of the will of the people. This has not been the case, with previous elections witnessing increasing cases of electoral offences from the pre-election phase to Election Day and the post-election phase. This necessitated the National Electoral Offences Commission (Establishment) Bill currently in the National Assembly. The Bill provides a framework on what constitute electoral offences and how to effectively prosecute electoral offenders.

Here is what you need to know about the National Electoral Offences Commission (Establishment) Bill 2021. Kindly Read and share your feedback to feedback@yiaga.org

 

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29 Apr
0

Electoral Offences Commission : Yiaga Africa remains committed to electoral Reform

Today is an important day for us as Nigerians as we begin the process of providing a more effective system for combatting the culture of impunity in our electoral process. Over the years, we have experienced elections that are bedeviled with electoral malpractices, electoral corruption and more worrisome, electoral violence. As a cardinal feature in a democracy, elections should in all sense be free, fair, credible and transparent. It should guarantee the rights of voters to choose their leaders and ensure that the process is not manipulated at the expense of the will of the people. This has not been the case, with previous elections witnessing increasing cases of electoral offences from the pre-elections phase to election day and the post-election phase.

While offenders are sometimes apprehended, prosecution of these offenders have been really poor enabling a culture of impunity. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has severally called our attention to the challenge they face in prosecuting electoral offenders. INEC as the election management body has a broad mandate already and have consistently called for the establishment of an independent body to focus on electoral offences. Beyond INEC, the recommendation for the Electoral Offences Commission dates back to the Justice Uwais Committee. It was further re-emphasized in the Lemu Committee, the 2014 National Conference and the Ken Nnamani committee.

We therefore commend the 9th Assembly for moving forward with the process and calling citizens and stakeholders to this public hearing on the National Electoral Offences Commission Bill. It is our hope that this process galvanizes citizens proposals and evolves with an Establishment Act. This is an important Bill in the electoral reform agenda, and we look forward to its success as we work to build citizens confidence in Nigeria’s electoral process.

On behalf of Yiaga Africa and our Partner, the European Union, I congratulate the National Assembly Senate Committee on Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for listening to the people and convening this Public hearing. Yiaga Africa remains committed to supporting the electoral reform agenda to achieve a citizens-responsive legal framework for elections. Finally, I congratulate Nigerians, for once again believing in the future of our dear country. The future of our democracy is dependent on the collective effort of all Nigerians.

God bless Nigeria.

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29 Apr
0

Memo on the National Electoral Offences Commission Establishment Bill 2021

Memo Submitted to the Senate Committee on the Independent National Electoral Commission and other Related Matters for the Establishment of the National Electoral Offences Commission (NEOC) 2021

Since the return to democratic governance in Nigeria in 1999, there is hardly any election that has not been characterised by electoral offences in their various forms. Successive elections at the national, states and local government levels have been marred by irregularities with political players resorting to violence in order to outsmart each other for victory. No doubt, electoral offences remain a major threat to credible, free and fair elections in Nigeria, where elections tend to heighten political tension and trigger violence. Elections in Nigeria from 1999-date have been characterised by electoral offences such as the inclusion of fictitious names in the register of voters, illegal compilation of voters’ lists, illegal printing of voters’ cards, illegal possession of ballot boxes, multiple voting, underage voting, ballot box snatching, etc.[1] No doubt, electoral offences breed poor quality, corrupt and violent political leadership. Where electoral offences thrive, election riggers take control of governments contrary to the will of the electorate, and this progressively leads to political apathy that ultimately disengages the electorate from the political process.

The current justice system for electoral offences is weak in view of the fact that INEC, which is saddled with the responsibility of overseeing the electoral process, is the same body to prosecute electoral offenders. However, the power of INEC to prosecute electoral offenders is activated by a recommendation by a tribunal handling an election petition. Specifically, section 149 of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended) provides that “The Commission shall consider any recommendation made to it by a tribunal with respect to the prosecution by it of any person for an offence disclosed in any election petition.” Furthermore, section 150(2) of the Act provides that “A prosecution under this Act shall be undertaken by legal Officers of the Commission or any Legal Practitioner appointed by it.” This makes it obvious that INEC that has less than 100 Legal Officers does not possess the capacity to cope with the prosecution of electoral offences committed at various levels of elections conducted across the 119, 973 polling units, 8, 809 wards, 774 local governments, 109 senatorial districts, and 360 federal constituencies, in addition to the various governorship and House of Assembly elections.  The challenges facing INEC in the electoral process do not permit it to face another battle of prosecution of electoral offenders. This accounts for just a few convictions for electoral offences in the realm of criminal litigation in Nigeria.

The above underscores the necessity of an active justice system for the prosecution of electoral offenders, which remains critical in ensuring a decrease in the level of electoral impunity and a reversal in the persistent trend of electoral offences. The above background necessitates the establishment of a Commission to be charged with the responsibility of investigating electoral offences and prosecution of electoral offenders in Nigeria. This is to strengthen Nigeria’s electoral process and ensure credible elections.

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27 Apr
0

Reforming the Electoral Legal Framework for Credible Elections is a Top Priority: NASS Must Pass the Electoral Act Amendment Bill Now

In December 2020, the National Assembly held a Public hearing on the Electoral Act Amendment Bill which provided an opportunity for citizens and stakeholders to participate and make their input to the electoral reform process. The urgent need for reforming the Electoral Legal Framework is founded on the broad-based consensus by Nigerian citizens’ and electoral stakeholders on the need for a more credible and improved electoral process. A process that will encourage active citizens’ participation and guarantee their rights in electing leaders and representatives that will provide good governance by addressing gaps in the current electoral legal framework. The Senate President at the time promised Nigerians a new Electoral Act by March 2021. That timeline has come and gone!!!

Elections remain the fulcrum and constant cardinal feature in a democracy. It is important to protect all conditions and instruments required to conduct free, fair and credible elections to ensure that “the sovereign will of the people” prevail always. The seeming lack of progress in the National Assembly on the Electoral Act Amendment bill is therefore worrisome. Nigerians demand that their elected representatives respond to the urgent need for an electoral legal framework that genuinely strengthens the electoral processes and procedures, promotes inclusivity and addresses impunity. The continued delay in concluding the process is reminiscent of the failed process in 2018 and attendant impact on the 2019 General Election.

The Ninth National Assembly, under the leadership of the Senate President, Ahmed Lawal and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, promised Nigerians a people-responsive Electoral Act by the first quarter of 2021. We are now in the second quarter of 2021 and the Electoral Act Amendment Bill is yet to be presented for third and final reading in both chambers of the National Assembly. This process is required before the Bill can be transmitted to the President for his assent.

In considering the Bill, NASS must undertake an in-depth consideration of the citizens’ priority issues to address identified gaps in the current electoral legal framework.  These priority issues include:

  1. Strengthening the financial and operational independence of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC);
  2. Publication of Polling Unit level results by INEC to promote transparency in the result collation and transmission process;
  3. Protecting the voting rights of the blind and visually impaired voters;
  4. Reducing the cost of nomination of candidates to promote a level playing field for all contestants;
  5. Promoting the inclusion of women, youth, and persons with disability in politics;
  6. Legitimising the use of technology in the electoral process with particular emphasis on the biometric voter register, biometric accreditation of voters; electronic voting, electronic collation and transmission of results;
  7. Ending impunity for electoral offences by the establishment of the Electoral Offences Commission and Tribunal;
  8. Improving election security and promote professionalisation and non-partisanship in the conduct and behaviour of security personnel on election duty;
  9. Introduction of early/special voting for Nigerians on essential election duty;
  10. Eliminating the impact of judicial actions on citizens will and choices in elections.

These demands are germane aspirations of Nigerians. The Ninth Assembly has an obligation to work expeditiously on passing the Electoral Act Amendment Bill 2021 and pass same to the President for assent. This is an urgent national priority. Together with Nigerians, we firmly believe that if the current electoral legal framework is not reviewed and reformed, it will have a negative impact and consequences for democratic consolidation.

The NASS must recognise that passing the Electoral Bill in good time will engender expeditious action by the executive. The speedy enactment of the Bill will give the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the legal clarity to adequately plan and efficiently conduct future elections, particularly the Anambra governorship election scheduled for 6 November 2021. Consequently, we join our voices with millions of Nigerians to call on the National Assembly to speed up the process for the passage of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill. In the same vein, we call on the President to speedily assent to the bill and deliver a brand-new Electoral Act 2021 to Nigerians ahead of the 2021 democracy day celebration on 12 June 2021.

We commend the contributions and resilience of Nigerians, the Civil Society, political actors, development partners and other relevant stakeholders in their relentless pursuit for an Electoral Act that engenders participation, inclusiveness, transparency and credibility of the electoral process. We also commend the efforts of the Senate and House of Representatives’ Joint-Committee on INEC and Electoral Matters in ensuring that Nigeria gets a new and improved electoral legal framework.

We remain hopeful that these collective commitments and partnership further translates to the passage and enactment of a new Electoral Act that works for all Nigerians. We remain resolute in our demand to the leadership of the Ninth Assembly to ensure it writes its name in gold by delivering to Nigerians a new Electoral Act that prioritises citizens demands.

 

God bless the citizens of Nigeria.

God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

 

Thank you.

 

Signed:

Centre for Citizens with Disability (CCD)

Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD)

CLEEN Foundation

Inclusive Friends Association (IFA)

Institute for Media and Society (IMS)

International Press Centre (IPC)

Kimpact Development Initiative (KDI)

National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS)

Nigeria Women’s Trust Fund (NWTF)

Peering Advocacy and Advancement Centre in Africa (PAACA)

Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC)

Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ)

The Albino Foundation (TAF)

Yiaga Africa

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22 Apr
0

#EndSARS and Demand for Justice : Policy Brief on Judicial Panel of Inquiry

Executive Summary

In October 2020, Nigerian youth staged a series of nationwide protests. Leveraging social media platforms, young Nigerians demanded an end to the country’s unbearable spate of police brutality. The hashtag #EndSARS was not just a social media trend as it inspired street protests of youths across the country. The approach deployed and the management of the protest was unprecedented. The aftermath was both fertile and fatal. In implementing one of the protests demands, the government set up Judicial Panels of Inquiry (“Judicial Panels”) to investigate allegations of human rights violations by police officers/security agencies and recommend compensations and necessary actions.

While the Federal Government of Nigeria has, on many occasions, made promises and announced efforts at police reform, evidence continues to surface that contradicts these claims – such as the repeated disbandment of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). This casts doubts as to whether the said actions are taken at all; if they are, the effectiveness of the actions taken in ensuring police reform in Nigeria. It was yet another story of police brutality – the alleged shooting of a boy in Delta State Nigeria – that irked Nigerian youth and sparked what soon became a global outcry, as Nigerian youth bravely and relentlessly marched on the streets of Nigeria, with those in the diaspora not left behind. The youth put forward a 5-pronged list of demands, calling for the SARS’ disbandment and an end to police brutality. One of the #5for5 demands is a call for establishing independent Judicial Panels in all states of Nigeria to investigate police brutality cases and recommend appropriate compensation for victims. Therefore, this Policy Brief focuses on the Judicial Panels, with key findings on the general and specific issues affecting their effectiveness. It also provides recommended actions to be taken by different actors to ensure the Judicial Panels satisfactorily deliver on their mandate. 

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