By Olugbenga Salami
A Coalition of Civil Society Organisations for Justice and Equity, CCSO-JE, has backed the action of President Muhammadu Buhari to decline assent to the Electoral (Amendment) Bill, 2018, noting that the president acted “in the best interest of the nation at this particular time”.
Addressing a press conference, yesterday in Abuja, the group’s Chief Convener, Comrade Olayemi Success, commended Buhari for rejecting the bill transmitted to him at different times within six months by the National Assembly, urging all stakeholders in the electioneering process show understanding and appreciation to the president’s action.
Olayemi said: “Nigerians are not ready to entertain any postponement of the 2019 general elections in the name of eleventh hour amendment of our electoral laws. As advocates of democracy, we take side with the action of Mr. President to decline assent to the Electoral (Amendment) Bill, 2018.
“As a matter of fact, the 2015 general elections were adjudged globally as the fairest, freest and most credible ever in the history of Nigeria. Those elections were conducted under our existing electoral laws and we see no reason for a sudden change of status quo”.
The Convener, who was flanked by leaders of various societies that made up of the group, noted that with less than 70 days away from the 2019 general elections, “signing the bill at this time will run foul of Article 2 of the 2001 ECOWAS Supplementary Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance”.
Olayemi quoted that the ECOWAS Article provides that “no substantial modification shall be made to the electoral laws in six (6) months before the election, except with the consent of a majority of political actors”.
He therefore said that Nigeria should not be seen as the first country to breach the ECOWAS Protocol, especially on sensitive issues like electoral laws since President Buhari has just been elected as the chairman of the regional body.
The group leader also affirmed that for the judiciary to appropriately interpret laws, the legislative draftsmen must be seen to have painstakingly done a thorough work without giving room for ambiguity.
According to him, outcome of most elections in Nigeria have been subject of fierce legal battles and therefore stated that the draftsmen of the bill should have exercised diligence to ensure same is certain, clear and unambiguous with a view to forestalling avoidable litigations and wastage of tax payers money.
He also stated that the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC has made substantial preparations towards the conduct of next year’s elections, adding that amending the electoral laws would “cause another round of planning, budgeting and starting afresh the whole electoral process which we all know will not yield the best results”.
“We must collectively resist the situation that played out during the consideration of the 2019 election budget that took several months before its passage by the National Assembly”, he stressed.