As Nigerians anticipate the enactment of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and Other Electoral Matters Act (2021), it is imperative that the content of the electoral law reflects the wishes of the people while guaranteeing the sanctity of the ballot. This informed the submission of memoranda by various Civil Society Organisations to serve as recommendations for electoral amendment. These recommendations are mainly feedback from citizen engagements via various communication platforms as part of efforts to ensure the drive for electoral reform is citizen-driven.
For instance, Twitter polls, citizens’ town hall on electoral reform and video campaigns revealed citizens’ priority on electoral amendment. This has informed the ongoing advocacy by Yiaga Africa to the National Assembly, especially to the members of the INEC and Electoral Matters Committee in a bid to ensure that electoral laws serve the common good of Nigerians.
Having delivered letters to all 469 members of the National Assembly to make a clarion call in support of citizens’ top 10 priorities on electoral amendment, Yiaga Africa has kicked off advocacy visits to key members to chart pathways of achieving an electoral act that befits Nigerians. In the course of the advocacy, Yiaga Africa’s Elections and Center for Legislative Engagement teams met with former Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu and the Chair, Women in Parliament Committee, Honorable Taiwo Oluga. The team also met with members of the Electoral Amendment Committee, Honorable Bob Solomon and Honorable Kpam Jimin Sokpo.
During the meetings led by Yiaga Africa’s Director of Programs Cynthia Mbamalu, issues around election technology, reduction in cost of nomination forms and political inclusion of women, youth and People with Disabilities were at the forefront of conversations. While commending the commitment and zeal of Yiaga Africa on electoral reform, Senator Ekweremadu said a good number of citizens’ priorities will be reflected in the electoral amendment. Speaking about electronic voting, he said that Nigerians need to be familiarized with this technology so that it becomes the norm. He also recommended proportional representation of youth and women into political office, saying this will go a long way in solving the issue of exorbitant cost of nominations and cost of campaigns.
Electronic voting and transmission of election results is a critical aspect of the ongoing electoral amendment and Honorable Bob Solomon has reiterated the National Assembly’s commitment to remove every impediment to deployment of technology for elections. According to him, conduct of elections will be in line with guidelines of INEC and this will provide for any system of voting the commission deems fit.
He said electronic transmission of results will limit the chaos that could mar physical transportation of election results from polling units to ward level, thereby limiting the role of security in the process. He further urged Yiaga Africa to sensitize citizens on the role of presiding officers in deployment of electronic voting and transmission.
The recommendations for electoral amendment are still undergoing reviews as revealed by Honorable Kpam Jimin Sokpo. He also declared his readiness to work with CSOs like Yiaga Africa to push for important citizens’ priorities for the electoral amendment process, saying a reform will help solve some of the ills of governance.
In her remark, Cynthia Mbamalu said that these outlined priority areas are consistent with the tenets of good governance and democratic consolidation and provide Nigerian citizens, especially young people, women and people living with disabilities, with the needed confidence in trusting our electoral outcome. According to her, adopting these priorities will elevate Nigeria’s standing globally amongst other nations using the instrumentality of the law to build their electoral democracy and achieve stability and peace.
“We, therefore, urge the 9th National Assembly to become a reference point for genuine change, through your support of these citizen’s priorities, by ensuring its reflectiveness in the proposed Electoral Amendment Bill”, she said.