Electoral Act Amendment won’t guarantee free polls – INEC

The Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu on Sunday, said amending the Electoral Act without a commitment from stakeholders to do things differently, cannot guarantee free and fair elections.

Yakubu said this in an address delivered on his behalf by the INEC National Commissioner in charge of Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye at a three-day retreat of the Joint Technical Committee on the Electoral Act Amendment Bill 2020 which ended in Abuja on Sunday.

The INEC boss expressed gratitude to the Senate Committee on INEC and the House of Representatives Committee on Electoral Matters; for working together to produce a new legal framework for the conduct of elections.

He, however said, “It must be borne in mind that amending the electoral legal framework will not automatically guarantee or lead to improvement in the management and conduct of elections.

“The Constitution and the Electoral Act can only be effective through the action and inaction of the critical stakeholders in the electoral process.

“The Constitution and Electoral Act can enhance the electoral process if the electoral management body, political parties and the electoral actors, the security agencies, the media and civil society organisations, effectively play their roles.

“Nigeria’s democracy and electoral processes will become more robust if critical stakeholders in the process resolve to restore sovereignty to the people as the true determinant of the outcome.

“This renewed drive is timely and must be sustained and approached with a sense of history and urgency.

“The reform must be impactful and should be concluded by the first quarter of 2021.’’

The Attorney General of the Federation, and the Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), in his address, pledged to work with the technical committee to ensure unhindered presidential assent to the bill.

Malami who was represented by the Special Assistant to the President on Justice Reform and International Relations Office, Mrs. Juliet Ibekaku-Nwagwu said, “I will continue to work more closely with the National Assembly to ensure that the bill is eventually passed as scheduled.”

The Chairman, Senate Committee on INEC, Kabiru Gaya, announced that, “We have received 24 written memorandum and verbal presentations from different interest groups. There is no doubt that we have more than enough valuable inputs from Nigerians for consideration.”

Also at the event, Head of Governance and Stability at the United Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth Development Office, Sam Waldock, has said, the United Kingdom has so far invested over £50m on Nigeria’s electoral processes since 2015.

He said, “The United Kingdom is a proud supporter of elections and democratic processes in Nigeria. In the last five years, the UK has invested over £50m into Nigeria’s democratic process.

“We recognise Nigeria as the largest democracy in Africa, and a leading member of the Commonwealth of nations.

“It will therefore be good to have a robust comprehensive system placed far ahead of the general election so that adequate preparations could be made.”

<<Punch>>