The Transition Monitoring Group (TMG) has expressed concerns on the refusal of President Muhammadu Buhari to sign the Electoral Amendment Bill, ahead of the 2019 elections.
The group in a statement signed by its chairperson, Dr. Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi said the President’s refusal was capable of undermining the marginal gains towards achieving credibility in the electoral system.
TMG had in the past raised concerns over the time-frame for the amendment of the electoral act and its likely implication to the 2019 Elections.
Condemning the act, Dr. Akiyode-Afolabi said: “While TMG recognizes this fundamental challenge, the reasons upon which the presidency is hinging its withholding of assent on is unattainable, as the journey to the version passed into law by the legislature is a product of extensive deliberation between the executive and legislature.”
The group also called on the President to reconsider his position, assent to the bill and save the country the uncertainty that his actions might cast on the integrity and credibility of the 2019 general elections.
Dr. Akiyode-Afolabi while admitting that the elections must respect international standards and protocols, noted that the ECOWAS protocol on elections on which the presidency hinges part of the decisions that forbids amendments to laws six months to an election must be properly situated and the context within which that provision was made be properly articulated.
She said: “The provision was made to deter sight tight leaders in the region from making fundamental changes to their laws to hold onto power and gain unfair advantage in the electoral process, in this case there seems to be a general consensus and agreement of all stakeholders on the urgent necessity of the amendments to the Electoral Act.”
Dr. Akiyode-Afolabi also reiterated the fact that the amendment as it is, gives no candidate any advantage rather it provides a level playing field to all the players in the elections and therefore the argument of the ECOWAS protocol is not tenable.
“The Presidency rather is taking undue advantage of its political power to rescind ascent on an issue of utmost importance to the people without being mindful of the implication on the 2019 Elections and the credibility of elections in Nigeria.”
She also said the amendments would have addressed some gaps in the present electoral act that had negatively affected the credibility of Nigeria’s elections in the past and incorporated some of the recent innovations and developments in the system.
She also said the off season elections had given INEC reasonable time and grounds to try out some of these key innovations especially bordering on the application of technology such as the elimination of manual accreditation which had been one of the biggest challenge of dealing with rigging in the country.
While noting that the law does not totally address some of the key issues the TMG has raised in the past such as electoral offenses among others, the amendment she said will help to consolidate the gains made so far in strengthening the electoral system and protect the integrity and credibility of the process while providing the framework for progress in the future.
“The current impasse further serves to cast doubts on the commitment of the government to credible free and fair elections in the country.”
“The TMG as a matter of urgency calls on the President to reconsider his position, assent to the bill and save the country the uncertainty that his actions might cast on the integrity and credibility of the 2019 general elections.”
Dr Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi while reiterating the fact that the survival of Nigeria’s democracy is more important than the interest of its political actors called on all Nigerians to use all the legitimate means possible to hold the leaders and institutions to account on delivering on the 2019 elections.