Civil Society groups urge President Buhari to give assent to the Electoral Bill
on or before 22nd February 2022
1. On the 31st January 2022, the National Assembly transmitted the Electoral Bill 2022 to the President for assent after expeditiously reworking the bill to meet the President’s expectations. The accelerated recommittal and eventual passage of the bill by the National Assembly in line with citizens’ demand deserve commendation.
2. The civil society community is deeply concerned with the delay on the part of the President to give assent to the bill despite the resounding clamor for the speedy conclusion of the amendment process to avert legal uncertainties that will certainly occasion logistical, financial, and programmatic difficulties that threaten the integrity of the off-cycle elections in Ekiti, Osun and the 2023 general election. Our concerns are further heightened with the President’s delay in fulfilling a promise he made to Nigerians during an interview on national television indicating he will assent to the Electoral Bill if the National Assembly reworks the bill and expands the procedure for nomination of candidates.
3. The undersigned CSOs note the provision of Section 58(4) of the 1999 Constitution, which gives the President a timeline of 30 days to assent or withhold assent to a Bill. However, a combination of the newly introduced timelines for electoral activities in the bill and imperative for INEC and other stakeholders to commence early preparations for the upcoming elections provides a compelling justification for immediate assent of the For instance, Clause 28 (1) of the Electoral Bill 2022, requires INEC to issue Notice of Election not later than 360 days before the day appointed for an election. As indicated by INEC, the scheduled date for the 2023Presidential and National Assembly election is 18th February 2023. Therefore, the Notice of Election for the 2023 general election should be issued on 22nd February 2022 because the total number of days from 22nd February 2022, to 17th February 2023, is 360 days. If the President gives assent to the bill on or before February 22nd, 2022, INEC will be legally bound to issue Notice of Election, and the dates for the 2023 elections will be maintained. However, if the President acts on the bill after 22nd February 2022, the dates for the 2023 election and other subsequent electoral activities will be affected.
4. The undersigned CSOs note that President Muhammadu Buhari has declined assent to amendments to the Electoral Act on five occasions in the last five In March 2018, he rejected the Bill due to some provision that would usurp INECs powers on electoral matters. In July 2018, he outrightly vetoed the Bill by refraining from making comments on the Bill until the expiration of the 30 days’ timeline. In September 2018, he rejected the Bill on the basis of drafting errors and cross-referencing gaps. In December 2018, he rejected the Bill because it was too close to the 2019 General Election. Lastly, he rejected the current Bill in December 2021 based on the adoption of direct primaries as the only legally approved procedure for the nomination of candidates. If the current Electoral Bill suffers the same fate, it will amount to a subversion of popular will and national interest.
5. As the nation prepares for the off-cycle governorship elections in Ekiti and Osun and the 2023 general elections, a new legal framework is required to safeguard the integrity of these elections. The current Electoral Bill 2022 contains provisions that address electoral manipulation and the intractable problem of poor election logistics. Furthermore, the bill strengthens INEC’s financial independence, and the commission is empowered to reject falsified election results. The newly introduced timelines for key electoral activities such as early primaries and submission of a list of candidates will facilitate early electoral preparations and promote issue-based political engagement.
6. The undersigned CSOs note that any further delay in concluding the process of enacting the Electoral Bill 2022 will directly impact preparations for upcoming elections, especially the 2023 General Election, which is just 366 days away. As indicated in previous statements issued by CSO groups, delaying assent to the Bill creates a climate of legal uncertainties for upcoming elections. Nigeria will lose the opportunity to test the efficacy of innovations introduced in the Electoral Bill before deployment in the 2023 general election.
We call on President Buhari to, upon return from Brussels, sign the Electoral bill into law on or before 22nd February 2022 to enable INEC to issue Notice of Election and release the timetable and schedule of activities for the 2023 general election.
Further amendments to the Electoral Bill 2022 can be proposed after assent has been granted. It is within the President’s prerogative to propose amendments after signing the bill like he did in the case of the Petroleum Industry Bill and 2022 Appropriation bill, an act which attracted commendation.
The National Assembly should ensure gazetted copies of the Electoral Act 2022 are available to citizens as soon as the bill is signed into law.
Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room
Partners for Electoral Reform (PER)
International Press Centre
Institute for Media and Society
Nigerian Women Trust Fund
The Albino Foundation
Centre for Citizens with Disability
Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ)
Transition Monitoring Group
Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC)
Labour Civil Society Coalition (LASCO)
Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre (WARDC)
Nigeria Network of Non-Governmental Organizations (NNNGO)
Inclusive Friends Association (IFA)
Enough is Enough
The Electoral Hub
Centre for Liberty
Take Back Nigeria Movement
International Peace and Civic Responsibility Centre (IPCRC)