Independent National Electoral Commission Chairman Prof. Mahmood Yakubu has lamented the non-passage of the Electoral Act (amendment) Bill, by the National Assembly less than two years to the 2023 elections.
Yakubu said the commission is not yet clear or certain about the legal framework that would undergird the 2023 elections less than two years to the conduct of the poll.
He said timetable for the 2023 general elections would be released by the commission “immediately” after the Anambra State gubernatorial election in November.
Several promises by the National Assembly to speedily consider and pass the Electoral Act (amendment) Bill is yet to be fulfilled.
The INEC boss spoke during a public hearing on the “Electoral Offences Commission (Establishment) Bill, 2021” organised by the Senate Committee on INEC in Abuja.
The Bill was sponsored by Deputy Senate President Ovie Omo-Agege, Chairman, Senate Committee on INEC Senator Kabiru Gaya and Senator Abubakar Kyari.
Yakubu said: “We will like to see more prosecution of offenders not just of ballot box snatchers and falsifiers of results of election, but most importantly, their sponsors.
“We look forward to the day when highly placed sponsors of thuggery, including chieftains of political parties and candidates, will be prosecuted.
“By doing, so we believe that we will send an even bigger message.
“We believe that the committee on INEC in the Senate is on the right trajectory by going this far on the Electoral Offences Commission Bill.
“However, while we are excited by today’s public hearing, I will like to reiterate our appeal to the National Assembly for the expeditious passage of the Electoral Offences Commission Bill and the pending review of the Electoral Legal Framework generally.
“We are confident that the National Assembly will conclude work on the legal framework in earnest.
“The commission is anxious to know the legal framework to govern the conduct of the 2023 general elections.
“By the principle established by the commission, the 2023 general elections will hold on Saturday, 18th February, 2023, which is exactly one year, nine months, two weeks and six days away from today.”
Also yesterday, the United Kingdom (UK) urged Nigeria to ensure quick passage and enactment of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill pending before the National Assembly.
UK’s Minister for Africa James Duddridge gave the advice in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja.
Duddridge said passing the amendment bill would build more confidence in the country’s electoral process.
According to him, confidence in election results plays a very important role in democratic governance.
“It is very important. I will meet the Senate and I will be asking when the Electoral Act Amendment Bill is going to be passed.
“You know, democracy is not a static thing. It has to evolve; you have to make elections increasingly secure.
“So, I think it is really important to make an Act that will give the Nigerian people and the international community greater confidence that the elections are free, fair, and a reflection of what the people voted.”