By Emmanuel Iyoho
A group of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) have rejected the introduction of consensus as a mode for the nomination of candidates seeking election into public offices in the Electoral Act Amendment Bill, even as the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) applauded the Senate for re-amending the Electoral Act Amendment Bill giving room for direct, indirect, and consensus options for nominating candidates for the various political parties in the country.
The groups faulted the action of the Senate in a statement jointly signed by them and made public hours after the lawmakers modified the proposed amendments to the Bill.
The National Assembly had, recently, re-amended the Electoral Act Amendment Bill and approved both direct and indirect primaries.
Both chambers made the re-amendment in separate plenary sessions. In the Senate, the lawmakers also added the consensus clause for the nomination of candidates by political parties for elective positions.
But at the House of Representatives, the legislators removed the consensus option.
The group, in a statement noted, “We reject the decision of the Senate to introduce a completely new mode of “consensus” as a procedure for candidates’ nomination,” the statement read, adding, “The consensus mode is antithetical to democratic principles and will result in the subversion of popular will.
“Furthermore, it violates the rights of aspirants to equal participation in party primaries and limits the choice of voters to candidates who did not emerge from democratic primary elections. Judging from experience, a consensus has occasioned a litany of litigations in Nigeria’s electoral process.”
The statement by the groups read, “The undersigned civil society groups commend the swift action taken by the National Assembly upon resumption to review its position on direct primaries as the sole mode for the nomination of candidates in the Electoral Bill 2021.
“At today’s plenary, the Senate and House of Representatives recommitted the Electoral Bill 2021 with the proposed amendment to Clause 84 dealing with the nomination of candidates. While the Senate voted for direct, indirect and consensus mode as a procedure for the nomination of candidates, the House of Representatives voted for the conduct of direct and indirect primaries as the acceptable mode of nomination of candidates.”
The groups asked the Senate to adopt the position of the House of Representatives which recognises direct and indirect primaries as the procedure for nomination of candidates, in line with the popular will of Nigerians.
They also advised the National Assembly leadership to constitute a committee to harmonise the divergent positions of both chambers that have continued to delay the speedy conclusion of the process.
“We, therefore, call for the immediate withdrawal of this new introduction, which is alien to the original Electoral Bill 2021, to speed up the work of the harmonisation committee and conclusion of the amendment process on or before the 21 January 2022 deadline.
“As indicated in our earlier statement, any further delay will undermine public confidence in the reform process and, therefore, unacceptable,” the groups stated.
Members of group are Yiaga Africa, International Press Centre (IPC), Centre for Citizens with Disability (CCD), The Albino Foundation, CLEEN Foundation, Institute for Media and Society (IMS), and Nigerian Women Trust Fund (NWTF).
Others include Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ), Partners for Electoral Reform (PER), Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre (WARDC), Nigeria Network of Non-Governmental Organizations (NNNGO), and Inclusive Friends Association (IFA).
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) has commended the Senate for re-amending the Electoral Act Amendment Bill giving room for direct, indirect, and consensus options for nominating candidates for the various political parties in country.
The governors, during their meeting which took place in Abuja, recently, commended the Senate for amending clause 84 regarding the mode of candidate selection in the Electoral Act Amendment Bill and also urged the House of Representatives to do the same by adding the consensus clause.
It could be recalled that in December, President Buhari had written to the National Assembly, informing them of his decision to decline assent to the Electoral Act Amendment Bill.
In the letter, the Nigerian leader had cited the direct primaries clause as a major reason for his decision, explaining that while the inclusion of the clause is anti-democratic, it is also expensive to execute.
According to the President, since membership of political parties is voluntary, and millions of Nigerians are not card-carrying members of any party, the emphasis should be on enabling citizens to vote for the candidates of their choice during elections.