Eight civil society organizations (CSOs) have written to Senate President Dr. Ahmad Lawan, House Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila, and heads of election-related committees in the National Assembly, highlighting errors in the Electoral Act Amendment Bill that could render it inefficient and ineffective.Yiaga Africa, the International Press Centre (IPC), the Centre for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD), The Albino Foundation, the CLEEN Foundation, the Institute for Media and Society (IMS), the Nigerian Women Trust Fund (NWTF), and the Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism all signed a letter titled “The drafting errors in the Electoral Bill 2021.” (PTCIJ)
“The undersigned Civil Society Organizations wish to draw the attention of the National Assembly to identified drafting errors and cross-referencing gaps in the Electoral Bill 2021 for which the president declined assent,” the CSOs wrote in a letter dated December 29, 2921.
To avoid a repeat of this fate, the National Assembly must exercise caution before resubmitting the Electoral Bill 2021 to the president for his signature.”
The CSOs reaffirmed their earlier call for the National Assembly to expedite the process and re-submit the Electoral Bill 2021 to the president for assent within 30 days of December 21, 2021.
They explained that any further delay in the passage of the Electoral Bill 2021 would have a direct impact on INEC’s preparations for the general election in 2023.
The following drafting and cross-referencing errors and gaps in the Electoral Bill 2021 were identified by CSOs:
Section 24 (4), which addresses election conduct and postponement in emergency situations, states that (4) where the commission appoints a substituted date in accordance with subsections (2), (3), and (4), there shall be no return for the election until polling in the affected area or areas has taken place.
They claimed that Subsection 1 of the section was left out, which resulted in incorrect cross-referencing.
They argued that (2), (3), and (4) in Subsection 4 should be removed and replaced with (1), (2), and (3) for proper cross-referencing (3).
Subject to Section 63 of this Act, voting in an election and transmitting results under this Act must follow the procedure established by the commission, as stated in Section 50. (2).
They claimed that the subsection incorrectly referred to Section 63.
They also stated that there is no connection between the bill’s Section 50 and Section 63.
Section 63 should be replaced with Section 60 on voting and forms, and Section 64 (7) and (8), endorsement on the rejected ballot paper without an official mark, to reflect the correct cross-reference, they said.
If the disputed result under subsection (3) is found to be incorrect in any other way, the Collation Officer or Returning Officer must re-collate and announce a new result based on the information in subsection (3). (3). (a-d).
If the dispute under subsection (3) arose at the level of collation and the Returning Officer satisfied the provision of subsection (2), the Returning Officer shall declare the winner of the election (3).
They argued that the reference to subsection (3) in the section is incorrect, claiming that subsection (3) has nothing to do with the disputed result because it refers to the statement of rejected ballots.
“The reference to subsection (3) should be changed to subsection (6a-d), which deals with the procedure for determining the correctness of a disputed election result,” they said.
“Section 91(2), for the purposes of Subsection (2), a person shall be deemed to be acting in pursuance of a lawful duty if he is acting in his capacity as a police officer or as a member of a security agency authorised to carry arms and is specifically posted to be present at that political rally or procession,” the group said of Section 91(2), which governs behavior at political rallies and processions.
The groups noticed a grammatical error in the section and stated that “To read “die,” the letter “s” should be removed from the word “dies.”
In Sections 137 and 138, the group stated that “it shall not be necessary for a party, who alleges non-compliance with the provisions of this Act for the conduct of elections, to call oral evidence if originals or certified true copies manifestly disclose the alleged non-compliance.”
“Section 138 is a repetition of Section 137, despite the fact that the marginal notations in both sections differ.”
Section 137 should be revised to match the marginal note, while Section 138 should be retained because it accurately reflects the section’s intended content.”
According to civil society groups, the election petition must include “(a) a list of the witnesses that the petitioner intends to call in proof of the petition; (b) written statements on oath of the witnesses, and (c) copies or list of every document to be relied on at the hearing of the petition.”
According to paragraph 4, a petition that does not comply with subparagraph (5) will not be accepted for filing by the Secretary (6).
While paragraphs 4 (5) and (7) were redundant, paragraphs 4 (6) and (8) contained provisions that were similar.
Paragraphs 4(7) and 4(8) should be deleted in this regard
The election petition must be accompanied by (a) a list of witnesses that the petitioner intends to call in proof of the petition; (b) written statements on oath of the witnesses; and (c) copies or a list of all documents to be relied on at the petition hearing, according to paragraph 4(7).
They claimed, however, that paragraph 4(8) states that a petition that does not comply with subparagraph (5) will be rejected by the Secretary.
In paragraph 10(2), Non-filing of Memorandum of Appearance, the CSOs stated that the failure to file a memorandum of appearance does not preclude the respondent from defending the election petition if the respondent files his reply to the election petition in the registry within a reasonable time, but no later than 21 days from the receipt of the election petition.
As a result of the grammatical error, the letter stated that the spelling of filing was incorrect.
To correct the grammatical error, replace the word “filling” in the sub-heading and sub-paragraph with the word “filing.”
The letter stated in paragraph 14(2), which addresses the amendment of the election petition and reply, that no amendment shall be made after the expiration of the time limit set forth in (a) Section 134 (1) of this Act for presenting the election petition.
The CSOs, on the other hand, pointed out that “the provision contains a cross-referencing error.”
The bill’s Section 134(1) makes no mention of a deadline for filing an election petition.
The grounds for a petition are specified in Section 134.
In paragraph 16 (3), which focuses on the petitioner’s response, the CSOs stated that the petitioner has 14 days to prove his case and the respondent has 14 days to respond.
The groups, however, argue that paragraph 16(3) contradicts the provisions of paragraph 41(10), which outline comprehensive timelines for petitioners to prove their case and respondents to file a response, and that paragraph 16(3) should be deleted to address this conflict.