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Electoral Act and Nigeria’s Quest For Credible Election Since 1999

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By John Habila Murai

Election as a formally organized choice by a vote of a person for political office or other positions in Nigeria is characterized by massive irregularities since the return of democracy in 1999.

Successive governments since then have been making frantic efforts to get the electoral process right through the amendment of the country’s electoral act.

It started in 2002 during Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s first tenure when the country’s electoral act was amended but yet the 2003 general election was marred by irregularities which necessitated the then-candidate of the defunct ANPP, General Mohammadu Buhari to contest the PDP victory up to Supreme Court.

He however lost.

In 2004, the same former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration the country’s electoral process also went through another series of amendments in a bid to give Nigerians value for elections but to no avail since the 2007 general election which brought in late president Umaru Musa Yar’adua under the watchful eyes of his Boss, former president Olusegun Obasanjo was described by election observers and monitors as full of malpractices.

Late Umaru Musa Yar’adua out of concern for Nigeria to get its electoral process right appointed a revered retired Chief Justice of Nigeria’s Supreme Court, Mohammed Lawal Uwais to work and get the country’s electoral act right where people’s votes will be counted and reflect their true position in any election.

After his death, His successor former president Goodluck Ebele Jonathan carried out the electoral amendment process and in 2010 it was signed.

The result of the 2015 general election which ousted the then ruling PDP and its candidate Goodluck Ebele Jonathan however ignited some hope of most Nigerians in the country’s electoral system.

The journey for Nigeria’s electoral sojourn continues when President Mohammadu Buhari assumed office in 2015.

After successful legislative workings by the two chambers of the National Assembly president Mohammadu Buhari assented to the new electoral act on Friday the 25th February 2022.

Here is the summary of ten key provisions of the new ELECTORAL ACT signed by President Buhari.

  1. Clause 29(1) stipulates that parties must conduct primaries and submit their list of candidates at least 180 days before the general elections.
  2. Clause 65 states that INEC can review results declared under duress.
  3. Clause 3(3) states that funds for general elections must be released at least one year before the election.
  4. Clause 51 says that the total number of accredited voters will become a factor in determining over-voting at election tribunals.
  5. Clause 54(2) makes provisions for people with disabilities and special needs.
  6. Clause 47 gives legislative backing for smart card readers and any other voter accreditation technology that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) deploy.
  7. Clause 34 gives political parties power to conduct a primary election to replace a candidate who died during an election.
  8. Clause 50 gives INEC the legal backing for electronic transmission of election results.
  9. Clause 94 allows for early commencement of the campaign season. By this provision, the campaign season will now start 150 days to the election day and end 24 hours before the election.
  10. Clause 84 stipulates that anyone holding a political office – ministers, commissioners, special advisers and others – must relinquish the position before they can be eligible to participate in the electoral process either as a candidate or as a delegate.

Though president Mohammadu Buhari had expressed some reservations on some clauses in the new electoral act after refusing to assent to the act earlier; will the 2022 new electoral act become the panacea for free, fair and credible election in Nigeria?.

Only time will tell.

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