Election 2023: UAC calls for Citizenry Education and Public Engagement on the New Electoral Act
Towards the forthcoming 2023 general elections, a Non Governmental Organisation and Nigerian civil society group, United Action for Change(UAC) has called for a concerted effort by relevant authorities and interested groups to ensure that political stakeholders, the electorate as well as the general public are well informed and educated about the new Electoral Act 2022, in order to provide an hitch free electoral process. This was contained in a statement issued by the Secretary, Michael Popoola Ajayi at the end organisation’s periodic Roundtable Discussion held in Lagos on Saturday.
According to Ajayi, speaking at the event titled; “Overview and Exposition on the Electoral Act, 2022”, in his welcome speech, the convener of the organization who was also the moderator of the roundtable discussion, Dr. Muiz Banire, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) said “with the level of political ignorance in the society and what the country has faced over the years due to inappropriate information about electoral laws, it is sacrosanct that the political stakeholders, the electorate and the public at large are rightly informed, properly educated and well enlightened about the details of the new electoral act and be on the same page with relevant authorities saddled with the responsibilities of regulating the electoral process.”
Speaking further, Banire maintained that; ” electoral act constitutes the bedrock of electoral process, therefore any development that occurs in that regard must be adequately disseminated to the people. The current issue becomes more critical when the majority of the political stakeholders are not even well informed about the new development. Therefore, this event is designed to enable us as the members of the UAC to be familiar with the new act and afterwards move to the streets, as part of our statutory duties to educate the larger society in all forms.”
In doing justice to the business of the day, the Lead Discussant at the event, the Resident Electoral Commissioner of Akwa Ibom State, Mike Igini, in his very interactive presentation, while highlighting the importance of the new act and its relevance in ensuring the sustainably of the Nigerian democratic governance dwelled extensively on the reasons for the people to be well informed about the new electoral act.
According to him, “voters and civil education is a multi stakeholder responsibility. Therefore all hands must be on deck to ensure that the public is adequately informed. Main reason why democracy is chosen over other forms of government is the periodic opportunity for the people to choose their leaders, the opportunity to make rational choice, but what level of rational choice do you want people to make in the face of literacy and the ravaging poverty. That is why education is sacrosanct.
The choice of the topic is not only apt but of great importance to the forthcoming election. Election provides vertical accountability, it is the bedrock of democracy. Therefore, election must be free, fair and devoid of any manipulation. A rigged or compromised election is equal to equal to absence of election.”
Speaking on the key stakeholders who are on the drivers’ seat in having a credible elections, Igini said; the roles of Independent National Electoral Commission(INEC), the Judiciary, the political parties and their candidates, the security agents, the Civil Society Organizations and the media are sacred and should not be compromised.
“There is great ignorance in the land, the bar and the bench have great roles to play in entrenching the beauty of democracy, they must ensure that this system must not fail. They have a sacred role in upholding the rule of law. And they must educate their members and the general public accordingly. So also the media , there should be no bias reportage, the press should continually uphold the ethics of the profession”
Analysing the major difference between the Electoral Act 2010 and the new one, Igini specifically highlighted the Section 49 of the old Act. He said the lacuna in that particular section “led to the issue of buying of voter’s card at the polling units.” Meanwhile, according to him, “the Section 47 of the new Act has corrected the issue by the introduction of the card leader. In improving on that we are now in the regime of BiVAS.”
“Also, the Section 50 of the new Act gives INEC operational independence to transfer election results electronically. It provides anti hacking mechanism and security of results where information are being saved in the cloud. This however, didn’t rule out hard copy documentation.”
“Section 51 of the new Act takes care of over voting while Section 65 of gives power to INEC to review the decision of returning officers within 7days. This particular section takes care of Section 68 of the old Act where decisions of a returning officer is the final. What I will encourage INEC to see to is that these processes and powers should not be abused.” Igini said.
In his closing remarks, the former student union leader and pro-democracy activist said; “hope is not lost on Nigeria’s democratic governance. The new development is a signal that we are heading on the right path. Meanwhile, what we must critically look into is how to ensure the resolution of electoral dispute before swearing in of electoral officers. This is very paramount and sacrosanct for our democracy to develop. It should always be noted that periodic election is an opportunity to renew the journey of a nation to greatness at every 4year. It is a fact that democracy is vulnerable, therefore, it needs to be protected. Every election must be credible ,free, fair and all inclusive, At INEC, our determination that election ends at the polling station and not in court of law remains unwavering.”