A recent alleged attempt to tamper with the country’s draft electoral law might have attracted the attention of the diplomatic community, which met last week with the leadership of the National Assembly and followed up with a private letter appealing to the lawmakers to do all within their powers to deepen democracy through the current effort at amending the Electoral Act.
This development followed an uproar generated by reports that there was an attempt by a section of the National Assembly leadership to smuggle certain clauses into the draft electoral law banning electronic transfer of election results, even though the same section agreed to an electronic voting system.
A meeting between the National Assembly leadership and a group of five foreign envoys, including the European Union, led by the United Kingdom held last week. The foreign missions expressed concerns over the electoral law review and urged the lawmakers to do their best to ensure that the gains of the over two decades of democratic experience were not wasted.
To further register their concern and the readiness to assist in the democratic process, the diplomatic community, allegedly, followed up with a letter, where some of the concerns expressed at the meeting were put in black and white.
According to National Assembly sources privy to the meeting as well as the letter, the countries, included the United Kingdom, France, United States, and the European Union. They noted that they did not intend to interfere with Nigeria’s electoral system, but were genuinely concerned about the possibility of losing the gains of the past.
While urging the National Assembly leadership to bequeath to the country a legacy of strong and sound electoral system, they contended that it was not in the interest of the country and their foreign allies to lag behind in the collective effort to entrench a solid culture of democracy.
Specifically, the EU was said to have noted at the meeting that the support they give to Nigeria over the years was to ensure the entrenchment of a lasting democratic culture. It cited such support to include logistics and trainings.
The EU explained that the idea was to deepen the country’s democratic process and not shut it down, adding that the amendment process is expected to advance the electoral system.
Meanwhile, there have been different theories on those likely to be behind the attempt to tamper with the electoral law, just as the move has already begun to divide the political class, including the lawmakers. Many federal legislators have denied knowledge of the illegal insertion of anti-people clauses.
But fingers are being pointed at the leadership of the National Assembly. Many of National Assembly members are believed to be readying to seek election in other capacities in 2023.
Supporters of a popular politician in the South-west are also believed to be divided over the matter, making the issue one of the most sensitive political concerns at the moment.
Sources hinted that while some politicians believed that the electronic transfer of results could undercut their chances in the election, there were those who held the view that it was the only way to put their traducers in check since the road to 2023 appears to be rough lready.
Another party source, who was opposed to the controversial insertions, said the excuses being pushed against electronic transfer of results did not hold water. This, he said, was because if network was the issue, INEC had since assured that where the network failed and voting had been done, the results would automatically download once network came on.
Contending that electronic transfer of results would be the best thing to happen to the country’s electoral system, the source maintained that Nigeria would be better off dealing with the failure of the initiative than sticking with the analogue mode of transferring election results, which is generally believed to be prone to manipulation.
(Cambridge University Press, January, 2021) By Professor Damilola S. Olawuyi, SAN, FCIArb, Professor of Law and Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Afe Babalola University, Ado Ekiti
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