Home Politics Electoral Reforms: IPC, IMS, Others Seek A ‘Citizen Amendment Constitution

Electoral Reforms: IPC, IMS, Others Seek A ‘Citizen Amendment Constitution

by timenews
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…make case for media, INEC, PWDs, women


The need to create ‘citizens priorities’ Electoral Bill was the topic of discussion at a recent joint Press Parley organised by a coalition of the International Press Centre (IPC), the Institute of Media Society (IMS) and other civil society organisations, with the European Union Support to Democratic Governance in Nigeria (EU- SDGN), in Lagos.

The other civil societies are Centre for Citizens with Disability (CCD); CLEEN Foundation; Inclusive Friends Association; National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), and Nigeria Women’s Trust Fund.

The coalition also includes Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC); Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ); The Albino Foundation; Yiaga Africa; Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD); Kimpact Development Initiative (KDI) and Peering Advocacy and Advancement Centre in Africa (PAACA).

The Conference, according the coalition was in view of the Electoral Amendment Bill currently before the National Assembly (NASS).

“It was a welcome development when the National Assembly began a process in 2020 to amend the electoral laws.

“The December 2020 Public hearing by the NASS on the Electoral Amendment Bill provided an opportunity for citizens and stakeholders to participate in the electoral reform process and contribute to the Bill.

“The urgent need for a new law is founded on the broad-based consensus by all Nigerians and electoral stakeholders on the need for a more credible and improved electoral process that encourages active citizens’ participation while genuinely guaranteeing their rights in choosing leaders that will provide quality representation and sustainable governance.

“There’s no doubt that over the last two decades of uninterrupted civil rule, there is still a deep yearning for reforms that can significantly inspire citizens’ trust in democracy.

“However, the silence from the National Assembly on the Electoral Amendment bill since the public hearing in December 2020 and the retreat to consolidate citizens’ feedback into the bill in late January 2021 is worrying.

“Nigerians deserve that the elected representatives readily respond to the needs of the people and grant the request for a new electoral law that genuinely captures the wishes of the people. This delay in concluding the process serves as a reminder of the failed process in 2018 and the lost opportunity to consolidate Nigeria’s democracy in 2019,” the Coalition explained.

Executive Director, IPC, Lanre Arogundade, in his speech reiterated the need for the adoption of a set of ‘citizens’ priorities’ for the 2021 Electoral Amendment Bill.

He enlisted the support of the media with the constitutional mandate to monitor governance and hold the government accountable to the people, for the citizens-driven electoral reforms that the Civil societies seek.

Arogundade listed the stakeholders as the civil society, the women, the youths, the peoples living with disability and the election management body itself – the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), stating that any amendment that fails to reckon with the demands of these groups will not yield enhanced electoral processes.

His words: “In the above regard the underlining principle behind our call on you to play a vanguard role in the process is for the media to ensure that the National Assembly is accountable to key stakeholders in the Nigerian electoral process in making any amendments.

“Among these stakeholders are the civil societies, the women, the youths, the peoples living with disability and the election management body itself – the Independent National Electoral Commission. Any amendment that fails to reckon with the demands of these groups will not help to strengthen the electoral processes.”

In line the theme of this year’s Press Freedom Day, the Media Expert noted that one important frontier at which information could serve as public good is the electoral process “and that is why we are proposing some amendments that will ensure that the media is not encumbered in the coverage and reportage of political parties and candidates, especially as self-regulatory frameworks, including the Nigerian Media Code of Election Coverage require that the media should give them equitable access while also promoting the inclusive issues of women, youths and people living with disabilities.

“Indeed, all the frameworks governing media role in elections require that journalists should adhere to the ethical and professional imperatives of fairness, balance, accuracy, conflict sensitivity and avoidance of hate speech.”

Demands on media

Itemising the Coalition’s demands on the media, he said; there should be recognition of, distinction between and provision for free access and paid access for political parties and candidates to the media during election campaigns.

The public media (broadcast and print) should provide equitable airtime/coverage to all political parties and candidates during election campaigns- under both free and paid access arrangements.

The Public media (broadcast and print) should grant the usually under-served, particularly Women and People With Disabilities (PWDs), special discounted airtime/advert rates during election campaigns.

The media should publish airtime/space tariffs before, during and after elections and stressed that the penalty for contravention of the provisions in Section 100 should be restricted to the offending entity (the media house). It should not be extended to the “principal officers” and “other officers’ of the media house.

According to the Executive Director, the above demands informed the Coalition’s rejections of the proposed amendments to the Electoral Act in the bill before the National Assembly especially in Section100(6(a)of the bill proposing that the fine for media houses be increased to N2millon in the first instance and N5million upon subsequent conviction as stipulated in Section 100 (6) (b) proposing that:“Principal officers and other officers of the media house to a fine ofN2 million or to imprisonment for a term of 12 months.”

He pointed out that in the current Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) the penalties for contravention of the provision in Section100 (3) and100 (4) as stipulated in Section 100(6) is: A maximum fine of N 500, 000 in the first instance, andamaximumfineofN1million for subsequent conviction.

Inclusion issues

On inclusion issues, Arogundade argued that electoral reform remains the only way an inclusive electoral system can be achieved, hence, the continued call for the enabling legal instruments wherein inclusive participation of all Nigerians to participate in the electoral process is guaranteed.

He urged that the participation should come without being disenfranchised, without fear of attack by hoodlums and political hooligans, without fear of insecurity, without denials based on gender or disability, and without any restrictions in the ease to emerge as a candidate, and without any inhibition to vote and the votes to count during the election, and other related fears.

He therefore reiterated the civil societies demand the National Assembly to give utmost consideration to the protection of the voting rights of the blind and visually impaired voters; regulation of the cost of nomination of candidates to promote political inclusion; promotion of the inclusion of women, youth, and persons with disability in politics.

Demands on INEC

Speaking further, the Executive Director charged the INEC to ensure an appropriate framework, tools and overall enabling environment for the conduct of credible and acceptable elections because elections remain a cardinal feature of democracy.

The Amended Bill according to him should give attention to strengthening the financial and operational independence of INEC, while demanding that INEC should publish polling unit level results to promote transparency in the results process.

He also advanced for the legitimising of the use of technology in the electoral process through electronic accreditation of voters; electronic voting, electronic collation and transmission of results

Arogundade pushed for the introduction of stiffer sanctions for electoral offenses and establishment of the Electoral Offenses Commission.

He also demanded for election security and comprehensive regulation of the conduct of security personnel on election duty.

The IPC Executive Director called for early voting for Nigerians on essential election duty and voting rights for Nigerians in the Diaspora, as well as elimination of judicial actions/proceedings that ridicule or make a mockery of citizens will and choices in electing their representatives.

Stakeholders comments

The Executive Secretary, IMS, Dr. Akin Akingbule, while speaking called on the media to unite and take advantage of this to fight its own cause.

He pointed out that some of the laws are tucked away; therefore he urged the media to study the Bill properly to note the dangers embedded in them.

“This is an opportunity for the media to fight its own cause; we must fight the cause of the society. Some people cannot just sit somewhere and criminalise media practice,” he noted.

Coming from the angle of women margilisation, Director of Programmes, Women Advocate Research and Documentation Centre (WARDC), Mary George-Peluola, noted that there is low percentage of women in leadership positions in Nigeria implying male dominance.

While pointing at the need for gender balance, she stressed that women are encumbered with various challenges that pose a hindrance to their attainment of leadership in politics.

However, Chairperson of the Lagos Chapter of National Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ), Mrs. Adeola Ekine, stressed that women are the problem of themselves because they do not come together to support one another, rather they pull one another down.

Ekine therefore urged women to rally and support one another in unity, in this way the margilasation of women in electoral positions would be curbed. “Let’s start by supporting ourselves,” she appealed.

Founder of the Centre for Citizens with Disabilities, Mr. David Anyaele, on his part harped on the challenge of those with disabilities not having an enabling platform to voice their stand.

He also complained of no access to polling unit and voter education; “where there is no access exclusion is inevitable,” he said.

“The media should serve as our eyes, serve as our legs, and serve as our ears,” he requested, saying that, it was also a spiritual mandate by speaking for the voiceless.

“This activity is amplifying the urgent call from citizens for the 9th National Assembly to rise as the fulcrum of democracy and restore confidence in Nigeria’s journey to democracy through a legislative process that will address gaps in the current electoral legal framework.

“Nigerians deserve a new Electoral Act in which citizens aspirations are prioritised and which is produced through adequate timely attention of the National Assembly,” the Coalition averred.


Photo caption
FROM L-R: Executive Secretary, IMS, Dr. Akin Akingbule, Director of Programmes, Women Advocate Research and Documentation Centre (WARDC), Mary George-Peluola, Executive Director, IPC, Lanre Arogundade, Founder of the Centre for Citizens with Disabilities, Mr. David Anyaele, Chairperson of the Lagos Chapter of National Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ), Mrs. Adeola Ekine, at a recent media parley on Electoral Reforms in Lagos.

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