Human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, SAN, has asked President Muhammadu Buhari to “urgently” sign the 2018 Electoral Act Amendment Bill into law.
Falana said if the president signs the bill now, whatever modifications the bill seeks to make to Nigeria’s election sequence, would not affect the 2019 elections.
This, according to him, is because an Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Protocol, to which the country is a signatory, bars Nigeria from modifying electoral laws six months to elections unless certain conditions are met.
Early this year, President vetoed the bill passed by both chambers of the National Assembly on the grounds that it contained certain provisions which were inconsistent with the 1999 Constitution.
The lawmakers then expunged the said provisions and passed a new bill, which has been transmitted to the President for assent.
Falana said he was compelled to call on the President to sign the bill into law in view of the fact that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has announced that the 2019 elections will commence in February 2019.
He said: “In making this call, the attention of the President ought to be drawn to Article 2(1) of the Economic Community of West African States Protocol A/SP1/12/01 on Democracy and Good Governance which provides that:
‘No substantial modification shall be made to the Electoral Laws in the last six (6) months before the elections, except with the consent of majority of political actors.’
Falana noted that the ECOWAS Court had ruled that all the member states of the ECOWAS are bound by the provisions of the Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance.
He added: “Since the modification made to the 2010 Electoral Act is substantial, the Bill cannot be passed in less than six months to the 2019 General Election.
“Since Nigeria is legally obliged to comply with the said Protocol, President Buhari, who is the current Chairman of the ECOWAS, should ensure that the Electoral Bill 2018 is assented to without any further delay.”