By Achadu Gabriel, Kaduna
The Deputy Senate President, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege and his predecessor, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, have commended President Muhammadu Buhari for signing the Electoral Act Repeal and Re-enactment Bill into law.
The duo spoke via separate statements on Friday after the President assented to the bill at the State House, Abuja.
According to Omo-Agege, for signing the Electoral Act Amendment Bill into law, President Buhari has written his name in gold, noting that “the country would go into the next general election with a new electoral legal framework.”
He added that the President has removed uncertainty concerning the conduct of the 2023 general elections, stressing that “the new law addresses many loopholes in our electoral system.”
The Deputy Senate President, in a statement signed by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Yomi Odunuga, recalled that although the process under the Eighth Senate was fraught with mutual suspicions and bitterness, electoral reform for the Ninth National Assembly remains a priority in its legislative agenda.
“The 9th Senate had promised to bequeath a lasting legacy to Nigerians. Today’s development adds to the list of historic legislations that have defiled previous Assemblies, which the 9th Senate has passed. They include: the Deep Offshore and Inland Basin Production Sharing Contract (Amendment) Act, Petroleum Industry Act, Company And Allied Matters Act and a host of others.
“Without a doubt, a good legal framework helps to create elections with integrity and electoral integrity helps to enhance democratic consolidation and the preparation and conduct of elections democratically.
“The signing of the bill into law would ensure early release of election funds to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), electronic voter accreditation and transmission of results, procedures for local government elections across the country are regulated by the new Electoral Act, early conduct of party primaries and submission of candidates’ list, early commencement of campaigns among others,” he said.
In his own, Senator Ekweremadu described the signing of the bill as a quantum leap for the nation’s democracy.
Ekweremadu, who said the journey to the new electoral law was “quite frustrating”, however poured encomiums on the civil society, media, and Nigerians for standing up for the nation’s democracy.
“I’ve been part of the nation’s electoral reform for over the 10 years, but I must confess that the journey to the new Electoral Act was by far the most frustrating.
“After the major electoral reform of 2010 that also involved amendments to the 1999 Constitution, among others, open the doors to technology in our electoral system, check some executive excesses, manipulations by political parties, and straighten the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) through financial and administrative autonomy, our expectation after amendments to the Electoral Act in 2015 was that the new administration would support the National Assembly to further straighten our electoral laws and system.
“Unfortunately, four times, the amendments were turned down in the 8th National Assembly, apparently thwarted by narrow, partisan interests and ambitions.
“The efforts in the current National Assembly also faced similar challenges, but it is heart-warming that it has finally materialised with the presidential assent.
“Certainly, we didn’t get all we pushed for in the new law, but it is nevertheless a quantum leap for our electoral system and I congratulate all, who played a part in it.
“With the electronic transmission of election results, early primary elections, and adequate time for INEC to prepare for elections, among other breakthroughs, our elections will never be the same again and more Nigerians will be encouraged to exercise their franchise, knowing that their votes will now count,” he stressed.