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CONSTITUTIONAL MATTERS

YIAGA Urges NASS To Accelerate Constitution Review, Harmonise Electoral Act

Non-profit civic hub, Yiaga Africa, has called on the 9th National Assembly to accelerate the review of the 1999 constitution (as amended) and harmonise the electoral act as soon as possible.

This was as it welcomed the assembly from its annual recess and commended it for ensuring the peace and socio-economic well-being of Nigerians since its inauguration in June 2019.

The Director of Programmes, Yiaga Africa, Cynthia Mbamalu, said this in a statement on Tuesday titled ‘Make Constitutional Review and Electoral Reforms Top Legislative Priority Upon Resumption’.

The statement read, “Yiaga Africa welcomes the 9th National Assembly back from its annual recess and wishes members resounding success in the third legislative year.

“The recess, in addition to many other advantages, afforded members of the Assembly the opportunity to interact more with their constituents and to deeply reflect on national issues and how best to serve the people.

“On the commencement of the third legislative year of the 9th Assembly, Yiaga Africa believes that the Assembly is better poised for high impact legislation. This legislative year is very crucial towards leaving a lasting legacy that Nigerians will remember the 9th Assembly for.

“Time indeed is of the essence as citizens look forward to the conclusion of work on key legislation which includes the Electoral Act Amendment Bill, the amendment to the 1999 Constitution as well as legislative actions that will address nagging security challenges and revamp the economy.

“While we commend this 9th National Assembly’s efforts at ensuring the peace and socio-economic well-being of Nigerians since its inauguration in June 2019, we, however, note that there is still so much to be done, as prevailing realities consistently threaten our collective peace, security, development and national unity.”

Mbamalu said that the National Assembly resumes at a time when the Nation is beset with a host of challenges requiring legislative actions towards mitigating them.

She said that Yiaga acknowledges and commends the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill amongst other legislative actions taken before the recess.

“As the National Assembly resumes, we note that a lot of work is still required in reforming our electoral process, amending the nation’s constitution to address issues that include: local government autonomy, improved federalism, gender inclusion and many more.

“Accordingly, we call on the National Assembly to make these issues a matter of utmost priority and ensure that they are addressed through swift legislative actions. The Assembly is therefore called upon to prioritize the following amongst others: Immediate Harmonization of the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill, 2021.

“While we appreciate the gains thus far in reforming the nation’s electoral process, particularly with the passage of the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill in the Senate and House of Representatives in July 2021, we implore the National Assembly to, as a matter of priority, conclude the process of harmonizing this bill and transmit same to the President for assent.

“We also implore that the harmonization of this bill reflects only collective resolutions that are geared towards improving the conduct of elections in Nigeria, particularly as it relates to election administration, technology deployment for elections, inclusion and campaign finance regulations.”

The CSO said it believed that only an Electoral Act that is all-encompassing can address some of the challenges in the electoral process and build citizens’ confidence in Nigeria’s democracy.
It added that Nigeria risks losing any meaningful mileage in its quest for national unity and democratic consolidation if a new electoral framework is not concluded and tested before the general elections.

“Ensuring that the Electoral Act Amendment Bill is passed into law swiftly allows citizens to participate and engage in the process, and gives INEC and election stakeholders ample time to familiarize themselves with the reviewed and improved legislation,” it said.

Yiaga Africa also appealed for an accelerated review of the 1999 Constitution (as Amended).
It said, “Given the prevailing realities in Nigeria today, Yiaga Africa urges the National Assembly to immediately conclude the process of amending the Constitution.

“We particularly call on the National Assembly to consider the key issues in this Constitution review process which include the: Federal Structure of governance/Power Devolution, Increased women representation and vulnerable group participation in government, as well as Local Government Administration/Autonomy and Electoral Reforms.

“We, therefore, urge that this Constitution review process also features as a top priority for the National Assembly and truly reflects the wishes and desires of Nigerians.”

It assured the government of its commitment to support the work of the National Assembly in carrying out its legislative mandate to the benefit of all Nigerians; while calling on other civil society organizations and Nigerians to demand a new Electoral Act and consistently strive to protect democracy for the nation’s good.

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