The United Kingdom (UK) has spent over £50 million to support the electoral process in Nigeria in the last five years, the Head of Governance and Stability at the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Development Office, Sam Waldock, said on Friday.
Waldock, who spoke at a retreat of the Joint Technical Committee on the Electoral Act Amendment Bill 2020 in Abuja, said the UK, being a supporter of Nigeria’s democracy and its electoral system, was ready to offer more assistance to further enhance it.
The United Kingdom, he said, recognised Nigeria as the largest democracy in Africa and a leading member of the Commonwealth of Nations.
“It will therefore be good to have a robust comprehensive system in place far ahead of the general election so that adequate preparations could be made,” Waldock said.
The Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, lauded the efforts of the National Assembly Joint Committee on INEC, Senate Committee on INEC at giving the country, a new legal framework for the conduct of elections.
Yakubu, who was represented by a National Commissioner of INEC in charge of Voter Education, Festus Okoye, said the renewed drive was timely and must be sustained and approached with a sense of history and urgency.
“The reform must be impactful and should be concluded by the first quarter of 2021,” he said.
Continuing, he said: “INEC is committed to the process of the amendment and would make recommendations that would improve elections in Nigeria.
“However, it must be borne in mind that amending the electoral legal framework will not automatically guarantee or lead to improvement in the management and conduct of elections.
“The Constitution and the Electoral Act can only be effective through the action and inaction of the critical stakeholders in the electoral process.
“The Constitution and Electoral Act can enhance the electoral process if the electoral management body, political parties and the Electoral actors, the security agencies, the media and civil society organisations effectively play their roles.”
He urged all critical stakeholders to demonstrate respect for the constitution and the law. He added: “Nigeria democracy and electoral processes will become more robust if the critical stakeholders in the process resolve to restore sovereignty to the people as the true determinant of the outcome.”
The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), pledged to work with the technical committee to ensure unhindered presidential assent to the bill.
The Special Assistant to the President on Justice Reform and International Relations Office, Mrs. Juliet Ibekaku-Nwagwu, who represented Malami at the session, said the minister would “continue to work more closely with the National Assembly to ensure that the bill is eventually passed as scheduled.
She recalled how “immediately after the 2015 elections the President approved the inauguration of the constitutional and electoral reform committee in 2016, working with the National Assembly and came up with four bills that had been approved by the Federal Executive Council and forwarded to the National Assembly.”
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