By Umar Muhammad Puma and Christian Ekpan
Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara said only transparent handling of the 2019 general elections, as well as adherence to rules would be acceptable to Nigerians.
Dogara also regret the decline by President Muhammadu Buhari to give assent to the Electoral Act amendment Bill passed by the National Assembly, saying the palpable fears of well-meaning Nigerians and the international community of the possibility of some forces working to manipulate the coming elections by exploiting the identified loopholes in the current Electoral Act, may become a reality if proactive steps are not taken by critical stakeholders.
Speaking to his colleagues, who just resumed from the Yuletide break yesterday, Dogara urged the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the police and other security forces to offer participants in the elections, a level playing ground and strict adherence to extant laws.
According to him, the National Assembly has done its possible best to deepen the nation’s democratic process by providing mechanisms that would guarantee successful and rancour-free elections, by passing the Electoral Act Amendment Bill for the third time after the President had declined assent to it twice, “meaning that the impending general elections will not benefit from the innovative mechanisms crafted in its collaboration with international and development partners”.
He said “I believe that our intention to improve on the successes of the 2015 General Election through the Amendment Bill, is very clear to all fair-minded Nigerians. The spate of serious allegations by stakeholders, corroborated by some Press reports against INEC and the Nigerian Police in the recent elections, which are already subjects of litigations, are some of the factors that gave rise to public apprehension on the success of the coming General Elections.
“We had intended, through this Bill, to minimise the risk to the survival of our hard-won democracy through responsive and timely legislation aimed at ensuring free, fair and transparent elections. Nonetheless, as Parliament, we have done our best to guarantee the stability and growth of our fragile democracy, and I have no doubt that history will be very kind to us”.