Sen. Opeyemi Bamidele, Chairman Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, has tasked the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the nation’s judiciary to stand up in defence of democracy ahead of the Feb 25 and March 11 elections.
Bamidele made the call in Abuja, on Wednesday during a one-day special hearing on “The extent of implementation of the Electoral Act, 2022 ahead of the conduct of the 2023 general election.”
The session was organised by the National Assembly Joint Committee on Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) with support from the Policy and Legal Advocacy Center (PLAC) and the United Kingdom (UK).
Bamidele, also the Chairman, Southern Senators Forum, while tasking other stakeholders on the same vain said that all hands must be on deck to ensure that the elections are conducted as scheduled.
He said,“The nation is at crossroads; and all stakeholders must stand up in defence of our democracy.
“Two stakeholders stand out. The INEC to stand on its feet and do its best and the judiciary.
“This is because when the political class has come to hold the nation to ransom as it appears now, it is the judiciary that has to stand up and save the nation from the jugular of the political class.”
Bamidele also suggested that the National Assembly needs to rework the electoral act to ensure that grey areas are addressed.
“There is the need for us to go back to the drawing board and rework the electoral act as it is.
“However, in the meantime, we have a law that if it is sincerely implemented by all stakeholders, by all parties concerned, it should lead us somewhere.
“But that is not to say it is yet Uhuru. In some of the provisions in the law; we mean well to the extent that we disenfranchise ourselves in an attempt to get things right.
“I’m not aware that any member of the National Assembly was able to vote as a delegate in their own political party primaries”
On the lingering crisis over the scarcity of naira, Bamidele charged the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to live up to expectations of Nigerians and stop acting like a threat to democracy.
He also raised concerns about the hardship which Nigerians are currently undergoing in accessing their money through the banks.
“The CBN told us at the beginning of the policy that the targets were the so-called moneybags who stashed away billions in their closets. We thought those are the people they want to get at.
“We have now seen that it is the ordinary man on the streets. They are sleeping in the banking halls because they cannot have access to the little money they have. We must understand the political economy of an electoral process.
“People are thinking of the money politicians would spend on vote buying, they don’t know that political parties would also mobilise people to all the polling units as agents, just like the INEC would mobilise personnel.
“Today, the CBN is assuring Nigerians that it would provide money for INEC if they need more money.
“Are we saying that INEC must rely on the intervention of the CBN for it to perform?
“If the police run into logistics problems, would they also run to CBN for selective intervention?
“We are fighting Boko Haram, if the military authorities could not access funds from their banks, they will also need to approach the CBN for selective intervention?
“These are issues and as a stakeholder, the CBN is the most outstanding threat to these elections holding as scheduled.
Secretary to INEC, Mrs May Agbamuche, spoke on behalf of Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu.
She said that the commission had no intention whatsoever to postpone the elections.
According to her, INEC has already carried out 12 steps out of 14 listed to conduct the elections.
She said the commission would conduct free, fair, credible and transparent elections.