Greetings to you and the entire cohort of the 9th National Assembly. We hope that this meets you well.
We write on behalf of Raising New Voices Initiative, a non governmental organization focused on youth inclusion and the legislative reforms that impact on young people in Nigeria, chief of which is the current amendment to the Electoral Act, 2010.
Our writing to you at this time is of utmost importance and urgency at this stage in our national life. As young people and the future of our beloved country, faced with economic challenges and the recent global pandemic which has now claimed more than 700 deaths and totalled more than 30,000 cases in Nigeria, job losses and consequent impact, there is no better time to begin to create the future and contribute to nation building than ever before through governance and electoral participation.
In our opinion, the 9th Senate under your leadership has shown commitment to reforms and a listening ear to the people. The Upper Chambers have passed into law the Police Act (Repeal and Re-enactment) Bill, 2020 (SB. 181) after much agitation by young people to reform our police. ‘A Bill for an Act to prevent, prohibit and redress Sexual Harassment of students in tertiary educational institutions and for matters concerned therewith, 2019’ also known as the anti-sexual harassment Bill has also just recently being passed after much much agitation by young people and the ‘Sex For Grades’ Documentary. Beyond these initiatives, the listening ear of the Senate under your leadership has also extended to further bills that Nigerians have asked to be withdrawn during public hearings like the infamous Social Media Bill.
We write in hopes that you will agree with us on the fierce urgency of now on an issue as important as electoral reforms which has been led by the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ovie Omo Agege. According to him, this is an extremely important national assignment. We are aligned with his opinion and are with this letter imploring the National Assembly to prioritise this extremely important assignment over the incoming recess.
Awaiting the positive impact of this bill are young Nigerians who will have to face huge electoral obstacles in presenting themselves and the ideas they have in the forthcoming local government elections and governorship elections across the country.
Section 152 of the proposed amendments make provision for the governance of SIEC conducted elections in all the states and the Federal Capital Territory by the amended Electoral Act. Many states have fixed elections into local government offices by the end of the year. Even forthcoming are governorship elections in states like Ondo, Edo (which we must admit have been missed), Anambra and Osun States. We deny these states and the constituents the vigour and the ideas and creativity that young people can bring to governance for the next four years just by delaying these electoral reforms with another 2 months recess.
Section 87 of the proposed amendments make provision for a cap in the nomination fees, dues and payments of all types by political parties for the nomination of candidates, amongst other polity-changing proposals that address the issue of internal democracy within parties. Delaying the reforms of this important national assignment denies the vibrant young people who may have the creative solutions to the multi-faceted problems that our country face today and at such a time as this. This denial will be felt in every local constituency, not just for the year but for the entire term of those who will get elected under the current laws.
We understand that at several occasions, the leadership of the Senate and President Muhammadu Buhari himself has committed to passing these reforms. However, we wish to notify your leadership that in this critical case of reforming our elections process, DELAY will mean DENIAL, with impact that would reverberate for years in various constituencies in Nigeria and especially the youth demographic.
It is for these reasons and many more that we must implore your leadership to prioritise the passage of the electoral reforms over the recess that the people’s representatives are about to embark on. While we must admit that this will be an inconvenient task to take on, we will like to also state that this also presents an opportunity for the Senate under your leadership to put word into action as regards the published commitments of the National Assembly to Electoral Reforms. For the first time, the people of Nigeria and most especially the youth of our country will be able to say that the verbal commitment to Electoral Reforms has now become flesh and all skepticism will be quashed. By this postponement of the recess to focus fully on Electoral Reforms, there will be no doubt as to where the Senate Leadership stands and much more importantly, the importance of reforming our elections as a country and our democracy will be crystal clear to all Nigerians.
In conclusion, we write on behalf of all the young people of Nigeria, with the support of civil society partners focused on the inclusion of young people in our political life and electoral reforms as a democratic tool for progress and development in our country. We all will be elated to hear that this critical step for the acceleration of passing an Electoral Act 2020 has been made by your leadership. It will definitely ensure the history of your time and your leadership of the National Assembly is written in gold, not just in the history books but in the hearts of Nigerians as well.
Please accept the assurances of our highest esteem.
Jude Feranmi Adejuwon Banke Ilori Oyeniyi
Convener Executive Director