Early Voting bill passes first reading at the Senate

On 15th May, a bill to amend the Electoral Act 2022 to make Nigeria’s electoral process freer, fairer, more transparent and inclusive passed first reading at the Senate. The bill, which is sponsored by Senator Abdulaziz Musa Yar’adua (Katsina Central), aims to allow early voting in Nigerian elections, which would make it possible for registered voters to vote before the election date in case they would not have the opportunity to vote on the election day.

The Early Voting bill aims to enable Nigerians on essential election duty—such as election officials, security personnel, accredited observers, and media reporters—to cast their votes before election day. This ensures they can exercise their constitutional right without hindrance. Currently, an estimated 2 million Nigerians are disenfranchised due to their roles on election day. Early Voting will protect their voting rights and potentially increase voter turnout, addressing the issue of declining turnout in Nigerian elections.

The proposed bill aligns with some of these recommendations in Yiaga Africa’s report on the 2023 general elections, Dashed Hopes?. Other recommendations in the report include enabling diaspora voting to address the exclusion of Nigerians in diaspora from voting and protect their voting rights, the unbundling of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), reviewing the process of appointments into it and professionalizing those appointments to emphasize professional skills and qualifications in addition to  the criteria of non-partisanship and unquestionable character currently prescribed by the constitution.

It is expected that there will be more proposed amendments to the Electoral Act 2022 in order to strengthen Nigeria’s electoral legal framework, particularly based on the outcomes of the 2023 general elections and the recommendations made by citizen groups and civil society organizations.

Yiaga Africa with the support of the European Union and in collaboration with the National Assembly Joint Committee on Electoral Reforms also held a citizens’ town hall meeting in November 2023 to provide an opportunity for citizens to present their proposals for how the electoral system can be strengthened through legislation.

This was followed by a roundtable meeting in April to reflect on Nigeria’s electoral process one year after the general elections, where election stakeholders looked at if there has been any improvement since March 2023, and how to drive reforms to the electoral system. Yiaga Africa also presented its report, Electoral Trust Restored? at the reflection roundtable.

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