OrderPaperToday – Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, has called on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the Nigeria Police Force to ensure impartial and free general elections in February/March this year.

The Speaker in a message to his colleagues to mark resumption from the yuletide break applauded the legislative arm for passing the electoral act (amendment) bill on three occasions despite a serial rejection by President Muhammadu Buhari.

He declared that the national assembly passed the bill to block the loopholes in the electoral process against the backdrop of moves by some forces “working to manipulate the coming elections.”

He said: “It should remain a thing of pride for us that the National Assembly has done its best by taking steps to guarantee the successful and rancour-free conduct of the 2019 general elections by passing the Electoral Act Amendment Bill for the third time after Mr President had declined assent to it twice. Lack of passage into Law of the amended Bill means that the impending general elections will not benefit from the innovative mechanisms crafted in its collaboration with international and Development partners.

“Consequently, 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.”

According to him, “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.

“Under the present circumstance, we have no choice than to take INEC and the Police by their words and give them the benefit of doubt in their recent assurances to be impartial, efficient and truthful in the conduct of the coming elections. This is the minimum that the country deserves from them at this auspicious time. Nothing short of complete openness, a level playing ground and strict adherence to extant Laws will be acceptable to Nigerians.”

Dogara also called on President Buhari, to take a hard look at Nigeria’s national security architecture with a view to securing lives, national pride and prestige and to fight against unbridled violence.

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