Nigeria's President Jonathan finally signed the amended Electoral Act into law on Friday, August 20th in the presence of several political figures and local dignitaries. During the signing ceremony, he said,
"the process leading to the passage of the bill was a test of the nation's emerging democratic maturity. It is proof that this system can muster the capacity to correct itself while the nation moves on to a higher level of political development."That description could be correct, but it ignores the numerous delays on the part of the Senate, the House of Representatives and even, President Jonathan, in formalizing the Electoral Act. Nevertheless, the finalization of the amended law is definitely a step in the right direction for the actualization of upcoming elections. This is particularly the case as monies necessary to conduct the polls have been deposited into the election commission's account. Despite this progress, other factors highlight the reality that a free, fair and credible 2011 election are still not guaranteed. In fact, given time constraints and other logistical challenges, Nigeria's upcoming elections could sadly be just as bad or worse than the controversial elections of 2007.
Review of the modifications to the Electoral Act occurred in both the Senate and House of Representatives. Additionally, all 36 state legislative bodies also reviewed the modified version of the law. States like Bauchi rejected several sections but nonetheless, the necessary majority of states assented to the law.
Funding for the electoral body, the Independent National Election Commission (INEC), also faced delays. Although INEC's chairman announced that he needed budgetary approval by August 11th, vacation time for the Senate and House of Representatives delayed discussion. INEC's chairman, Attahiru Jega, noted that the funding was needed by the 11th in order to ensure enough time for the Commission to carry out it's mandate. Eventually, the Senate approved a budget of N87.7 billion on August 10th. A vote from the House came on August 12th.
However, INEC did not receive the funding until its electoral bill was formally signed by President Jonathan on August 20th. That was at least two days after Jega again went to the press to announce that INEC could not create a timetable because the bill and budget were yet to be finalized. The delay in Jonathan's signature was criticized with some accusing the President of seeking to delay the elections from January to April. These accusations were challenged by the Junior Minister of Information and communications, Labaran Maku, who explained,
"[t]he president is not a rubber stamp. His duty is to go through this law and ensure that there is nothing in it that will cause problem during elections or that will be difficult to enforce."And promptly after Jonathan signed the Electoral Act into existence, the Minister of Finance, Segun Aganga, released N87.7 billion to INEC's account.
19.7% and 28.57%)