Bishops to N’Assembly: Stop Working against Electoral Reform, Press Freedom

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The Catholic Bishops of Ibadan Ecclesiastical Province, has condemned the National Assembly for allegedly voting against electronic transmission of election results and other issues of national interest based on partisan interests.

The Bishops described as absurd and grotesque, a situation, where elected federal lawmakers put parties’ interests above national interests, by working against electoral reform, press freedom and other issues that affect Nigeria.

The Archdiocese, comprising Ilorin, Ondo, Oyo, Ekiti and Osogbo Dioceses, spoke in a communique issued after its meeting at Domus Pacis Pastoral Institute, Igoba, Akure, Ondo State, and made available to newsmen in Ado Ekiti, on Wednesday.

The communique signed by its Chairman and Secretary, Bishops Gabriel Abegunrin and John Oyejola respectively, felicitated Muslims on the celebration of this year’s Eid-el-Kabir.

“The ongoing controversy surrounding the proceedings of the National Assembly gives ample evidence of the theatre of the absurd, which democratic representation has become in Nigeria – be it on the electoral reform, electronic transmission of electoral results, press freedom or the Petroleum Industrial Bill (PIB).

“The work of those, who represent the people on the federal level in Nigeria does not seem to bring much satisfaction to the people for whose interest they were allegedly elected. With the National Assembly at various occasions prioritising party and privileges over people’s rights and interest, relief and progress continue to elude Nigerians.

“Simply put, those who claim to represent the people seem to have perfected the art of sabotaging the progress of the same people. Indeed, the time may have come for Nigerians to no longer simply roll over and accept non-representative decisions of the assembly but to challenge them by all legitimate means,” the communique said.

The Bishops appealed to Nigerians to resist attempt being allegedly contrived to silence the press and penalise journalists for merely doing their job in the country.

They insisted that the freedom of expression was a fundamental human right, guaranteed by the constitution and could not be alienated by any government least of all in a democracy.

The Clerics also backed the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Bishop Hassan Kukah in his effort to unveil the truth about the Nigerian situation in order to ameliorate things, calling on the government not to perceive criticism as a crime.

The Clerics further stated: “Our sympathies with those who continue to pay a high price. We express our deepest sympathies for the Nigerians, who bear the brunt of Nigeria’s debilitating situation, because of economic depression and hunger, armed robbery, banditry, kidnapping for ransom, unemployment and injustice.

“Many have died as has happened in Igangan in Oyo State and elsewhere while so many are still dying. May the departed souls rest in perfect peace and may those who are suffering at various levels find help and comfort”.

Congratulating Muslims on Sallah celebration, the men of God urged Muslims to in the spirit of the festival work together for peace and make all necessary sacrifices to build a nation on the strong pillars of fairness, justice, equity and the rule of law.

Meanwhile, the Senator representing Ekiti North at the National Assembly, Senator Olubunmi Adetunmbi, has said the legislation on e-Transmission of election results from polling units was not over yet, despite the position of senators, who voted against it.

According to him, “I am convinced that there will be a reconciliation between the positions taken by the House of Representatives and the Senate and I see it as a window of opportunity, where the lawmakers from both chambers will respond to all of the controversies surrounding electronic transmission of election results from polling units. I believe that the intention of the senate will be for good governance, regardless of partisan and regional affiliation of its members.”

Adetunmbi, who spoke yesterday on the Morning Show of ARISE NEWS Channel, added that, “Electronic transmission of results is as good as existing and cannot be killed. My thinking is that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), should be allowed to decide whether it is possible and convenient to transmit election results. The argument is that while some voted in support of electronic transmission of results, others voted for INEC to be checked by an external body before transmitting results.”

He said since the public had raised some concerns about the matter, the National Assembly would not want to ignore it, because they represent the people who have complained.

“For me as a person, I will want objective reasons and will not support the law that will tend to suggest that the parliament does not have confidence in judgment of people that have been assigned the responsibility of running INEC. These are my thoughts, but the Senate has taken a position on the Electoral Bill, which in my view, is still work-in-progress and can still be revisited,” Adetunmbi said.

Asked to speak on the position of PDP caucus in the House of Representatives, which has called for the prosecution of NCC officials for alleged perjury and for misleading the House over the possibility of electronic transmission of election results, Adetunmbi shared the view of the opposition party.

He said: “If there is a report that showed that Nigeria has enough internet capacity to transmit election results electronically from polling units, as against the submission of NCC staff that Nigeria does not have enough 35 and 4G broadband capacities to transmit election results, then such submission by NCC could be verified, because it is verifiable.”


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