The Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP), consisting of over 40 parties, has warned of an alleged plan by President Muhammadu Buhari to dump the Electoral Act Amendment Bill, thereby making next year's general elections prone to manipulations.
CUPP's National Spokesperson Ikenga Imo Ugochinyere, at a press conference in Abuja, yesterday said the coalition had information that Buhari would soon tell the National Assembly he would not sign the bill due to Article 2 of the ECOWAS Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance, which "prohibits countries from amending the electoral laws less than six months to elections unless there is consent of the political parties."
He described compliance with the protocol as a ploy to make the elections subject to distortion. "The amendment, if signed into law, makes the use of the card reader statutory and the only instrument of accreditation, thereby permanently doing away with the Incident Form.
"The amendment takes care of the issue of exclusion of political parties from elections. The amendment also makes the back end result of the card reader an evidential tool that can be called upon for nullifying elections where certain levels of infractions currently allowed in our polls are perpetrated," he said.
He noted: "If the amendment is not signed into law, there is fear among Nigerians that the elections will end up being the most violent in our recent history. Victory will be for only those who shoot themselves through the ballot, as the hands of the Supreme Court would be tied from nullifying the elections due to the non-statutory backing of the card reader as has been held in some 2015 election cases."
He also alerted Nigerians to an alleged plot to destabilise the exercise. "Militarisation will lead to cancelling presidential and governorship elections in some states where the president knows he will lose woefully. Rerun elections would then be conducted so that thugs and state apparatus would be deployed massively to intimidate voters," he said.
He added: "Where President Buhari fails to sign the amended Electoral Bill, the Nigerian opposition shall be left with no option but adopt and launch, as the only means for the survival of democracy, the Opposition Code 20.
"This code, enshrined in Section 20 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, allows citizens to perform policing duties of arrest. The section provides that 'a private person may arrest a suspect in Nigeria who in his presence commits an offence or whom he reasonably suspects of having committed an offence for which the police is entitled to arrest without a warrant.'"
The CUPP yesterday also adopted Atiku Abubakar as presidential candidate.
According to a statement by Ugochinyere, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) standard-bearer was chosen because he "towered high on the criteria used in arriving at the decision, which include national acceptability, financial capacity, spread of his political party, leadership capacity, international acceptability, experience, capacity to rebuild the economy, secure the country and unite all Nigerians, among other factors."
Atiku's emergence, said to have "enjoyed majority support", followed a closed-door meeting by the coalition at the Yaradua Centre, Abuja, yesterday.
Ugochinyere disclosed that the coalition would meet with the candidate before Friday for formal talks on commencement of campaign.
Also, the chairman of CUPP's steering committee and former Osun State governor, Olagunsoye Oyinlola, told reporters at the venue that "a deep appraisal of the recent governorship election in Osun State will tell any discerning mind that it would have been very difficult for the All Progressives Congress (APC) to do what it did if the opposition had presented a common front.
"Indeed, opposition votes combined in the Osun State election were about 500,000, almost doubling those of the ruling APC, which scored 255,505 votes. So, our suggestion is that whatever we are doing with the presidential ticket should be done in all states for the good of our people. We must all realise that it is better and wiser to win together than to lose together."
A coalition of non-governmental organisations meanwhile has asked the United States (U.S.) to decline granting of a visa to Atiku, saying the move would negate the Patriot Act, which makes accepting the proceeds of corruption overseas a U.S. money laundering offence.
The coalition, an active support group for the re-election of Buhari, under the aegis of Forum of Non-Governmental Organisations in Nigeria (FONGON), made the demand during a protest at the U.S. embassy in Abuja yesterday.
The office was not open as Americans mourned their 41st president, George Bush. A letter containing the group's grievances and signed by the convener, Wole Badmus, was however read.
Accusing Atiku of alleged corruption, the letter urged the U.S. to avoid interference in Nigeria's politics as elections draw nearer.