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Nigerians Laud President's Signing of Electoral Reform Law

Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari delivers a speech during a European Union and African Union summit in Brussels on Feb. 18, 2022.

Nigeria's president, Muhammadu Buhari, has signed an election reform law that activists hope will improve transparency and promote inclusion.

Buhari signed the 2022 electoral amendment bill in his village Friday, with cabinet members and lawmakers in attendance.

During the signing, the president said the bill contained “salient and praiseworthy provisions that could positively revolutionize elections in Nigeria through the introduction of new technological innovations."

The signing followed a campaign by electoral reform activists urging the president to approve the bill, which lawmakers passed in January.

New law has support of civic groups

Activists applauded the president's signing of the bill. Godbless Otubure is the founder of Ready to Lead Africa, one of the civic groups that supports the new law.

"A lot of people told us we were joking that this is Nigeria, nobody is going to give you good electoral reforms," Otubure said. "But we sustained the campaign and today, the president of Nigeria signed the electoral bill into law. We're excited. It's not a perfect legislation but it's an incredible improvement of what we currently have."

Notable innovations in the law include electronic transmission of election results, electronic voter accreditation and greater accommodations for people with disabilities.

The president said the law will improve the efficiency, clarity and transparency of Nigeria's elections, and address disputes often arising from dissatisfied candidates and political parties.

Youth program manager encouraged

Ibrahim Faruq is a program manager of the Youth Initiative for Advocacy Growth and Advancement. He is encouraged by the new law.

"In the roll-up to the 2023 general elections, we're going to continue these engagements and find ways that we can actually turn up our democracy so that citizens can enjoy the dividends of our democracy," Faruq said.

Lawmakers had passed similar bills five times in the past but the president refused to sign them, saying they needed more work.

Now, as Nigeria heads to the polls in one year, many will be watching to see how - and if - the new bill changes the status quo.