North Central tasks committee on INEC’s independence
Nigerians show desire to hire, fire leaders through votes
Should the ongoing attempt to review the Electoral Act, through the Electoral and Constitution Reform Committee set up recently by the Federal Government, yield the desired result, Nigerians might find it easy to elect and remove public officers through their votes.
Although, this is what the electorate have craved for, it has been difficult to achieve over the years due to lapses in the process, conduct and the aftermath of elections.
Some analysts have blamed it on the country’s weak and faulty Electoral Act.
There is hope however that there would be improvement since the Electoral and Constitution Reform Committee chaired by former president of the Senate, Dr. Ken Nnamani commence the first phase of its assignment.
Many Nigerians across the geo-political zones have shown strong desire not only to participate in the first phase, which involves public hearings, but also to ensure that credible elections take place.
It is expected that at the end of the day, the power of the citizenry to exercise his or her franchise to choose their leaders would be entrenched practically as they would decide the fate of anyone aspiring for public office. Consequently the yardstick of performance would apply for those seeking reelection.
Taking a cursory look at the interaction between the committee and Nigerians in the North central geo-political zone during a public hearing, the immediate responsibility that was placed before the reform body, was to take a critical look at electoral issues bothering on INEC’s independence, judiciary’s upturning of the declared election winners, under-aged voting, political party logos, submission of ballot papers, electoral violence and availability of permanent voters’ cards (PVC’s) for voters among many others.
Governor of Plateau State, Simon Lalong observed that the history of election in Nigeria has not been pleasant, noting that at each stage of elections, there is established and reported cases of violence.
According to him, “The general perception is that elections in Nigeria are characterised by mal-practices, which results do not reflect the wishes of the electorate nor give them the leadership they desire.
He observed that from 1959 to date, at the end of each election, past governments have failed to put up any from of Political Reforms Committee to look into the noticeable loopholes, with a view to recommending appropriate solutions; and where they do, most of the reports of such committees are not implemented thus creating rooms for more mal-practices, which commonly create violence leading to the destruction of lives and property, and in some cases, military intervention.
Lalong implored the committee and participants to look at all reports especially that of Justice Uwais, with the view to getting some of their laudable recommendations and marry them with the current views and realities on ground to bring out a document that will sustain the nation’s democracy.
He said: “As you are aware, political reforms in any country are expected to right the noticeable wrongs in order to build public confidence in elections. Your committee should use our past experience as a guide to fashion out a practically feasible and implementable document that will guaranty the safety of the electorate to vote and that such votes are counted as well as protection of electoral officers”
In his contribution, the Governor of Nasarawa State, Alhaji Tanko Al-Makura, who was represented by the Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Ibrahim Abdullahi, pleaded the committee to revisit Justice Uwais Committee report and work towards the implementation of the entire report at the end of the exercise.
The Governor who advocated for the electoral offenses commission for prompt resolution of electoral mal-practices said all election petitions must be resolved within six months and should be terminated at the High Court.
Besides, Nnamani harped in the public hearing on the need for a regular review of the country’s electoral laws, especially in a country in political transition like Nigeria, so as to be able to address the challenges hindering credible elections.
He said the committee was touring states of the federation to collect views on how best to achieve a reform that would be all-inclusive devoid of tribal, religious, political or regional sentiments. He hinged this on sections 8 and 9 of the 1999 Constitution
On the processes for the constitutional amendment he said: “Involving states and other stakeholders in the process, is for acceptability and wider knowledge.”
Nnamani commended the Justice Uwais Committee for a thorough job but added that certain additions and considerations were included in the present committees terms of reference.
President Muhammadu Buhari had in his inauguration speech on May 29, 2015 promised to deepen the country’s democracy and establish the culture of an enduring electoral system.
The President emphasised the need to evaluate the democratic journey thus far with a view to fashioning out a more enduring system that will serve present and future generations.
He hinged the decision on the various judicial judgments, which he said indicated the urgent need to scale up confidence in the electoral system. In particular, he decried widespread distortion of binding judicial precedent with conflicting judgments, as well as situations where electoral officials were killed or kidnapped with the election environment turned into a war theatre by politicians.
It would be recalled that the Federal government on October 4, 2016 inaugurated a 24-member Committee through the office of the Attorney- General of the Federal and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami.
The Committee was mandated to look into possible amendments to the Constitution and Electoral Act and come out with a more robust and generally acceptable electoral system.
It was also advised to take a holistic look of the recommendations of Justice Uwais Electoral Reform Committee with the directives to make widespread consultation; and in particular with the National Assembly and judiciary in order to come up with proposals that would stand the test of time.
Precisely, the committee are to review recent judicial decisions on election petitions as they relate to conflicting judgments and absence of consequential orders.
Others are review of the laws impacting elections in Nigeria, including relevant provision of the 1999 Constitution and the Electoral Act 2012 (as amended).
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