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Oyebode, others task CSOs, INEC on credible polls


[FILE PHOTO] Election Poll

Ahead of the February general elections, a professor of law, Akin Oyebode has charged the Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) to work with Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct free, fair and credible elections.

Oyebode who made the charge at the 15th Gani Fawehinmi lecture/symposium held in Lagos, said it is important for the civil society to insulate INEC from interference by the executive arm and political elites.

Speaking on the topic: “Securing the Independence of INEC: A Panacea for free, fair and credible elections in Nigeria”, Oyebode said: “The independence of the body must be safeguarded and guaranteed by a conscious and vigorous civil society, in a position to defend it from any and all attempts to whittle down its ability to function without let or hindrance.

“The country is enduring perilous times in the political life when unprecedented accusations, counter-accusations and incriminations are shaking the country to its very foundations all because of the internecine struggle for political power through elections which should, as in other climes, be a joyous occasion and celebration of democracy, unaccompanied by threats and self-doubt threatening the vitality of the electoral process.”

The lecture was chaired by a judge of Appeal Court, Jos division, Justice Habeeb Abiru, and other eminent Nigerians like senior advocates, traditional rulers, various civil society were in attendance among other dignitaries.

Former president of the NBA, Mr. Augustine Alegeh (SAN) and Femi Falana (SAN) remarked that for INEC to be independent, senior lawyers must assist the commission to conduct a free and fair elections.

Alegeh said that there is need for the political elites to allow INEC to work freely and independently to ensure success of the elections saying: “if we don’t, we would be living in a fool’s paradise. INEC must remain independent and we as lawyers must keep fighting to ensure that INEC remains independent.”

Falana said appointment of chairman and members of INEC must come by advertisement as stipulated by the law in order for the commission to be free from interference.

He however blamed lawyers for initiating election petitions, explaining that some lawyers often would approach those who have lost elections that they can handle their petitions for them.

In his remark, INEC resident electoral commissioner in Akwa Ibom State, Mr. Mike Ighini blamed the political elites for the various problems militating against the conduct of free and fair elections.

He said: “The problem of INEC is not that of independence but that of political elites. The elites are the most dangerous people that have continued to destroy the independence of INEC”.

Ighini said that in spite of all constitutional safe guards, the political elites are planning to undermine everything they are doing in INEC.

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