It’s easier to register a political party than a limited liability company in Nigeria, says INEC
• INEC has no power to punish erring candidates, parties
Director of Voter Education and Publicity at Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Mr. Oluwole Osaze-Uzzi, said the power to punish an erring candidate or political parties does not lie with the commission. Osaze-Uzzi said this in Lagos.
Themed ‘Rethinking Credible Elections, Accountable Democracy and good governance in Nigeria’, was in commemoration of the 85th birthday of the Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka.
Osaze-Uzzi said, “We cannot sustain democracy without an election and election must be periodic and also reflect the wish of the people and that is what we must endeavour to do. After every election we must go back to the drawing board.
Election is a series of activities; it’s a process and we must look at all that is involved in a process; we start with voters registration, registration of political parties are serious issues that we must look at.
“Improving the electoral process in Nigeria will have to go beyond looking to INEC for all the answers. Many relevant stakeholders, political parties, all arms of government, security agencies and the citizens have important roles to play.
“INEC’s powers are incredibly limited in punishing electoral malpractices committed by parties, politicians and organisations that participate in the electoral process.
There were a lot of debates on the role of security in the 2019 elections in some area on what role they should.
“INEC is an election management body and also a regulatory body. By the way, it’s the weakest regulatory body in the world today. “People say, ‘Why doesn’t INEC sanction people found guilty of violence or sponsoring electoral malpractices? Why doesn’t INEC sanction them or disqualify them?’ I’m sorry, INEC has no such powers.
“I always tell people that NAFDAC could close any shop found selling fake drugs but INEC cannot stop erring candidates or parties for doing wrong things. If you’re dissatisfied, the good thing about democracy is that you can challenge that in a court of law; but INEC cannot stop an erring candidate or party from doing wrong things.
“Campaigns are not supposed to start till 90 days to the elections, but two months, six months to the election you see billboards, posters and people campaigning. It’s outlawed by the constitution. Section 221 says there should be no campaigns by any association other than the political party, but it doesn’t empower INEC to disqualify or sanction anybody.
We must look at the role, the responsibilities and the power to do what we can and should do
He added that INEC as a body cannot conduct an election without the input of other institutions, nothing, “if INEC doesn’t use volunteers from the NYSC, where can we get a group of trained Nigerians?”
For example, he said the dysfunctional nature of internal democracy of political parties hampered INEC’s operations during the 2019 general elections.
“What is the impact of politicians and the desperation of the political class? He asked
What do they do? Out of the primary election, there are over 820 cases in court contesting who’s the rightful candidate of the party.”
Osaze-Uzzi cautioned that even though INEC is the leading agency responsible for how smoothly Nigeria’s electoral process runs, the commission should not be blamed for everything that goes wrong. He lamented that the electoral commission doesn’t have much of a say in how parties are registered and contest in elections in the country.
He complained that with the current system, Nigeria could end up with thousands of political parties by 2023.
He said, “There were 91 parties that took part in the 2019 elections. There’s a 92nd party registered as a result of a court order, and there’ll be more.
“Are we satisfied? Should there be more parties? There are two sides to that.
“Republic of Benin, Niger and Chad have more parties than Nigeria. India has thousands of parties, but they have regional and national parties. So in making solutions, people say open up the democratic space but they forget that when INEC tries to make the conditions for registration more stringent, we’re taken to court and the Supreme Court says, ‘No, you cannot do that, it’s not in the constitution.”