INEC Set For Credible Polls, Seeks Electoral Reform | Independent Newspapers Limited
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INEC Set For Credible Polls, Seeks Electoral Reform

Posted: Jun 4, 2016 at 3:49 am   /   by   /   comments (0)



Elections in Nigeria especially the last reruns conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) were marred by irregularities ranging from violence, ballot snatching to falsification of results. Observers believed that the last national and house of assembly rerun elections conducted in Rivers State was the most violent one in recent time. That may have necessitated INEC to seek for electoral reforms that would empower the commission to deal with violators of electoral acts. Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) at a recent retreat organised by the Federal House of Representatives’ Committee on Electoral and Political Parties Matters in Abuja said the commission has finalised a comprehensive proposal for constitutional and legal amendments to the Electoral Act. He said that the proposal for amendment was part of the commission’s efforts to curb electoral malpractices in the country.

Yakubu said, “We are also looking at some of our guidelines and manual to see what changes are needed in the light of recent experience,” He added that work had also commenced on the commission’s Strategic Plan for 2017-2021, including the Election Project Plan and the tracking mechanism. “This will be concluded by December 2016, well ahead of the general elections in 2019.”

The INEC Chairman attributed the high cost of organising elections to required number of personnel to be deployed as well as issues relating to litigations. He explained further that in Rivers, where a re-run election was conducted in March, INEC had to deploy 24,000 ad-hoc staff to the 4,444 polling units with 1,319 voting points and the cost was heavy on the INEC.

“Eighty per cent of the cost (of Rivers Re-run election) went into the payment of allowances and logistics such as transportation.

“Each and every case that goes to court, INEC is joined and we have to hire lawyers.

“From the last general elections to date, we have been taken to court over 700 times. In fact, in the last one week alone, we have been dragged to court at least 12 times.”

Yakubu also disclosed that the commission had conducted 127 elections in the last six months since the 2015 general elections.

He said INEC had conducted 50 re-run elections in 16 states in obedience to court orders as well as seven by-elections, occasioned by death or resignation in five states.

Yakubu who promised to conduct the remaining rerun elections in some states before the end of July this year, added that the commission has 31 more elections to conduct from the 2015 nullified elections, in addition to the forthcoming end of tenure elections for governorship in Edo and Ondo states.

The chairman, however, reiterated the Commission’s resolve to conduct transparent, free and fair elections in the country. He insisted that the Commission would never conclude any election for its own sake.

Yakubu said that some of the challenges slowing INEC down were due to the culture of “do-or-die politics.” The INEC boss decried a situation where politicians who are desperate in winning the election, indulge in all forms of illegality including violence just to be declared winner.

In his contribution, Comrade Debo Adeniran, chairman, Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL) expressed support over the intending amendment of the electoral acts. Adeniran stated that the amendment would discourage election violence which has become common with most elections in the country. He said, “The only reason while those who perpetrate and benefit from election violence  has made up their mind to continue is because there is no provision in the electoral act mandating INEC to punish those found guilty.”

Adeniran further suggested that those who perpetuate and benefit from election violence should be made to face appropriate punishments when found guilty. “Any politician that benefi from electoral violence should be barred from contesting any elective office for minimum of eight years, while any one found guilty of participating in violence should be jailed for four years.”  Adeniran did not exclude INEC Staff who may found guilty of aiding election malpractice as he suggested that such staff should be sent to jail if convicted. Some observers has advocated a special agency like the case of anti corruption  war that would be able to try and prosecute  those found guilty of election violence which has claimed several lives and give bad image to INEC in its quest to conduct a free and fair elections in the country.

One Voice, a coalition of Civil Society of Organisation (CSO) at a stakeholders meeting in Lagos recently admitted the inability of INEC to conduct a free and fair election under the present arrangement without the amendment of the electoral acts. The group urged the National Assembly to cooperate with INEC in order to ensure a speedy amendment of some electoral acts before the 2019 general elections which the preparation should start immediately. INEC has complained severally that certain provisions of the electoral acts have made it impossible for the commission to deal with election violence.

The electoral umpire came under heavy criticism especially from the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) recently over its failure to conclude the rerun elections across the country more than a year after the conclusion of 2015 general elections in the country. The inability of INEC to successful conduct rerun elections has created doubt in the mind of stakeholders over the ability of the commission to handle the general elections in 2019.

Mr. Olisa Metuh, former spokesperson for the opposition PDP wondered how INEC under Prof. Yakubu would be able to conduct a general election if it cannot conduct a rerun election in Rivers State. He said, “Also grossly unacceptable is the shoddy work by security operatives leading to escalation of violence, avoidable deaths and eventual cancellation of election results in eight local government areas in the state.” But Prof. has explained that conducting a rerun election is more difficult that the general elections.