STAKEHOLDERS in the electoral process have tasked the National Assembly to further amend the Electoral Act to strip the Presidency of the powers to appoint Resident Electoral Commissioners (REC) and commissioners for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The stakeholders stated this at a roundtable organised by Yiaga Africa and the Kofi Annan Foundation themed “Unpacking Nigeria’s 2023 General Elections and Prospects for Electoral Reform” in Abuja on Monday.
Speaking at the event, Mr Samson Itodo, the Executive Director, Yiaga Africa, said that the roundtable was convened to conduct a post mortem of the 2023 General Elections and to seek priority areas for reforms.
Itodo said that INEC needed to be unbundled adding that the current arrangements where the appointment of the chairman and national commissioners were vested in the executive, needed to be reviewed.
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He said that the Justice Uwais committee recommended that the president should not appoint the Chairman and commissioners into INEC rather the power should be vested in another institution.
“You cannot have an electoral commission that is composed of persons who are appointed by the President and in some cases, you have the incumbents as part of a political party or leading a political party.
“So, in line with Justice Uwais, one of the recommendations is to review the appointment process of commissioners and RECs into INEC.
“In fact, one of the proposals is that the President should not appoint RECs. INEC, when properly constituted with individuals that have impeccable character, competence and capacity, should appoint its own resident electoral commissioners or directors of elections to manage elections,” he said, and added: “This is just a way of protecting the independence of the commission to prevent it from any form of political interference or manipulation.”
According to him, there was a need to professionalise appointments into INEC to create an electoral commission with individuals with diverse skills and competencies, legal communications, and logistics among others.
He said that the confidence of citizens in the electoral process had plummeted due to the conduct of the 2023 general election and so stakeholders and the Nigerian state needed to pay close attention on how to rebuild the public confidence.
He said that rebuilding public confidence should begin with providing critical answers to some of the questions that citizens had asked.
“If we don’t respond to those questions, and in this case, both INEC security agencies, including the judiciary, owe it to the Nigerian people to answer some difficult questions, because only then can citizens begin to trust the process again,” he said.
Itodo said that the legal framework for Nigeria’s elections needed to be reformed because they revealed that there were inconsistencies and ambiguities in the law.
He however, said that elections were not just about laws because Nigeria could have the best of laws but if politicians do not change their attitude towards politics, toward elections and towards democracy citizens, it would not inspire confidence in citizens.
He said that there were also issues around the ambiguities in the results coalition process adding that both the law and the guidelines issued by INEC had some inconsistencies and there was need to strengthen the law to make it compulsory for electronic transmission of results.
Sen. Abdulaziz Yaradu’a, the Deputy Chairman, Senate Committee on INEC, said that the National Assembly (NASS) was working on plans to build the election process to global standards for the benefit of Nigeria’s democracy.
Yaradu’a however, said that one of the issues being faced by NASS was that while elections had been conducted and completed, most of the members of the assembly were still in court trying to protect their mandate.
Mr Sebastian Brack, a member the Kofi Annan Foundation, said that Nigeria was not just a key country for West Africa, but Africa as a whole and given all the pressures on democracy facing the world, Nigeria’s successful democratic experiment was a priority.
“This particular roundtable is looking at how we can improve the situation for the next elections in a constructive and forward looking way.”
Brack said that different stakeholders from the parliament, civil society, security forces, media and others were brought together to agree on a consensus or list of key recommendations that would come out at the end of the day.
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Prof. Mohammed Kuna, the Special Adviser to INEC Chairman, said that although elections were important, they were not enough in terms of deepening and consolidating democracy. Kuna said that there was need to focus also on governance, political accountability, conducting elections among others saying that the commission had noted them. (NAN)