Nigerians Call For Review Of Electoral Reforms To Strengthen Democracy

Gloria Essien, Abuja

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Eectoral legal framework review has been identified as an imperative for improving the quality of elections in Nigeria.

These were the views of stakeholders at the Citizens’ Town-hall on Electoral Reforms, organised by the Senate and House of Representatives Joint Committees on Electoral Matters, held in Abuja.

They said that the last general election exposed ambiguities, complexities and inadequacies in the 2022 Electoral Act.

Timely manner

The 10th National Assembly has expressed commitment to reviewing the electoral legal framework in a timely manner.

The Chairman Senate Committee on Electoral Matters, Senator Sharafadeen Ali, says the recommendations from the stakeholders would be considered during the reform exercise.

He said that in a recent retreat organised by the Senate, the Nigerian Senate resolved to undertake reforms of the legal framework for elections, to unbundle the Independent National Electoral Commission INEC to improve its efficiency and effectiveness in the preparation and conduct of elections.

They believe that other priorities include, removing the ambiguity in the electoral law to make electronic transmission of results mandatory, introducing early voting for eligible voters on election duty.

The reform also includes diaspora voting, sanctions for failure to submit register of members to INEC, proscribe cross-carpeting for legislators and elected executives and extending locus standi to taxpaying citizens to file cases against candidates for filing false information to INEC in party nomination documents.

The House of Representatives says it is commited to amending the Electoral Act 2022 to address the complaints and observations made by stakeholders on the conduct of the 2023 general elections.

The House in its legislative agenda, proposed to unbundle INEC by passing an independent legislation (the Political Parties Bill) to regulate political parties and a National Electoral Offences Commission bill to prosecute electoral offenders.

The Chairman House Committee on Electoral Matters,  Hon Adebayo Balogun, explained that the event was organised to enable stakeholders contribute to the electoral reform exercise.

He called for improvements in the electoral legal framework.

The former Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission INEC, Professor Attahiru Jega, also called for the unbundling of the commission to make it more efficient.

He observed that INEC is saddled with too much responsibilities and that it is affecting the commission’s core responsibility.

The former INEC Chairman also recommended a review of the appointment of the chairman, the national commissioners and the resident electoral commissioners.

“I think the conventional method in which the President nominates and when that happens, the candidate does not go through rigorous screening.

“We need a transparent process. We need to ensure there is full screening, and in particular we need to ensure that the legal provisions about non-partisanship, about the integrity of the people nominated are actually taken very seriously. 

Prof Jega advocated for the proscription of cross-carpeting by politicians from one party to another, explaining that it would improve electoral integrity and deepen the nation’s democracy.

The Executive Director YIAGA Africa, Mr Samson Itodo, called for attitudinal change amongst Nigerians to achieve electoral reforms.

Other stakeholders at the event called for full implementation of the Justice Uwais report on electoral reforms, thirty five affirmative action on women as well as voter apathy.

Lateefah Ibrahim