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Constitution Review: What will Senate do to INEC?

By Dayo Benson, Political Editor

IF there was something Professor Maurice Iwu succeeded in doing Tuesday when he appeared before the Senate hearing on constitution review, it was to impress it upon the lawmakers not to tinker with the Independent National Electoral Commission INEC. This, he did to the point of conviction, but it remains to be seen whether the Senate bought his argument.

At a time when public sentiment weighs heavily against INEC as it is presently constituted, Prof. Iwu not only faulted Justice Muhammadu Uwais panel recommendation that INEC should be unbundled, he (Iwu) rather asked for more powers for the commission.

Perhaps, much to the chargrin of his audience,. Iwu argued that President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua convincingly won the 2007 presidential poll.

senate

This, obviously, was playing to the gallery. In the heat of the controversies that the elections generated.

President Yar’Adua himself admitted flaws in the exercise and promised to reform the nation’s electoral system. In fulfilment of his words, the President set up Electoral Reform Committee headed by former Chief Justice of the Federation, Justice Muhammadu Uwais. After what many considered a thorough job, the panel submitted its report.

The report, inter-alia recommends that:
* The National Judicial Council (NJC) should:
*Receive applications/nominations from the general public; shortlist three persons for each position; and  send the nominations to the National Council of State to select one from the shortlist and forward to the Senate for confirmation,

* Each of the professional bodies should send 3 nominations to the NJC for screening;

* The NJC shall screen the nominations and make appropriate recommendations to the National Council of State which shall further screen and recommend one name for each category to the Senate for confirmation.

The Committee further recommends that
For   INEC   to  function   efficiently,   some  of  the  functions   currently
performed by it should be assigned to other agencies as follows:

*Political   Parties  Registration  and  Regulatory  Commission
should be established and empowered to: i)  register political parties in accordance with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution and the Electoral Act 2006; ii)  monitor the organization and operation of the political parties, including their finances; iii)  arrange for the annual examination and auditing of the funds and accounts of political parties; iv)  monitor political campaigns and provide rules and regulations which shall govern the political parties; v) accredit domestic civil society groups and  organizations
working in the area of elections and  provide rules and regulations which shall govern their observation of elections; vi)   accredit international election observers and provide rules and   regulations   which   shall   govern   their   conduct   and observation of elections; vii)  accredit   national   and   international   media   organizations observing elections and provide rules and regulations which shall govern their activities; and viii)  all the functions listed in section 46, 78-105 of the Electoral
Act 2006.

*The Political Parties Registration and Regulatory Commission shall comprise the following members who should be non-partisan, i)  A   Chairman   who   must  be   a   person   of  unquestionable
integrity. ii)  A Deputy Chairman who must be a person of unquestionable integrity. However, the Chairman and the Deputy must not be of the same gender ; iii)  Six persons of unquestionable integrity, 2 of whom must be women and 1  of whom must come from each of the six geopolitical zones.

*The mode of appointment of the Chairman and members of the Board    of   the   Political   Parties    Registration    and   Regulatory Commission shall be as follows: i.  the National Judicial Council shall advertise the positions of the Chairman, Deputy and the 6 National Commissioners; ii. the   National  Judicial  Council  shall  screen  the  application received and recommend to the President for appointment subject to confirmation by the Senate;

In its White Paper however, the Federal Government only accepted the recommendation to unbundle INEC. Since then, several interest groups have been clamouring for full adoption of Uwais report on electoral reform.

It was the imperative of the agitation that gave birth to coalition of Democrats for Electoral Reform, CODER, convened by former Lagos State governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. For CODER, people’s vote must count at elections and the only way to achieve it is wholesale electoral reform which is what Uwais Committee recommendations stand for.


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