By Emmanuel Aziken
Abujaâ€”The report of the 44-man Senate ad-hoc Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution has given a leeway to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to conduct the next round of elections by this December.
The report laid before the Senate yesterday by the Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, has also adopted provisions to allow independent candidates in the next round of elections.
The report which is yet to be circulated, according to very reliable Senate sources yesterday, is a prelude to the reviewed Electoral Act which is also to be submitted to the Senate next week.
The report of the committee, Vanguard learnt, has also adopted the establishment of an Electoral Offences Commission, EOC, which would be modeled after the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, in the prosecution of election riggers.
The establishment of the EOC, Vanguard learnt, would lead to the restructuring of INEC to allow the body have some reasonable degree of autonomy.
“This is going to be a very strong body that would police the electoral system and it will be like what the EFCC is to the financial system,â€ one source privy to the report disclosed yesterday.
The report of the committee, Vanguard learnt yesterday evening, also rejected proposals as elicited in the Justice Mohammed Uwais-led Electoral Reform Committee that the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission should be appointed by the National Judicial Council, NJC.
The committeeâ€™s final recommendation sustaining the status quo under which the President nominates the INEC chairman and the Senate approves the nomination was despite the strong lobby of a group of Senators within the committee to allow the NJC make the appointment.
Under the recommendation of the committee elections would hold not earlier than 150 days and not later than 90 days before the inauguration of the next President.
The new proposal if approved by the whole Senate and agreed to by the House of Representatives and the majority of the State Houses of Assembly, would replace the present situation under which elections are fixed not earlier than 90 days and not later than 60 days.
The change in the time frame has been canvassed as a way of giving enough time frame for the resolution of election disputes to avoid the situation where those sworn into office are subsequently thrown out by election panels.
The Senate panel, Vanguard learnt, was unanimous in the adoption of independent candidates in future elections, though, very stringent conditions have been provided to minimize the abuse of the liberty. One of such stringent provisions it was learnt was that such candidates must not have participated in the primaries conducted by political parties.