Following the controversy trailing the Electoral Guidelines released recently by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Akin Oyebode, a professor of International Law and Jurisprudence, has advised the electoral body to exercise discretion in the implementation.
Oyebode gave the advice at the 15th Chief Gani Fawehinmi Annual Lecture which had the theme: “Securing the Independence of INEC – A Panacea For Free, Fair and Credible Elections in Nigeria.”
News men report that 61 political parties have sued INEC over the modifications it made on the guidelines to be used in the 2019 General Elections.
In a keynote address, Oyebode said: “Undoubtedly, INEC is empowered to issue necessary and proper guidelines to facilitate its activities.
“However, INEC’s power should be exercised with discretion in order not to bring the roof down on everyone.
“For example, the registration of 91 political parties, however well-intentended, is today reminiscent of a case of the medicine being worse than the disease.
“INEC is well advised to remember the dictum that the road to hell is paved with good intentions and, therefore, in the application of laws, it should not wreak greater injury on the polity.’’
The professor said that the electoral umpire should desist from anticipatory implementation of electoral laws.
“For example, while the use of smart card readers or electronic transmission of election results might appear justifiable on account of their enhancement of the electoral process, it is untenable to do so without an effective legislation thereto,” he said.
Oyebode said that it was necessary for INEC to partner with the civil society to enhance its independence.
“In its quest for independence, INEC has few to turn to other than civil society.
“Accordingly, civil society should enlist in the vanguard of sentinels for the independence of INEC in the overall interest of the polity.
“It is not enough that INEC has done justice to all the parties; that fact must be placed squarely in the public domain and perhaps the best instrumentality for effecting this is civil society,” Oyebode said.
Justice Adewale Abiru of the Court of Appeal who was the Chairman of the occasion, citing Fawehinmi as an example, urged young lawyers to imbibe exemplary courtroom and legal practice conduct of senior colleagues.
“I wanted to chair this lecture so that I can share the virtues I learnt from Chief Gani Fawehinmi.
“He taught me that, in order to have a successful practice, you have to invest in your practice, he had one of the best law libraries in the country and he was also a very courteous person.
“I did not work in his chambers but this was what I learnt from going to court to listen to and watch Gani Fawehinmi.
“I hope young lawyers today will imbibe this.
“If there is a senior you will like to replicate, go to court and watch him. Gani Fawehinmi was my light in my darkness of legal practice, and I thank him today,” Abiru said.
Earlier, in his address of welcome, Mr Monday Ubani, the Chairman of the Gani Fawehinmi Annual Lecture Planning Committee, noted that Fawehinmi (SAN), a rights campaigner, played enormous roles in the development of politics in Nigeria.
“You and I are aware of the roles played by the late Gani Fawehinmi in the development of our political space, especially when INEC refused to register some political parties in Nigeria.
“He pursued that matter in the judiciary to a logical conclusion and got a reprieve that opened the space for other parties.
“For that singular act, most of these ‘Not-Too-Young-To-Run’ have found homes to emerge as presidential candidates,” he said.
Ubani said that in fulfilling Fawehinmi’s desire to move the country forward, a position paper of the lecture would be sent by the planning committee to the Federal Government and INEC. (NAN)