In a Memoranda to the National Assembly Joint Committee on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and Electoral Matters, the Youth Party, yesterday recommended key amendments to the Electoral Bill that would strengthen the electoral process and deepen Nigeria’s democracy.
The Acting Chair of the Party, Mr Tomiwa Aladekomo represented by Mr. Ifeanyi Nwoye(National Financial Secretary), while presenting the position of the Party before the Committee during the public hearing, which held yesterday in Abuja, frowned at several provisions in the Bill, which if not changed could weaken the electoral process and create an undue advantage for the larger political parties.
Having highlighted what they claimed were “the limitations of the proposed Bill” the Youth Party then put forward the following recommendations before the House Committee:
The first was that the constitutional provisions for de-registration should ONLY apply to political parties that have had the opportunity to participate in all the elections within a 4 (four) year term. The Youth Party emphasized that “it would be unfair for the aforesaid provisions of the Constitution to apply to political parties registered in 2018, who have not had the same opportunity as the other existing parties to grow. And, most importantly, have not had the opportunity to participate in all the recent elections save for the 2019 General Elections in order to meet the requirement for continued registration.”
He further stated that “INEC should approach the Court for deregistration of Parties and state the grounds for deregistration with sufficient clarity and precision and this power must only be exercised upon obtaining a Court order granting leave to exercise same.” This is consistent with the provisions of the constitution relating to disqualification of candidates, which can only be carried by the Courts. The Party states that it is absurd that it is impossible for INEC to disqualify a candidate from contesting for ineligibility in any election without going to Court but can deregister a Party administratively and arbitrarily.
Also, Section 78 of the Bill is inconsistent with the provisions of Section 225A of the Constitution. Section 78 requires a Party to win the presidency, a governorship contest or any legislative seat to remain a Party. It will also restrict the democratic space for new Parties as its tantamount to expecting a baby to walk before crawling.
Another important issue raised by the Youth Party is the admissibility of electronic versions of Voters Register. The Chair argued that “the election petition rules should allow for the admissibility of electronic versions of voters register in the form of protected hard drives that are usually issued to all political parties by INEC before the commencement of any election.” He described the current procedure that requires obtaining certified true copies of the voters register from INEC as frustrating, cumbersome and outdated.”
On the issue of party primaries and nomination of candidates, the Chair agreed with certain aspects of Section 87 of the Bill that there should be some form of regulation of Party primaries. However, the Chair noted, “current provisions of Section 87 of the Bill amount to over-regulation and the following provisions should, however, be deleted: The provision in Section 87(8) of the Bill on the election of Adhoc Delegates, the provision in Section 87(9) of the Bill on the required number of delegates to nominate candidates for various positions, the provision in Section 87 (10) of the Bill allowing Parties to outline nomination guidelines, rules and procedures to guarantee free, fair, and credible indirect primaries should be extended to direct primaries, the provision in Section 87(13) of the Bill requiring and mandating State Independent Electoral Commission to monitor primaries held by a Political Party to nominate Local Government Council Chairmanship and Ward Councillorship candidates in a State, should be deleted.”
Of great urgency, also, the Chair further argued, “is the need for the National Assembly to pass an autonomous Electoral Offences Commission Act that will empower INEC with the capacity to investigate and coordinate enforcement and prosecution of all electoral offences.”
On the collation of election results, the Chair recommended that “INEC be mandated to adopt e-collation method to securely transmit results from all polling units to a central database such that only viewing access is allowed at the wards and local government levels – which ultimately eliminates manual collation processes.”
Finally, Mr Aladekomo drew the attention of the committee to the fact that there is no legislation governing the transition from one administration to another in Nigeria. The effect, he said, is that “the outgoing administration has no legal obligation to assist the incoming administration to achieve a smooth handover of power. The incoming administration is then left to engage in trial and error in the first few months of the administration without any guidance except where there is a good rapport with the outgoing administration.”
In closing, the chair recommended that re-election matters relating to the eligibility of candidates should be given the same expeditious hearing and status as election petitions. He said that “It should be resolved at the high court and the Court of Appeal being the final Court before the Election. Section 66, 107, 131 and 177 of the Constitution should also be amended to allow the Court, upon application by INEC or any other person, to disqualify any candidate who has any pending criminal charge to answer from contesting in any pre-election until he is cleared of all charges.”