September 9, 2023

After PEPT judgment, what’s next for Nigeria’s electoral system?

Supreme Court

By Luminous Jannamike, Abuja

Following the outcome of the 2023 presidential election and the judgment of the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal on Wednesday, Nigeria finds itself at a crucial juncture.

The focus has now shifted to how Nigeria can improve its electoral system to foster a stronger democracy. Saturday Vanguard shares the opinions and insights of key stakeholders, highlighting their
recommendations for reform.

Amend 1999 Constitution, Electoral Act —Obi, ICPC’s Head of External Cooperation Kingsley Obi, the Head of External Cooperation at ICPC, shared his perspective on the matter.

He expressed his disappointment, stating that it was a missed opportunity for greatness and progress in Nigeria’s 24 years of democracy.

He attributed this setback to the failure of politicians, INEC, the government, and the masses to abide by the rules. Obi emphasized the significance of addressing the 2023 elections’ outcome as a critical national issue, urging decisive steps to be taken.

“I speak as one who voted with great expectations and also encouraged others to do so. We monitored theelection and submitted a report,” he said.

When asked about his vision for Nigeria’s future, Obi passionately replied, “I love the dreams of the future more than the history of the past.” His words reflected a strong belief in the potential of Nigeria to overcome its challenges and forge a better future. So, what is the way forward? He agreed that amending the Electoral Act and the 1999 Constitution are a crucial step.

He said, “The Electoral Act should be amended to include sanctions for the following: false declaration of election results,requiring government appointees to resign before joining a campaign council, punishment for not uploading election results in realtime, penalties for the late arrival of materials, sanctions against law enforcement agents who aid in election rigging or disruption, and a revised election timetable for both parliament and the executive branch.

Additionally, the Constitution should be amended to include the following provisions: no swearing-in of elected officials until all pending cases are resolved, the implementation of time limits for the resolution of election-related cases, similar to the system in Kenya, the establishment of a mandatory schedule for election-related cases with a timeline for their conclusion, and the creation of an independent electoral offenses commission.”

Make electronic transmission of results mandatory —Adeyanju

Similarly, Deji Adeyanju, a renowned activist and legal scholar, argues that the Electoral Act (2022), as amended, is not yet watertight. He suggests that further amendments are necessary to enforce the mandatory electronic transmission of election results by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

Adeyanju said, “Whenever discretionary powers are bestowed upon an individual or institution, that entity is free to exercise their discretion in any manner they choose. We must amend the electoral act to require the compulsory electronic transmission of results from polling units on Election Day. I have previously expressed my concern when people were celebrating the amendment of the electoral act, as it granted INEC discretionary powers regarding the electronic transmission of results.

We must further amend the Electoral Act to mandate exclusively electronic transmission of results for all elections in the country.”

Let truth be prioritized in managing future elections — Okutepa, SAN

ToSenior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Jibrin Okutepa, Nigeria’s democracy is at a crossroads. He believes that although the country has made progress over the years, there are still several areas that require urgent attention.

According to Okutepa, Nigerians are well aware of the excruciating pains experienced by petitioners in dealing with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). He suggests that Nigeria would greatly benefit from consistently upholding truth in the management of its affairs.

“Nigerians know the excruciating pains petitioners go through in the hands of INEC and how pink copies of election results are not always given to agents of parties in most cases. Nigeria will do itself well if at all times it upholds truth in the running of its affairs,” he said.

INEC independent, accountable to Nigerians —Effiong

In the same vein, Barr Inibehe Effiong, a public interest lawyer, suggests that while INEC is independent, it is essential to hold it accountable for violating its own guidelines in order to enhance the electoral system. He made this statement in light of the judgement of the Presidential Election Petition Court, which affirmed that INEC cannot be compelled to transmit its results electronically, despite making a promise to Nigerians to do so prior to the elections.

Effiong argued that, “Public funds were allocated for this purpose, and INEC relied on the integrity of the entire election through the use of BVAS for accreditation and result transmission. However, INEC has not faced condemnation or criticism for violating its own guidelines and promises. I do not believe that this is the appropriate behavior for a country that seeks to be taken seriously.”

Role of technology in electoral process cannot be overlooked —Dr. Karim, NISS Director

Dr. A. A. Karim, Director of Research Estimate and Library Services/ Head of the Postgraduate School at the National Institute of Security Studies, Abuja, believes that leveraging technology can enhance transparency and efficiency.

He said, “There is a need for INEC to improve the deployment of BVAS and technology to prevent failures in future elections. INEC’s technology experts and consultants should study BVAS and work on enhancing its workability and security, especially in the area of result transmission, leading up to the 2027 general elections.

This should be done in collaboration with all stakeholders, including technical suppliers and partners. Special security measures should be implemented to protect BVAS machines at polling units, in order to prevent incidents of snatching and theft by thugs or hoodlums.

There should be improved training and retraining of BVAS operators, as well as the deployment of a technical team to promptly address cases of malfunction.”

Strategic implementation of cashless policy, civic education ‘ll help —Acting EFCC

Chairman, Chukkol For Abdulkarim Chukkol, the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), voter education and civic engagement, particularly in countering vote-trading, along with the strategic implementation of a cashless policy, are critical components in strengthening Nigeria’s electoral system.

He emphasized that, “we must continue to raise awareness among Nigerian voters about the detrimental effects of vote-buying, as it contributes to poor governance.

Furthermore, we should advocate for significant reforms to impose stricter penalties for vote-trading. If the cashless policy is strategically planned and implemented, itwill serve as a valuable tool in curbing vote-buying.”

We must build capacity to manage election crises—Akobundu, AUDA-NEPAD boss

According to Princess Gloria Akobundu, the Chief Executive Officer of African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD, Nigeria must invest in building the capacity of stakeholders to manage electoral crises.

“We must assess how well the campaigns and sensitization efforts prior to the election have influenced the peaceful conduct of elections in Nigeria, and also enhance the capacity of the relevant stakeholders in managing pre- and post-electoral crises,” she stated.

Nigeria’s quest for a better democracy requires comprehensive reforms to the electoral system. The outcome of the 2023 presidential election and subsequent judgment have shed light on the urgent need for change. By amending the Electoral Act, granting more autonomy to INEC, empowering citizens through education, and fostering a culture of integrity in politics amongst other reforms, Nigeria can pave the way for a brighter democratic future.

As Kingsley Obi, ICPC’s Head of External Cooperation, aptly stated, ‘I love the dreams of the future more than the history of the past’, it is time for Nigerians to come together and work towards achieving those dreams.