Alex Enumah in Abuja
As part of its recommendation on improving the nationâ€™s electoral process the Constitution and Electoral Reform Committee on TuesdayÂ came up with a draft bill on establishment of Political Parties and Electoral Offences Commission.
The draft bill is part of the fruits of painstaking effort by 25-member committee, headed by former Senate President, Ken Nnamani.
Other draft bills attached with the recommendation submitted by the committee to the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), include that of an amendment of relevant provisions of the constitution, amendment of the Electoral Act and establishment of constituency delimitation centre.
Receiving the report yesterday in his office in Abuja, the minister commended the committee for a job well done and stated that the recommendations will guide the federal government in preparing various proposals for the further amendment of the constitution to improve electoral system in Nigeria.
According to him, some of the recommendations of the committee centered on how to strengthen the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the participation of independent candidates in elections and management of political parties.
Malami further disclosed that the recommendation also dealt with the irritating issue of electoral offenses, management of electoral dispute resolution and specific legal provisions impacting on the electoral process as well as issues affecting the State Independent Electoral Commissions (SIECs).
Other recommendations dealt with use of technology in election, diaspora voting, and special access for persons with disabilities.
Malami said one of the major goals of the Buhari administration is to change the unethical way in which electoral officers have managed elections in the past.
He disclosed that the federal government has taken steps to remove all those who collected money to frustrate 2015 general election, adding that â€œso far 200 NIEC officials have been suspended while some are under investigation and prosecution.â€
He promised that the committeeâ€™s report and draft amendment bills would be submitted to the president immediately for consideration and onward transmission to the National Assembly.
In his remarks, the Chairman of the committee, Senator Nnamani said, the attached drafts bills were meant to hastened the amendment of relevant provisions of the constitution.
The draft bills would enhance the Electoral Act, establishment of political parties, Electoral Offences Commission and establishment of constituency delimitation centre.
According to Nnamani, some of the recommendations of the committee centred on carpet crossing and litigations involving elected officials.
On the issue of carpet crossing, the former Senate President decried a situation where a person is elected on the platform of one party and then move to join another party after swearing in on flimsy excuses.
On the issue of litigation, the committee was of the opinion that anyone having court cases surrounding his election should not be sworn in until all such cases have been resolved by the court in his favour.
Recall that the minister had on October 4, 2016 inaugurated the committee with the mandate to review recent judicial decisions on election petitions as they relate to conflicting judgments and absence of consequential orders.
Others are review of the laws impacting elections in Nigeria, including relevant provision of the 1999 Constitution and the Electoral Act 2012(as amended).
The minister further directed the committee to look into possible amendments to the Constitution and Electoral Act and come out with a more robust and generally acceptable electoral system.
â€œThe committee is also advised to take a holistic look of the recommendation of Justice Uwais Electoral Reform Committee,â€ he said.
Malami said he was directed by President Muhammadu Buhari to set up the committee in his desire to deepen the countryâ€™s democracy and entrench the culture of an enduring electoral system.
â€œIt is important to evaluate our democratic journey thus far with a view to fashioning out a more enduring system that will serve present and future generations,â€ he said.
He said recent judicial decisions have shown that there is urgent need to scale up confidence in the electoral system in Nigeria.
Malami said the then Chief Justice of Nigeria, Mohammed Mahmoud, had decried the widespread distortion of binding judicial precedent with conflicting judgments
He decried a situation where electoral officials were killed or kidnapped and where politicians make the environment for elections a war theatre.
Malami advised the committee to consult far and wide, and in particular with National Assembly and judiciary in order to make recommendations that would stand the test of time.
He expressed the hope that the committee would turn in a report which depth and quality would resound for years to come and would facilitate the re-engineering of the electoral practice.
The Chairman of the committee, a former Senate President, Ken Nnamani, said he was confident that Buhari would enhance democratic structure s in Nigeria.
â€œThe issue of inconclusive election in the country affect national election which leads to loss of lives and the best way to handle it is to stop inconclusive election.
â€œThe best way to stop it in advance is to support the government in implementing what will make Nigeria have a non-violence election,â€™â€™ Mr. Nnamani said.
The members of the committee are Oluwole Uzzi, O. O. Babalola, Mr. Duruaku Chima, Mrs Musa Maryam, H.A Tahir, Ike Udunni, S.O Ibrahim, and Esther Uzoma,
Others are Muiz Banire, Eze Philip, Bashir Ibrahim, Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, Utum Eteng, Ejike Eze, Mamman Lawal, A.C Ude and E. Ifendu,
The remaining are Francis Bullen, Anike Nwoga, Cecilia Adams, Clement Nwankwo, C. Jude, Mohammed Tukur and Juliet Ibekaku.