Polls Shift: Time to Revisit Uwais, Lemu, Nnamani Panels’ Reports, Says Falana

  • Says election postponement for logistical reasons not justified under electoral act, constitution  
  • Blames political parties’ impunity for over 600 pre-election cases, 40 court orders to INEC which affected commission’s preparation for polls

For proper electoral reforms, Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr. Femi Falana,  has said that it is time for government to implement reports of the Justice Muhammed Uwais, Sheik Ahmed Lemu and Senator Ken Nnamani Panels

Falana who was reacting to the postponement of the general election by the Independent National Electoral Commission said had reforms recommended by the three panels been implemented, Saturday’s postponement of elections would have been averted.

Noting that the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the ruling All progressives Congress (APC) had been trading blames over the postponement, including blaming INEC, Falana said rather than trade blames, both parties ought to apologise to Nigerians for failing to implement electoral reforms recommended by the three panels.

“It is interesting to note that both APC and PDP have traded their usual blames over the postponement of the general election by the INEC.  But apart from INEC both parties ought to apologise to Nigerians for their deliberate refusal to implement the far reaching recommendations of the Electoral Reforms Panels headed by Retired Justice Mohammed Uwais, Sheik Ahmed Lemu and Dr. Ken Nnamani which were set up by the Yar’Adua, Jonathan and Buhari regimes respectively.

“Each of the panels had recommended the unbundling of INEC for effective performance. For instance, as INEC lacks the capacity to prosecute electoral offenders an electoral offences commission/ tribunal was recommended for the enforcement of laws to address all forms of electoral offences and consequently  stem the incidence of electoral violence.

“Even the panels had recommended that the posts of the chairman and other members of the INEC be advertised in order to make them independent of the Executive. But in a bid to sustain the status quo of electoral fraud these recommendations and others have been rejected by the PDP and APC-led Federal Government.

“The shameful postponement of the 2019 general election would not have occurred if the Federal Government  had unbundled the INEC and ensured the practice of internal democracy in  the political parties,” he argued.

Falana said  “It is public knowledge that both APC and PDP have not committed themselves to electoral reforms. Hence, they have conveniently forgotten that the late President Umaru Yar’Adua had admitted that the 2007 general election  which produced his regime was highly flawed. Since the system will continue to produce flawed elections all democratic forces should mount sufficient pressure on the Federal Government to implement the recommendations of the aforesaid electoral reform panels, once the 2019 rescheduled elections are concluded.”

The senior advocate also faulted the reason adduced by INEC for the  postponement of the elections, maintaining that it fails to meet the stipulations of Section 26 of the Electoral Act and Section 105 of the 1999 Constitution.

He said: By virtue of section 26 of the Electoral Act, an election may be postponed if a serious breach of peace or violence is likely to occur or on account of natural disaster or other emergencies. To prevent any abuse of power the reasons for postponement of any election must be cogent and verifiable.

“Furthermore, section 105 of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria provides that if the Federation is at war in which the territory of  the country is physically involved and the President considers that it is not practicable to hold elections, the National Assembly may pass a resolution to postpone the election. And such postponement shall not be more than six months at any one time.

“Therefore, any postponement of elections on account of logistical or operational reasons cannot be justified under the Electoral Act or the Constitution.”

Falana said that since general elections had been postponed on two previous occasions due to lack of adequate preparations, INEC ought to have prevented the shifting of the 2019 general election.

He however noted that, “Even though all the political parties have blamed INEC for the postponement some of them contributed to the national shame and embarrassment. Owing to the decision of political leaders to select and impose candidates on their parties in utter violation of section 87 of the Electoral Act  many aggrieved candidates rushed to court for legal redress.

“Consequently, not less than 600 pre-election cases were filed and are pending in the various courts while not less 40 orders have directed INEC to accept the names of candidates who won the primaries but were shortchanged.  The resort to litigation due to the impunity of majority of  political parties contributed to the unwarranted delay in the preparations of INEC for the general elections.”

Falana also faulted that directive of the electoral umpire to political parties not to embark on campaigns ahead of next week’s presidential and National Assembly elections, arguing that the directive is not backed by law.

“Meanwhile, INEC which  has shifted the general election by 7 days is alleged to have turned round to ban political parties and their candidates from further campaigning for votes. With respect, INEC has not paid attention to  Section 99 of the Electoral Act which  provides that the period of campaigning in public by political parties shall end 24 hours before polling day.

“Since elections have been shifted the period of campaign has also shifted and will end 24 hours to the new polling day. Therefore, the limitation of campaign imposed by INEC should be reversed without any delay. Furthermore, INEC should comply with all valid and subsisting court orders with respect to the candidates sponsored by political parties for the general elections.  Otherwise, the courts may annul some of the elections conducted by INEC on grounds of exclusion of qualified candidates,” he said.