A member-elect of the House of Representatives under the Action Alliance (AA) in Imo State, Chief Kingsley Chima, has said only very stiff penalty for electoral offenders will ensure compliance to electoral laws.
The member-elect, who pledged support for the reform, urged the 9th Assembly to prioritise Independent National Electoral Commission’s (INEC) submissions for the reforms.
Chima, who would be representing Ohaji/Egbema, Oguta, Oru West federal constituency, stated this in Lagos yesterday during a thank-you visit to Imo people from the constituency residing in Lagos.
The INEC had on Thursday tasked lawmakers-elect to commence and conclude legislative actions on the amendments of the electoral laws.
The chairman of the commission, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, made the plea during the issuance of certificates of return to NASS members-elect in Abuja.
The chairman said that the passage of laws few weeks to elections was not in the best interest of the nation’s democratic development.
“We all have our agenda based on the needs of our constituents, but the issue of reforms must take precedence over all others as it is the only way to guarantee the nation democratic existence.
“What happened during the 2019 general elections in some states is despicable. We cannot continue to have lawless polls in which some people snatch ballot papers, intimidate others and destroy election materials without serious penalty,” Chima said.
He said that any reform without very stiff penalty for offenders would amount to a waste of time of the assembly.
“The only way to stop electoral malpractice in Nigeria is by ensuring that rules guiding the conduct of elections are obeyed to the letter and those who disregard the laws are punished severely.
“If those Nigerians who engage in electoral malpractice know that they will be brought to book and face many years in jail, the 2019 elections will not have recorded many cancellations in various areas.
“As much as other technical issues and card reader malfunctions pose challenges during the polls, the worst challenge is the violence, rigging and deaths that trailed the polls.
“In reforming the present laws of elections in Nigeria, I urge all lawmakers of the 9th Assembly to come to the table with a selfless attitude for the future of the nation.
“2023 may seem far but it is near. Tackling the challenges will ensure hitch free upcoming elections especially the 2023 general elections.”
He said that procedures for the use of Smart Card Readers in future elections, issue of election expenses, women involvement, litigation time frame, tribunal and courts must be amended.
“The 8th National Assembly tried in reforming most of the electoral laws but more needs to be done and swiftly too,” he added.