Nnamani: Uwais Report Can Restore Credibility in Electoral System

Ken Nnamani

Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja

A former Senate President, Senator Ken Nnamani, has said that the recommendations of the Uwais Report represents a high point in the search for an electoral system that would suit Nigeria’s peculiar circumstances, adding that the report contains proposed innovations that could restore credibility and fairness to the country’s electoral system.

He however, said it was unfortunate that many of these innovative proposals were not implemented.

Nnamni also said that there was need to end the impunity in the country’s electoral system by prosecuting electoral criminals, stressing that this lack of prosecution was the biggest encouragement to politicians to breach the law.

Nnamani who was represented by Mallam Muhammed Bello Tukur, disclosed this yesterday in Abuja at the 3rd Oronto Douglas Memorial Lecture with the theme: “Nigeria’s Broken Electoral System: Uwais Report and Unfinished Business.”

Delivering his paper on ‘Towards a More Credible, Fair and Free Elections in Nigeria,’ Nnamani, said that as a politician he had seen first-hand flaws of the electoral system so glaringly that nobody can be sure that the votes cannot counts.

He noted that many Nigerian politicians would acknowledge that there were historical flaws with the electoral system, adding that these flaws hinder the protection of the right to vote and the sustenance of democracy.

The former Senate President said he believed that critical to strengthening democracy was ensuring that the electoral process was free, fair and credible.

“It is obvious that the Uwais report represents a high point in the search for an electoral system that will suit Nigeria’s peculiar circumstances. The eminent members of that committee proposed many innovations that could restore credibility and fairness to our electoral system. Unfortunately, many of these innovative proposals were not implemented,” he said.

He added that it was in this context that President Muhammadu Buhari appointed him and others to the Constitutional Electoral Reform Committee to, amongst other things, review Uwais report and make recommendations for reform of the constitution and electoral law to institutionalise free, fair and credible elections.

“The most important part of a good electoral system is the credibility and independence of the electoral management body. Often times, we have argued as if independence is just a matter getting a credible person as chairman of the electoral body. It is far more than that. The independence of the election management body is mostly determined by the mode of appointment.

“In South Africa and some other African countries, the process of appointment of electoral management officials is more of competitive recruitment where those appointed will have a sense that they merited the position not that they are beneficiaries of political patronage.

“Therefore, we recommended that although the President still appoints but another body advertises the job, interviews and recommends to the president for appointment. In this process, both the president and the Senate play a role.”

The former Senate President insisted that the strength of democracy is better defined by the quality of the institution band not necessarily by the heroism of persons.

According to him, “The 2019 elections also highlight a serious pathology of Nigerian elections. There is so much violence and crimes associated with elections. Political desperation makes ordinary resemble wars.

“We spend so much on providing security, yet we continue to witness a high level of violence and electoral crimes. This does not require religious exhortation and appeal to conscience of politicians.”

Nnamani pointed out that due to attractive nature of the public offices in a third world like Nigeria, politicians have incentive to fight dirty to gain access to these political offices.

“Until we can reduce the financial rewards of occupying political offices through anti-corruption and accountability measures, we should expect desperation from politicians. We must deal with violence through international redesigning.”

Nnamani was of the opinion that politicians sponsor violence and commit other crimes because they calculate that the benefits of criminal behaviours are more than the cost, stressing that to reduce the rate of violence, there was need to reduce the benefits and make if difficult for those who sponsor or commit such comes to go scot-free.

He said, “There is need to end the impunity in our system by prosecuting electoral criminals. In the last after election, we have failed to prosecute those who breached the electoral laws. This lack of prosecution is the biggest encouragement to politicians to breech the law.

“Attorneys General are political appointees. They don’t usually have incentives to prosecution electoral offence. This is why we agreed with Uwais committee recommending the establishment electoral crimes commission as an independent body that will manage the prosecution of electoral offences,” he stated.

Earlier, former President Goodluck Jonathan said that Douglas showed extraordinary commitment in documenting the entire work of his administration, and equally spent his meagre resources setting up libraries in the Niger Delta to promote learning.

Jonathan who was represented by his Special Envoy, Mr. Nze Nwankpo, commended the friends of Douglas who had continued to sustain his legacy and to promote it.