INEC Begins National Conversation on Electoral Reform in June


•To revisit previous committee reports

By Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja

Dissatisfied with the do-or-die attitude of political actors which was brazenly exhibited during the 2019 general election, as well as the inability to penalise electoral offenders, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said that it would begin a national conversation on the management of electoral process with various stakeholders in the country over the next two months.

The Commission also said that recommendations arising from the national conversation would feed into an enduring reform of the country’s electoral process, while also taking into consideration the reports of previous committees on electoral reform.

The Chairman of the Commission, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, made this known Tuesday in Abuja at a meeting with the Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs), which happened to be the first meeting since the conclusion of the elections.

Yakubu recalled that the Commission had earlier assured the nation that it would review all aspects of the processes and procedures for the 2019 general elections in full consultation with stakeholders, stressing that the commission is convinced that there should be a major national conversation on the management of the nation’s electoral process.

He said that this process must be qualitatively different from what was done in the past and benefit from all previous efforts at reform, adding that yesterday’s meeting with the RECs was the first in the series of engagements within the Commission and with all stakeholders.

Yakubu stated, “We are convinced that until we get our electoral process on the right, consistent and progressively positive trajectory, our efforts at nation-building and promoting peace and progress shall remain epileptic. No doubt we have made progress since 1999 but a lot of work still lies ahead.

“Over the next two months, the Commission plans to engage with all stakeholders, beginning with a root and branch review involving our own officials at Local Government and State levels, ranging from Electoral Officers (EOs), Administrative Secretaries (ASs), Heads of Department (HoDs) and representatives of ad hoc officials engaged for elections from Presiding Officers at Polling Unit level to collation and returning officers.

“We shall then follow it up with consultations at the national level with political parties, the security agencies, civil society organisations, the media, development partners, traditional and religious organisations, the national and local peace committees and professional groups accredited to observe elections. Details of the series of activities and timelines will be finalised at this meeting and made public immediately.”

The Chairman noted that the conversation would be structured around the following critical issues among which include: Political parties- number, mode of registration, internal democracy, accreditation of party agents, etc; Logistics- movement and security of personnel and materials;

Others are; ICT related issues ranging from the configuration and deployment of technology, including the recruitment, training and deployment of technical support, stressing that there was need to have an informed conversation on the use of technology to deepen the electoral process.

The conversation, Yakubu said, would also cover election security focusing on the relationship between INEC and the security agencies, the effectiveness and impact of election risk assessment methods, deployment and conduct of security personnel;

Including, the electoral legal framework and the necessity for a comprehensive, dispassionate and early conclusion as well as the passage of any constitutional and electoral act amendments, will also be discussed.

Yakubu stressed: “Above all, we need a conversation around the personal conduct of especially the political actors. The “do-or-die” attitude of some politicians and the inability to penalise electoral offenders incentivise bad behaviour.

“The Commission hopes that the recommendations arising from the national conversation will feed into an enduring reform of our electoral process. For it to be robust, we also need to take into consideration the reports of previous committees on electoral reform.

“Over the last 40 years, virtually all our elections have been accompanied by the report of one committee or another on electoral reform, among them the Babalakin Commission of Inquiry into the affairs of the Federal Electoral Commission (FEDECO in 1986), the Uwais report on electoral reform (2008), the Lemu Committee on post-election violence (2011), the Ken Nnamani Committee on constitutional and electoral reform (2017), the various administrative reports by INEC, investigation reports by the security agencies (the Nigeria Police and the Nigerian Army), the independent studies by the National Human Right Commission (2015 and 2017), the judgements of the various election petition tribunals, the reports of domestic and international observers, record of public hearing for the amendment of the electoral legal framework by the National Assembly and even confessional statements by some political actors.

“There is value in revisiting all these reports. The Commission will work with stakeholders in undertaking such a comprehensive review in earnest,” he said.

The chairman stressed that many observers had already submitted their interim and final reports on the 2019 elections, while many civil society organisations appraised various aspects of the exercise, and the judiciary is also adjudicating many petitions challenging the conduct of primary elections by political parties as well as the outcome of the general elections.

He however assured that the commission would dutifully study these reports and take into consideration actionable recommendations.