• To propose constitution alteration to reduce parties on ballot paper
• Wants more control over registration, primaries
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) plans a proposal for the alteration of the 1999 Constitution as amended to enable it reduce the plethora of political parties in the country, which it said created for it a logistics nightmare during the 2019 general election.
According to the commission, the large number of parties, which made it to design very long ballot papers, confused many voters, particularly the less educated, during the election.
If the situation persists, said the commission, not only will the logistics nightmare persist, it would continue to put illiterate voters in a dilemma.
The position of INEC was made known at the weekend by its National Commissioner on Information and Voter Education, Mr. Festus Okoye, in an address in Makurdi, Benue State capital.
He said the commission was planning a review of the process of registering and deregistering political parties as well as how the parties choose candidates for the general election.
According to him, INEC is pushing for amendments to the Constitution and review of guidelines on party registration and deregistration to empower it to tighten up the registration process and delist parties that were “mere platforms” for political jobbers.
The commission expressed dissatisfaction with the extant registration regime, which it said has led to the nation’s electoral process being saddled with an unwieldy number of parties.
Presently, Nigeria has 91 registered political parties of which 73 fielded candidates for the 2019 presidential election.
INEC unfolded its plans just as former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, who was the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the last general election denied planning a protest over the commission’s denial that it has a server where it stored election data.
In his address, Okoye identified the conduct of opaque and flawed party primaries as the root of the plethora of pre-election matters pending in the various courts.
As part of the overhauling of the party registration process, the commission, he said, would present a new alteration to the constitution that will enable it deregister political parties.
He said: “Nigerians must engage in root and branch review of the number of registered parties in Nigeria. The present framework for the registration of political parties is inadequate to guarantee the registration of qualitative, membership driven and ideologically propelled political parties. Some of the political parties are mere platforms and have no concrete and visible presence in most states of the federation.
“The presence of too many political parties on our ballot papers has in some instances confused some of our compatriots that are not well endowed in literacy. It has bloated the ballot papers and result sheets and trucking them to the polling units has become a logistics nightmare.
“The commission will present alternatives to the Nigerian people, including alteration of the constitutional regime that ties registration of political parties to visible, verifiable and concrete presence and structures in at least half of the states of the federation.
“The commission will also propose a rational and democratic threshold for getting on the ballot and save the Nigerian people the phenomena of ‘also ran.’
“The commission will also propose further alteration of the conditions for the deregistration of political parties as the 4th Alteration to the Constitution is inadequate to weed out dormant and commercial platforms with little or no visible structures and presence in any of the states of the federation. The Nigerian people need political parties that can bid for political power and not mere commercial platforms for hire.”
He also decried the acrimonies that usually trail the conduct of parties’ primaries, which he attributed to the high number of pre-election cases in the court.
“The commission believes that the conduct of opaque and flawed party primaries is at the root of the plethora of pre-election matters pending in the various courts,” he said, adding: “The commission will propose constitutional alteration that aligns the resolution of pre-election issues and the activation of the issuance of certificates of return to the 21-day rule in the Electoral Act, 2010(as amended).
“In other words, lodging an appeal within 21 days of obtaining an unfavorable judgment at the court of first instance automatically stays the execution of the judgment and the issuance of a certificate of return pending the determination by the court of Appeal and possibly, the Supreme Court.”
He said the commission will engage the leadership of the judiciary relating to the territorial jurisdiction of the Federal High Court to the handling of pre-election matters, contending that a situation where primaries are conducted in one state and all the suits relating to same are trucked to another state for determination is not healthy for the electoral process.
He said the commission would also engage the leadership of the judiciary on multiplicity of court orders on the same issues and by the same parties from courts of coordinate jurisdiction.
Atiku Disclaims Planned Protest over Server
Meanwhile, Atiku, at the weekend, denied reports about his alleged plans to lead a violent nationwide protest if his petition at the presidential election petition does not succeed.
This came as the issue of whether the electoral commission has official server, where the results of the last general election were electronically transmitted to or not continued during the week, with a report querying the N2.27 billion budgeted for server-related procurement items.
Atiku described a statement being circulated against him as handiwork of mischief-makers to mar his pro-democratic record and lay the groundwork for false charges against him.
In a statement by his media aide, Mr. Paul Ibe, the PDP presidential candidate said such a statement did not emanate from him.
“I wish to emphatically state that such a statement did not emanate from Atiku Abubakar or his privies. It is the work of mischief makers who want to mar his spotless pro-democratic record and lay the ground work for their threatened actions against him on false charges of being a threat to national security,” Ibe said.
He added: ‘’For the avoidance of doubt, Atiku Abubakar believes in the rule of law and in the laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. In his almost four decades in politics, he has never taken action or spoken words against democracy and will not start now.’’