Constitutional Amendments will Not Stop Electoral Crisis in Nigeria, Says INEC Chairman

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National Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu

Kemi Olaitan in Ibadan

National Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, yesterday said relying on constitutional and legal amendments alone cannot solve array of electoral crises in the country.

Yakubu, while delivering his keynote address at the public presentation of the report of the 2019 general elections titled: “Women’s Participation in the 2019 General Elections from an Accountability Perspective: Kano and Oyo under Spotlight,” organised by the Nigerian Women Trust Fund (NWTF), also said the commission was determined to ensure that free, fair and credible elections are conducted at all times.

Present at the public presentation held in Ibadan were INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner in Oyo State, Barrister Mutiu Agboke; Administrative Secretary of INEC in Kano State; Jibril Musa; NWTF Chief Executive Officer, Ms. Mufuliat Fijabi; Director, National Orientation Agency (NOA) in Oyo State, Mrs. Dolapo Dosumu; Founder, Shafaudeen in Islam, Prof. Sabit Olagoke; female politicians, among others.

Yakubu, who spoke through INEC National Commissioner, Dr. Adekunle Ogunmola, insisted that Nigerians should erase the notion that constitutional and electoral act amendment is the only means to solve electoral challenges the country is facing, stating that the way out is for a change in attitude of major stakeholders such as political parties, politicians, women, youth and policy makers in the country.

The INEC chairman, who said most reports on elections in the country have recommended electoral law reform, warned that Nigerians must be careful not to fall into the trap of believing that an end would come to electoral crises through constitutional or legal amendments.

According to him, “The commission is conscious of its responsibilities and expectations of all Nigerians and is determined to ensure that free, fair and credible elections are conducted at all times and has therefore commenced the process of studying these reports and will harvest all the recommendations from this and other observer reports with a view to deepening democracy in Nigeria. It will take into consideration, the reports of previous committees on electoral reform, judgements of election petition tribunals, among others.

“Most of the reports’ recommendations have called for electoral law reform. While it is right and rational to alter the constitution and amend the laws to take care of new, emerging and novel issues that may have arisen, there is need to be careful not to fall into the trap of believing that every electoral challenge must be solved through constitutional or electoral act amendment. Constitutional and legal amendments alone cannot solve the challenges in conducting elections. There is need for a change in attitude of major stakeholders.

“The commission has played major roles to advance the electoral and legal framework in Nigeria in the past, and will continue to do so.

“Regarding the issue of submission of a candidate’s name by a party, section 31 of the electoral act, states that once a party submits the name of a candidate, INEC could not reject it under any condition whatsoever. The political parties used this provision to perpetuate injustice but recently with the provisions of section 87, the commission took the case all the way to the Supreme Court and issues have been clarified.”

In her presentation, Fijabi recommended that bringing those who indulge in vote trading would go a long way in sanitising the electoral process.

“Security agencies should re-strategise on how to assist the election management bodies to curb both vote trading and electoral violence. Bringing those who indulge in vote trading and bringing them to book will go a long way to de-monetise our electoral process.

“There is a need to streamline and ensure that there is a law pegging how much each political party can charge as nomination fee. This was part of the provisions of the Electoral Act amended bill that President Buhari refused to assent to in 2018. Voter education is critical to discourage the electorate from selling their votes and encouraging them to shun corrupt electoral practices.

“Electoral Offences Commission (EOC) should be set up to relieve INEC of the herculean task of prosecution of electoral offenders. The recommendation for EOC and Tribunal had been made since 2008 by Justice Uwais Presidential Committee on Electoral Reform. A bill to back that proposal up has been before the 8th National Assembly. It would be heartwarming to have that bill passed and sent to the President for assent,” she said.