INEC Lists Priority Areas for Electoral Reform

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Mahmood Yakubu
Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu

• Says commission’s draft bill ready

Chuks Okocha in Abuja

The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, yesterday highlighted areas of concerns that the proposed amendment to the Electoral Act should address.

He listed the areas to include: “Increasing citizens’ confidence by enhancing the transparency and credibility of the electoral process; entrenching internal democracy within political parties; and ensuring inclusivity in the electoral process for marginalised segments of society such as women, youths and persons living with disability.”

Other areas are: “Reducing the cost of elections; curbing the incidence of violence and sundry malpractices in the electoral process and ensuring that violators of electoral laws are effectively sanctioned; and deepening the deployment of technology in elections.”

He added that the commission would also seek to address the need for more autonomy and independence for INEC.
The INEC chairman said at a workshop with civil society organisations in Abuja that before looking at specific provisions of the Electoral Act, the commission had defined the basic principles, which should guide any review.

He explained that the revised bill amended some sections and subsections of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended).
Yakubu also said the commission’s draft for the amendment of the Electoral Act was ready, adding that it requires further internal review ahead of submission to the National Assembly.

He stated that after the commission had listened to Nigerians, saying it was clear that a review of the Electoral Act in particular, and the electoral legal framework in general, must be anchored on some factors.

“In presenting the draft bill to the commission, the Senate Committee specifically requested for the commission’s input into areas that will strengthen the proposed legislation.

“In turn, the commission shared the draft bill internally with the national commissioners and directors at the headquarters as well as the resident electoral commissioners and senior officials in the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) for comments. These comments have now been compiled into a draft document that this retreat will discuss and validate as the commission’s position on the electoral legal framework,” he stated.

He explained that the commission’s draft document has also taken the comments and suggestions by stakeholders into consideration, especially following the conclusion of the 2019 general election.
He said the commission had organised a series of post-election review meetings ending with a retreat in Lagos in July last year, where participants in the series of consultative meetings canvassed for electoral reforms.

“For an enduring review, the commission looked at the electoral legal framework comprehensively. The commission reviewed existing provisions with regard to elections in both the constitution and the Electoral Act, although for the purpose of this retreat the focus of attention is on the Electoral Act. The procedure for constitutional alterations is handled separately, including a different procedure for harnessing citizens’ input.

“Our draft is ready but requires further internal review ahead of submission to the National Assembly,” he added.

According to him, the commission’s input is not limited to the review proposed by the National Assembly, adding that as election managers, INEC conducts elections and also monitors pre-election activities such as party primaries and handles post-election processes, including the outcome of litigations.

“We must, at this meeting, cast our nets wide by dissecting the Electoral Act in the light of experience and proposing wide-ranging amendments that will give the nation an electoral legal framework that can truly protect their choice and guarantee free, fair and credible elections”.

He commended the Senate Committee on INEC and the House of Representatives Committee on Electoral Matters for their readiness to join the retreat on Thursday and Friday for in-depth review of both their proposal and INEC’s input.

According to the INEC chairman, this is the first time the National Assembly and INEC are coming together on electoral reform, explaining that the commission looks forward to this opportunity to serve Nigerians better.

He commended the commission’s development partners, the European Centre for Electoral Support (ECES) and the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), for their untiring support to the electoral and democratic processes.