Agbakoba: INEC Must Be a Strong Regulator of Electoral Process
Chuks Okocha in Abuja
As the 2023 general election fast approaches, a former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr. Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), has said the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) needs to act as a strong regulator of the electoral process.
Agbakoba said Section 158 (1) of the Constitution provides that INEC in the exercise of its powers, shall not be subject to the direction or control of any authority or person.
In a statement yesterday the former NBA boss argued that it is important to restate the constitutional powers of INEC as the ultimate regulator of the electoral process “because INEC appears to have forgotten the powers assigned to it in relation to the political and electoral process”.
Agbakoba’s statement came just as INEC has said that the ongoing nationwide Continuous Voter Registration now stood at 9,238,991 as of Monday, May 16.
According to Agbakoba, INEC has allowed the National Assembly to encroach on its powers with respect to the electronic transmission of results.
Agbakoba noted that when the National Assembly voted to reject electronic transmission of election results, INEC in the course of the debate, was mostly silent and did not assert itself even when the Constitution confers on it the powers to “organise, undertake and supervise” elections.
“It is important to restate the constitutional powers of INEC as the ultimate regulator of the electoral process. The reminder is necessary because INEC appears to have forgotten the powers assigned to it by the Constitution in relation to the political and electoral process.
“Section 158 (1) of the Constitution provides that INEC in the exercise of its powers, shall not be subject to the direction or control of any authority or person (including the President of the Federal Republic). This establishes INEC as an independent authority in the exercise of its electoral functions.
“Paragraph 15 of Part 1 of the Third Schedule to the 1999 Constitution empowers INEC to organize, undertake and supervise elections. This includes the power to make regulations and guidelines for elections.
“These powers conferred on INEC makes substantial parts of the Electoral Act largely irrelevant. Surprisingly, INEC has allowed the National Assembly to encroach on its powers, in particular the vexed question of Electronic Transmission of Results.
“For example, when the National Assembly voted to reject electronic transmission of election results, INEC in the course of the debate, was mostly silent and did not assert itself even when the Constitution confers on INEC the powers to “organize, undertake and supervise” elections,” the statement reads.
“The arbitrary defections of politicians from one party to another calls for strong regulatory control by INEC. The lack of internal democracy in most political parties has failed to receive robust regulatory response by INEC.
“The Nigerian political system needs INEC to act as a strong regulator. I suggest that INEC is entitled to withdraw certificates of return issued to elected office holders who defect. INEC ought not to be afraid of getting it wrong. INEC must be seen as a firm referee with clear rules and a determination to enforce those rules.
“To demonstrate this, INEC needs to clarify its position on how the 2023 elections will be conducted. INECs recent statement that elections will be conducted manually and electronically is confusing – as it allows politicians opportunity for mischief. The rules set out by INEC must be clear on how votes will be counted.
“Finally, INEC must be impartial in election petitions. It must be neutral. INEC’s proper role is to assist the courts to resolve election disputes. Unfortunately, generally, INEC has acted as defendant in election petitions. This is very wrong.
“I hope the 2023 election will enable INEC to play its proper role as a strong impartial regulator of elections.”
Meanwhile, the commission also stated that 5,845,751 registrants had completed their registrations, of which 2,584,548 were done online and 3,261,203 via physical registration.
INEC revealed that the update further showed that 2,903,003, who completed their registration were male, while 2,942,748 were female. 48,252 were Persons With Disabilities (PWDs).
Also, the age distribution of the figure that completed their registration revealed that 4,045,520 were youths.
Others are 1,226,150- middle (aged between age 35 and 49); 504,222 elderly (between age 50 and 69); while 69,859 are old persons of age 70 and above.
The commission revealed that, so far, it had received 16,858,955 applications, including those for voter transfer, requests for replacement of Permanent Voter Cards, update of voter information records, amongst others.
A breakdown of the applications revealed that 2,903,003 were males and 2,942,748 females while 154,220 were from the People With Disabilities (PWDs) across all age categories.
Also, INEC said that Kaduna State came tops in the northern part of Nigeria in the on-going online voters registration with 486, 589 persons.
The Resident Electoral Commissioner, Mrs, Asma’u Maikudi, said that the state also placed third in the region in the number of those who completed their registration physically.
According to the INEC commissioner, “As of Monday, May 16, Kaduna State recorded the highest number of registrants online in the northern part of Nigeria and third largest in physical registration,’’
Maikudi attributed the stride to the combined efforts of stakeholders including; religious leaders, NGOs, Civil Society Organisations and the media.
She noted, however, that while the feat was commendable, INEC discovered that about 37.4 per cent of the new registration in Kaduna State was invalid.
“The commission is therefore calling on all stakeholders to assist in educating Nigerians about the problems of multiple registration,’’ Maikudi stressed.
She said INEC had created additional 2,910 polling units in the state to ease election process and make it convenient for voters to cast their votes.
She said Kaduna State now had a total of 8,012 polling units, as against the initial 5,102 units, which could not cater to the increased number of registered voters.
Maikudi also told the meeting that the INEC Voter Enrolment Device (IVED) would replace the Smart Card Reader at the 2023 general elections to eliminate the possibility of voting by identity theft.
Identity theft is possible by a voter using another person’s Permanent Voters Card (PVC) to vote.
“This technology combines both facial and finger print identification of the voter and will drastically curb “Kaduna State has received its consignment of 31,688 printed PVCs and we have started distribution already,’’ Maikudi also said.