African Election Preparation

Ready or Not INEC, the Election Season is Upon Us


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Legal Eagle By May Agbamuch-Mbu, Email: may.mbu@thisdaylive.com



On 8 June 2010 Professor Attahiru Jega was nominated by President
Goodluck Jonathan as the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral
Commission (INEC). One must add that he took to the job like a duck to
water, having previously  been a member of the Justice Uwais led
Electoral Reform Committee between August 2007 and  December 2008.The
Commission which he heads was inaugurated on 30 June 2010 and had very
little time to prepare for the April 2011 elections. In the following 4
years Prof. Jega embarked on a comprehensive reformation of the
electoral system. On reviewing the existing guidelines, new procedures
for the conduct of elections were introduced, as were Permanent Voters
Cards (PVCs), Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) and the updating of
INEC’s register, among many other reforms. Prof. Jega has recently been
assuring Nigerians that the 2015 polls would be better than previous
ones and that the Commission is working assiduously to reduce, if
possible eliminate, the challenges confronting elections in the
country. 
He further acknowledged that security had remained a systemic challenge
in the conduct of free and fair elections but stated further that the
Commission in collaboration with the political parties and security
agencies was working towards tackling this problem during the upcoming
elections. He noted that the country had witnessed a drastic reduction
in the number of election petitions since 2011.As of now about 200 cases
have been prosecuted while a whole lot more cases are still pending.
Unfortunately, INEC does not have the capacity to prosecute these cases.
All said and done the 2015 elections are round the corner and the heat
is on INEC. Only recently there was a huge song and dance over the
additional 30,000 polling units approved by INEC, only to be followed
last week by the failed PVC exercise in Lagos and other parts of the
country. This in turn has generated much criticism and cries of foul
play on the part of INEC. I have no doubt we have not heard the last of
these types of accusations as we draw ever nearer to the February 2015
elections.
Going by INEC’s mission and vision statement which is to ‘serve as an
independent and effective Election Management Body (EMB) committed to
the conduct of free, fair and credible elections for sustainable
democracy in Nigeria and to be one of the best EMBs in the world that
meets the aspirations of the Nigerian people,’ INEC has barely 3 months
to restore the confidence and trust of voters in our country. The
electorate at large is becoming interestingly sophisticated and expects
more accountability not just from our leaders and those of our political
parties but also from INEC in particular.
Now that the 2015 elections are almost upon us one cannot but feel a
deep sense of frustration that the electoral reform report submitted in
11 December 2008 by the 22 member Electoral Reform Panel headed by
retired Chief Justice of Nigeria, Muhammad Uwais for the purpose of
putting in place appropriate reforms to our electoral system has been
largely abandoned. The amount of time, work, dedication and energy put
into coming up with a report of this magnitude can only but be imagined
and at the end of the very long day it has just been left to lie fallow,
gathering dust. This committee traversed the country and gathered a
huge cache of materials: 1,466 memoranda amidst numerous public hearings
in 12 representative states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) at
which no less than 907 further presentations were made.
A brief highlight of the report:
1) INDEPENDENT CANDIDACY Section 65(2) (b) and 106 of the 1999
Constitution should be amended to make provision for an individual to
run as an independent candidate.
2) PROCEDURE FOR THE APPOINTMENT OF THE CHAIRMAN AND MEMBERS OF INEC
BOARD: For the above the National Judicial Council should; A) advertise
the positions, spelling out requisite qualifications; B) Receive
applications/nominations from the general public; C) Shortlist three
persons for each position and D) send the nominations to the National
Council of State to select one for each position and forward to the
Senate for confirmation.
3) REMOVAL FROM OFFICE OF INEC CHAIRMAN AND BOARD MEMBERS. The Chairman
and members of the INEC Board may only be removed by the Senate on the
recommendation of the National Judicial Council (NJC) by 2/3 majority of
the Senate which shall include at least 10 members of the minority
parties in the Senate.
4) FUNDING. The election expenditure and the recurrent expenditure of
the INEC offices (in addition to salaries and allowances of the Chairman
and Board members) shall be charged to the Consolidated Revenue Fund of
the Federation.
5) DATES OF ELECTIONS. Section 132(2) and 178(2) of the 1999
Constitution should be amended to appoint a single date for Presidential
and Gubernatorial elections which should be held at least six months
before the expiration of the term of the current holders of the offices.
Similarly section 64(1) and 105(1) of the 1999 Constitution should also
be amended to appoint a single date for national and state assembly
elections which should hold two years after the Presidential and
Gubernatorial elections.
6) ELECTION TRIBUNALS A) The number of Tribunals should be increased by
reducing the number of Judges that sit on the Tribunal from 5 to 3 so
that more Tribunals can be established per State B) In order to minimise
the filing of frivolous petitions, the electoral Act 2006 should be
amended to provide that if a Petitioner loses a case, he should be
ordered by the Court or Tribunal to bear the full expenses of the
Respondent. The onus to prove that there was an election was transferred
from the petitioner to INEC.
7) DETERMINATION OF ELECTION PETITION. The 1999 Constitution should be
amended to specify the period for considering petitions as follows: “The
determination of cases by tribunals should take four months and appeals
should take a further two months, a total of six months’.
Some parts of the recommendations were found not to be acceptable, in
particular the issue of the power to appoint the INEC Chairman as it
violated the principle of separation of powers, since the judiciary is
also responsible for hearing the cases arising from elections. This may
well be a fair point but that notwithstanding nothing was recommended in
its place and till date all other recommendations in the report do not
appear to have seen the light of day. We look forward in keen
anticipation to the day when politics will be played for the genuine
common good of the citizens of this country. It is glearing for all to
see that our electoral process is in dire need of further reform and it
is not yet too late to revisit and implement the reports of the Uwais
Electoral Reform Panel. Our current style of electioneering must at some
stage come to an end as the pervasive scheming and electoral
malpractices are simply too crude to be allowed to continue. I remember
vividly just before the 2011 election I was asked by a politician who
was putting himself up for elections to join his team of lawyers against
his subsequent election petition. I humbly said to him but why must you
start now to plan your petition when the election has yet to hold?
Without flinching an eyelid, he confidently said he had already planted
people in the opposing party to gather evidence in anticipation of his
defeat and subsequent petition!
While we hope and pray that INEC rights all (or a good percentage of
all) that is  wrong with our electoral process come 2015 and thereby
lay’s a genuine foundation for the future, we look to further reforms
that will take into consideration recent developments, for instance in
electronic voting. Though section 52(2) of the Electoral Act expressly
prohibits the use of electronic voting, this act can be subsequently
amended to provide for its use come 2019. There is nothing wrong in
planning early and hopefully our electricity supply should have
stabilised by then. 
In Brazil the Electoral Justice that supervises all elections, launched
their voting machine in 2000 and since then all Brazilian voters have
been able to use electronic ballot boxes to choose their candidates. In
the 2010 presidential election, which had more than 135 million voters,
the result was declared just 75 minutes after the end of voting.
Furthermore in 2012 the Electoral Justice began developing a biometric
addition to their machines that would require finger print recognition
before a voter can cast their ballot. Also, India in 2004 adopted
Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) for its elections to Parliament where
380 million voters cast their ballots, using more than a million voting
machines. The Indian EVMs were designed and developed by two government
owned agencies. Both systems are identical and were developed to the
precise specifications of the Election Commission of India; there is
absolutely no reason why we cannot do the very same here in Nigeria.

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