By Friday Olokor
Election monitoring experts, Centre for Transparency Advocacy, on Thursday, suggested further amendment of the 2022 Electoral Act in order to address some of the challenges faced by the Independent National Electoral Commission in the 2023 general elections.
They, therefore, made a case for the establishment of an Electoral Offences Commission and Tribunal to deal with electoral offenders.
The Executive Director of CTA, Faith Nwadishi, made the suggestion during the presentation of three reports on the 2023 general elections in Abuja.
The reports presented were ‘The 2023 General Elections Observation Report: A Perception Study on the Understanding of the Mandate of the electoral umpire by stakeholders’ and ‘A compendium of the 2019 general elections and off-season elections conducted by INEC up to 2022.
Nwadishi said that although there have been concerns raised regarding electoral processes, logistics, vote buying, intimidation, and violence, the electoral system in Nigeria has improved, despite ongoing challenges.
She said, “There are some areas we recommended that should be reviewed. For instance, you know that the Electoral Act talks about civic and voter education and the responsibility was given to INEC but we also know that there is a national orientation agency that should be saddled with civic education. Civic Education is different from voter education. There’s a component of voter education in civic education. We need to be able to actually take away the role of civic education from INEC and give the agency empowered by law to do the work.
“We are also calling on those concerned to quickly set up an electoral offences commission. We cannot continue the way we are going. People are committing crimes but we are saying it is INEC that most prosecute because INEC has prosecutorial powers to do that.
“On election day, we saw the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission and Economic and Financial Crimes Commission officers. But how effective has that been? We should have a dedicated commission that is saddled with the responsibility of prosecuting electoral offenders which will go on long way to reform our electoral process. With high profile cases and all of that, I think it will help go a long way to help in kind of the rule reforming our electoral process itself.”
Nwadishi also called for sanction for political parties that do not deploy adequate agents to polling units on election day.
“Elections are won and lost a polling unit because that is where the electorates come to cast their vote and that is where results are pronounced before it is taken for collation. So if you don’t have people representing you at that level, that means you won’t have a copy of your result, there should actually be a sanction for a political party that is vying for election and is not able to deploy party agents at that level”, she said.
A former Resident Electoral Commissioner in Enugu State, Emeka Ononammadu, said issues concerning political party primaries should be revisited by INEC.
While stressing the need for INEC to further employ the use of technology in the electoral process, Ononammadu said INEC must be allowed to concentrate on the technical delivery of elections.
He said, “First of all, I think the Electoral Act as it concerns political party primaries need to be revisited. This is because that particular law seems not to make political party primaries more inclusive of a larger population of the party members, which are Nigerians and, of course, we all know that the test of political party primaries almost graduates to the general elections.
“I think year after year, whether the election administration agency did well or not, there seem to be challenges about how people perceive it and the major area to reduce that either right or wrong perception is to step up technology in our elections.
“Also, the discussion for the establishment of the Electoral Offences Tribunal has been ongoing, but I think that if you include the power of investigation for INEC, it would be too much.”
He also called on INEC to revisit the manner which ad hoc staff are recruited and deployed, saying the issue of impersonation must be critically looked into.