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- Category: Politics
- Published on Thursday, 19 August 2010 05:54
- Written by Nigerian Compass
- Hits: 1479
NIGERIANS were told yesterday that the 2011 general elections may not hold, after all. The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Attahiru Jega, declared that nobody should hold him responsible for any flaw on the polls because the legal framework for the conduct of the exercise is still hanging.
Insisting that “the whole process” leading to the successful conduct of the elections is full of uncertainties, he said the controversy surrounding the non-assent of President Goodluck Jonathan to the amended Constitution, the delay by the President to assent to the supplementary INEC Appropriation Bill and the 2010 Electoral Act are indications that danger lies ahead.
Jega, who spoke at an interactive consultative meeting between INEC and the national leadership of political parties in Abuja, stated that unless something urgent was done immediately to reverse the ugly drift, nobody should hold him responsible for any flaw.
The meeting was organised in collaboration with the International Republican Institute (IRI).
According to the INEC boss, the debate on the Constitution amendment and Jonathan’s assent to the amended Constitution “is taking much of the time that could be used in fast tracking activities for the 2011 elections”.
He said: “As I am sure you are aware, unfortunately, the Constitution amendments have been embroiled in controversy ever since. The Commission has planned its activities on the understanding that these amendments have been consummated and finalised. Instead, there have been controversies over whether the President has to assent to the Constitution amendments or not.
“At the same time, to the best of my knowledge, Mr. President is yet to assent to the new Electoral Act. We also thought that we had the funds, following consideration of the supplementary Appropriation Bill for INEC sent to the National Assembly by Mr. President about a fortnight ago. Again, unfortunately, we are not sure where we stand at the moment.
“All have constrained INEC’s preparations for both the voter’ registration exercise and the elections in general,” said Jega.
Intimating the leaders of political parties on the efforts and preparedness of INEC, Jega said: “I am sure that you would be in our preparations for the 2011 elections. We, as a Commission, are aware that while compiling a credible voter’ register might be the bedrock of free and fair elections, it is not the elections in itself. Therefore, we are conscious that we have to do both, the registration and preparations for the elections, simultaneously.
“We are establishing the necessary framework at the levels of operations, logistics, training, voter education, etc. that will ensure a hitch-free election in 2011. We are working on an electoral time-table and preparing comprehensive guidelines for voters, political parties, security agencies, election observers and our staff for the elections.
“However, the uncertainties about the legal framework for the conduct of the elections have hindered our preparations.
“Just to illustrate, except we know what the constitutional provision on the time to hold elections before the end of tenure is, we are constrained to issue a notice of the elections, which must be done 90 days to the elections. We are equally constrained to determine the date political parties must submit the list of their candidates to the Commission, which must be done 60 days prior to elections”.
Given the planned timelines for the voters’ registration and conduct of the 2011 elections, Jega stated that the Commission had already missed the timelines by two weeks.
Handling down warning to political parties on what INEC expects of them during the elections, the INEC chairman said: “Abiding by the 2010 Electoral Act will solve 50 per cent of the past anomalies.
“The process of selecting candidates must be open, given considerations to women and disadvantaged persons and every party will have equal opportunities to compete for the electorate.
On the 2010 Electoral Act and the relationship of INEC with political parties, he said: “If we assume that the elections would take place on the basis of the Electoral Act 2010, I am sure that you would be interested in knowing how changes incorporated in the amended Act would affect your relationship with INEC. In a nutshell, I think that you should take a particular note of the following:
“Section 31 of the Electoral Act requires the parties to submit their list of candidates 60 days before the elections. INEC is required within seven days thereafter, to publish the list of candidates in the constituency where the election is to hold. Nominations submitted by the parties are public documents and any citizen is entitled under Section 31 (4) to request from INEC copies of the nomination filed and INEC is obliged to make this available within 14 days.
“In Section 33, no political party shall be allowed to change or substitute its candidate whose name has been submitted pursuant to Section 32 of the Act, except in the case of death or withdrawal by the candidate. This eliminates the old practice of substitution of candidates arbitrarily or on the nebulous ground of “cogent and verifiable reasons.”
“Withdrawal of candidates is allowed 45 days before an election only. Thereafter, a candidate’s name will remain on the ballot.
“The registration of new political parties ceases six months before an election. This means that as at now, no new political parties can be registered ahead of the next elections, if they are to take place by 8th January 2011 (Section 78).
“I should also note that under the section, INEC may cancel a party’s certificate of registration where there is false or misleading information leading to its registration.
“Section 78 (7) empowers INEC to de-register a political party that fails to win any national or state Assembly seat in an election.
On mergers, he said: “Political parties are required under Section 84 (2) to give INEC 90 days notice of an intention to merge before a general election”.
“The Electoral Act 2010 provides in Section 85 that political parties give INEC 21 days notice of any convention, congress, conference or meeting convened for the purpose of electing members of its executive committees, other governing bodies or nominating candidates for any of the elective offices specified under the bill.
“This means that parties need to be informed well ahead of the 90 days date for the submission of their list of candidates of this legal requirement to ensure that they prepare adequately to fulfil the provisions contained in the new Section 87 of the Electoral Act, specifying the process of political party primaries.
“Section 87 of the Electoral Act 2010 outlines the process that all political parties must fulfil to conduct legitimate and credible primaries to enable them file candidates for the elections. Failure to comply with Section 87 may disqualify candidates filed by political parties for the elections.
“Section 86 of the Act gives INEC powers to monitor the parties and ensure that they comply with the law.
In all these, Jega was optimistic that the Commission would do its best by giving credible, free and fair elections in 2011.
He said: “Our position remains that we are bound by whatever existing legal architecture provided to us and we need not be drawn into controversies over such issues. Still, I can assure you that we are ready. As soon as these are clarified and concluded, we will release a time-table”.
At the parley, the National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo, charged political parties to help INEC achieve free, fair and credible elections by ensuring internal democracy in their various parties.
Nwodo said that the only way the parties could help INEC achieve the desired result is to try and keep their house in order.
“All the parties have the problem of internal democracy; we must tackle it to help INEC achieve the desired free, fair and credible election.
“We all have confidence in INEC leadership, nobody is going to direct INEC and the police to do a wrong thing, but we must put our house in order,” he declared.
Nwodo said that PDP “is going through a re-engineering aimed at returning the people’s confidence” and urged other parties to do same in their parties.
“Let us turn around what is going on in our parties and help INEC that appears committed to getting it right this time”. Nwodo also urged women to play more active role in politics and ensure good governance in the country.
Also at the parley were the PDP national secretary, Alhaji Abubakar Baraje; National Chairman of the Labour Party (LP), Chief Dan Nwanyanwu; National Secretary of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Dr. Usman Bugaje; Alhaji Balarabe Musa; Dr. Umaru Dikko and others.