Political parties too many, may cause problems in 2019 –INEC

The Independent National Electoral Commission says the growing number of political parties may pose challenges for the commission in the 2019 general elections.

The Chief Technical Adviser to the INEC Chairman, Prof. Bolade Eyinla, said this in Abuja on Monday at a retreat organised by the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, Kuru.

While delivering a keynote address at the event, which was titled, ‘The Dynamics of Managing Political Parties Professionally,’ Eyinla said so far, 68 political parties had been registered.

Eyinla, who represented INEC, said with over 100 political associations seeking registration, the number might increase before the elections which could cause logistical problems, including the production of ballot papers.

The INEC official said if 68 parties participated in the elections, it could also mean that a total of 68 party agents would be at each polling unit, which could cause the elections to be rowdy.

“Currently there are 68 registered political parties in Nigeria. As of today, there are more than100 associations that have applied to INEC to register as political parties. This raises a number of questions which we want this retreat to address,” he said.

Eyinla further stated that he did not know whether INEC would be able to monitor the congresses, conventions and primaries of all parties contesting over 1,000 elective positions each across the nation.

He added, “We are also going to be challenged if these 68 political parties and counting continue this way. We are just a commission. I cannot begin to imagine even as the technical adviser, how we will divide ourselves to monitor party conventions and primaries of 68 political parties across the length and breadth of this country.

“Already we have envisaged some of these challenges and we are coming up with strategies to deal with them in our election project plan.

“Ancillary to this is the fact that political party agents will also increase. I can imagine 68 political party agents in a polling unit. I think these are issues that we have to manage; but most importantly, how do we manage the ballot for 68 political parties?”

Eyinla said if any registered political party is mistakenly omitted from the ballot paper, it could lead to the total cancellation of the exercise.

The INEC official said, “I think perhaps one of the largest ballots that I have seen is that of Afghanistan where the ballot paper is nearly the size of a prayer mat.

“Given our level of literacy, I think that is going to be a major challenge and as we know, the question of exclusion is a major issue in the electoral process.

“The chairman was literally sleeping and waking with the ballot for Anambra State election to ensure that no party was excluded; to ensure that the names and logo of the parties were correct because any slip could nullify the election. So, I think there is a challenge with managing the ballot that will come with the increasing number of political parties.”

The INEC official called on the National Assembly to make necessary changes to the electoral legal framework before July, saying doing so less than six months to the elections would be in contravention of ECOWAS protocol on democracy.

In his address, however, the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, said the multiplicity of political parties was good for democracy.

Saraki, who was represented by Senator Abdullahi Sabi, called on political parties to ensure that neglected groups, including women and persons living with disabilities, were integrated into party structures.

In his remarks, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, said there was a need for parties to have ideologies as this would strengthen democracy and engender good governance.

Reps ask INEC to submit poll budget in 30 days

Members of the House of Representatives on Monday directed INEC to submit the estimates for the 2019 general elections to the National Assembly within 30 days.

The lawmakers said INEC appeared to be foot-dragging on preparations for the polls despite releasing the timetable.

They spoke at a 2018 budget defence session with the Chairman of the commission, Mr. Yakubu Mahmud, at the National Assembly, Abuja.

He appeared before the House Committee on Electoral and Political Party Matters.

The committee is chaired by an All Progressives Congress member from Gombe State, Mrs. Aisha Dukku.

Mahmud came to defend INEC’s regular budget of N45.5bn for 2018, but excluded the budget for the 2019 polls.

He told the session that the commission would come up with the 2019 budget as soon as all possible expenditure heads had been factored into the plans for the polls.

But, members, taken back by the statement, warned that a lot of things could go wrong if INEC kept delaying, considering the fact that it had to deal with 68 registered political parties.

They also did not rule out the fact that more political parties would be registered before 2019, a development that could add to the electoral umpire’s headaches.

A member from Rivers State, Mrs. Betty Apiafi, told Mahmud that they had expected that the 2019 polls would preoccupy the commission ahead of other considerations.

She said, “The elections are almost here. There should be a budget. The commission should come up with the budget within 30 days.

“It is better to come up with a budget to work with and if there are other issues later, INEC can still forward a supplementary budget to the National Assembly.

“If we leave everything the way it is, I am afraid there will be problems that INEC may find difficult to address. This is not the time to take chances.”

However, Mahmud assured the members that he hoped to comply with their directive before the expiration of the 30 days.

He explained that part of the delay was caused by the ongoing amendments to the Electoral Act by the National Assembly.

Mahmud appealed to lawmakers to conclude the amendments so that the commission could begin to make realistic plans for the polls.

On the N45.5bn proposed as INEC’s regular budget for 2018, Mahmud said N21.4bn was for personnel cost; 4.1bn for overhead; N18.9bn for electoral expenses and N927.4m for capital projects.

The chairman added that the upcoming governorship polls in Ekiti and Osun states in July and September respectively would be funded from the N18.8bn.

He also said other “unforeseen” elections like bye-elections, cancelled or repeated elections on the orders of courts would be funded from the sub-head.

Mahmud, who also spoke on the ongoing continuous voter registration, said four million voters had so far registered, adding that the number was insignificant compared to the huge number of Nigerians, who were ripe for voting.

Mahmud also dispelled the speculation that the exercise would be closed on January 31, 2018.

He said the registration would close 60 days to the elections.

“We will continue until 60 days to the date of the next general elections. So, disregard the claim that it will end on January 31,” he said.

He spoke on some of the challenges INEC had faced, conducting the exercise, particularly finances.

For example, Mahmud said while it would cost INEC N1.2bn to pay employees in 120,000 polling units across the country in one day alone, the commission had a budget of N1.2bn for all of its operations.

According to Mahmud, it would have cost INEC N130bn for take-off alone, but the commission had just N1.2bn.

To address the funding gap, he said the commission considered an “Option B,” which was to use a centre in each of the 774 local governments in the country and “still be within the budget of N1.2bn.”

Besides the wage bill of INEC’s 16,000 members of staff, Mahmud told the session that the commission conducted 178 different elections in the last one year.

He added that the commission made over 1,135 court appearances from 2015 to January this year.

On the security of election results, Mahmud said the commission was working on an innovation to transmit results directly from polling units to its data centre, using information generated by card readers.

He said INEC had been discussing with the Nigerian Communications Commission and major telecommunications service providers to agree on a secure technology to be deployed for the polls.

“We have another meeting with the Executive Vice-Chairman of the NCC tomorrow (Tuesday).

“Telecoms service providers will be there. We are looking at how we can get the results electronically and cut out all the risks along the road in transmitting results from point-to-point,” he added.

As the session wound down, Dukku spoke about the importance of the 2019 polls, asking INEC to brace itself for the task ahead.

She promised the support of the House and its readiness to work with the commission to ensure the “conduct of a free, fair poll next year (2019).”

Source: The Punch

Major highlights of Electoral Act amended by Senate

The Senate recently passed the Electoral Act No. 6 2010 (Amendment) Bill 2017 into law. The passage of this Bill in the Senate is a bold, innovative and common sense step on Electoral Reforms designed to guarantee free, fair and credible elections in Nigeria. Without much ado, these are some of the highlights of the Bill:

1. There shall now be full biometric accreditation of voters with Smart Card Readers and/or other technological devices, as INEC may introduce for elections from time to time.

2. Presiding Officers must now instantly transmit accreditation data and results from Polling Units to various collation centers. Presiding officer who contravene this shall be imprisoned for at least 5 years (no option of fine).

3. All Presiding Officer must now first record accreditation data and polling results on INEC’s prescribed forms before transmitting them. The data/result recorded must be the same with what they transmitted.

4. INEC now has unfettered powers to conduct elections by electronic voting.

5. Besides manual registers, INEC is now mandated to keep Electronic registers of voters.

6. INEC is now mandated to publish voters’ registers on its official website(s) for public scrutiny at least 30 days before a general election and any INEC staff who is responsible for this but fails to act as prescribed shall be liable on conviction to 6 months’ imprisonment.

7. INEC is now mandated to keep a National Electronic Register of Election Results as a distinct database or repository of polling unit by polling unit results for all elections conducted by INEC.

8. Collation of election result is now mainly electronic, as transmitted unit results will help to determine final results on real time basis.

9. INEC is now mandated to record details of electoral materials – quantities, serial numbers used to conduct elections (for proper tracking).

10. A political party whose candidate dies after commencement of an election and before the declaration of the result of that election now has a 14-day window to conduct a fresh primary in order for INEC to conduct a fresh election within 21 days of the death of the party’s candidate;

11. Political parties’ Polling Agents are now entitled to inspect originals of electoral materials before commencement of election and any Presiding Officer who violates this provision of the law shall be imprisoned for at least1 year.

12. No political party can impose qualification/disqualification criteria, measures or conditions on any Nigerian for the purpose of nomination for elective offices, except as provided in the 1999 Constitution.

13. The election of a winner of an election can no longer be challenged on grounds of qualification, if the he (winner) satisfied the applicable requirements of sections 65, 106,
131 or 177 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) and he is not, as may be applicable, in breach of sections 66, 107, 137 or 182 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999. [For example, a person’s election cannot be challenged on the ground that he did not pay tax, as this is not a qualifying condition under the Constitution.]

14. All members of political parties are now eligible to determine the ad-hoc delegates to elect candidates of parties in indirect primaries. The capacity of party executives to unduly influence or rig party primaries has been reasonably curtailed, if not totally removed.

15. Parties can no longer impose arbitrary nomination fees on political aspirants. The Bill passed prescribes limits for each elective office as follows:
(a) One Hundred and Fifty Thousand Naira (N150,000) for a Ward Councillorship aspirant in the FCT;
(b) Two Hundred and Fifty Thousand Naira (N250,000) for an Area Council Chairmanship aspirant in the FCT;
(c) Five Hundred Thousand Naira (N500,000) for a House of Assembly aspirant;
(d) One Million Naira (N1,000,000) for a House of Representatives aspirant;
(e) Two Million Naira (N2,000,000) for a Senatorial aspirant;
(f) Five Million naira (N5,000,000) for a Governorship aspirant; and
(g) Ten Million Naira (N10,000,000) for a Presidential aspirant.

16. Relying on the powers of the National Assembly in Paragraph 11 of Part II (Concurrent Legislative List) of the Second Schedule (Legislative Powers) to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), the Senate also passed measures reforming procedures regulating Local Government Elections. State Independent Electoral Commissions can no longer conduct elections that do not meet minimum standards of credibility.

17. Any INEC official who disobeys a tribunal order for inspection of electoral materials shall be imprisoned for 2 years, without an option of a fine.

Source: Daily Trust

INEC May Head to Supreme Court to Determine Election Sequence

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is considering heading to the Supreme Court for determination of its powers to fix the date for general elections, following fears that the National Assembly would change the order of general elections.

Changing the order of elections could force the electoral body to head to the Supreme Court for clarity on what is turning out to be a conflict between the Constitution, which empowers INEC to fix election dates and the Electoral Act.

The House of Representatives last week voted to amend Section 25 of the Electoral Act, 2010, which would see the National Assembly elections holding first, before elections into the state Houses of Assembly and governorship on a separate day, while the presidential election would be conducted last to complete the general election cycle.

Specifically, the House amended Section 25 of the Principal Act and substituted it with a new Section 25(1) which provides that the elections shall be held in the following order: (a) National Assembly elections (b) State Houses of Assembly and Governorship elections (c) Presidential election.

Similarly, Section 87 was amended by adding a new Subsection (11) on the order and timing for the conduct of primaries by political parties.

“The primaries of political parties shall follow the following sequence: (i) State Houses of Assembly (ii) National Assembly (iii) Governorship, and (iv) Presidential.

The proposed amendments, which came barely two weeks after INEC had released the final timetable for the 2019 elections, differ from the current order that provides for the conduct of the presidential and National Assembly elections first, and governorship and state assembly elections conducted afterwards.

Going by the INEC timetable, the presidential and National Assembly elections were slated for February 16, 2019, while the state assembly and governorship elections had been scheduled for March 2, 2019.

However, the proposed amendments have caused disquiet in the presidency, which considers them a deliberate ploy by the leaders of the National Assembly to influence the upcoming polls.

The fear in the presidency is that the bandwagon effect of the first set of elections into the National Assembly could affect the other elections.

Under the current order, the reverse is the case as the outcome of the presidential elections, in particular, has a bandwagon effect on the governorship and state assembly elections.

With the re-ordering of the primaries, the House has also made sure that the state governors minimise their influence on the conduct of primaries for the state and national legislatures, so that candidates vying for seats in the assemblies can in turn back them (governors) at their own primaries.

Also, the expectation is that the Senate conference committee which was empaneled last Thursday to reconcile the differences with the version passed by the House, would adopt the version of the lower legislative chamber.

But credible sources at INEC told THISDAY that if the amendments are adopted, it would cause a conflict between the Constitution and the Electoral Act.

“INEC is the body constitutionally empowered to fix election timetables. Now they are making amendments and they (National Assembly) want to make us conduct elections three times instead of twice, which is the current order, not minding the cost implications,” a senior official of INEC who did not want to be named, said.

Another source explained further that should INEC proceed to the Supreme Court, its argument would be based on specific sections of the Constitution, which empowers it to fix the election dates for the presidential, governorship, National Assembly and state Houses of Assembly elections.

Section 76(1) of the Constitution provides that “elections to each House of the National Assembly shall be held on a date to be appointed by the Independent National Electoral Commission”.

Section 132(1) of the Constitution further states: “An election to the office of the president shall be held on a date to be appointed by the Independent National Electoral Commission,” while Section 178(1) provides that “an election to the office of governor of a state shall be held on a date to be appointed by the Independent National Electoral Commission”.

“So if the Electoral Act is saying a different thing, because this is now the lawmakers making the amendments to fix the timetable according to their order, then it would be better for us to get the Supreme Court to decide on the matter,” the source said.

“We would argue that there is a conflict and in such instances, the Constitution is supreme. But of course we will have to go whichever way the court rules or decides,” the source added further.

The development confirmed a report last week by THISDAY that the proposed amendments were causing ripples in the presidency and the electoral commission.

The electoral body is miffed that the amendments are being considered just a few weeks after it released the 2019 general election timetable.

Source: This Day

Overcoming vote buying

One major slur on elections and indeed the democratic process in Nigeria is the practice of vote buying. It has become a recurring decimal in the nation’s elections, to the chagrin of right-thinking Nigerians and the international community. And not even the shadowy and powerful forces behind the uncouth practice can predict just how devastating its impact can be. It will be recalled that, disturbed by the monumental subversion of the electoral process that thrust him into office, a humbled President Umaru Yar’Adua had initiated some far-reaching electoral reforms. The quantum of litigations arising from competitive electoral contests, with some of the cases still pending in court since 2011, equally underscores the challenges posed by the worrisome trend.

In recent times, the impunity has graduated from what politicians call pre-paid to post-paid (vote buying), whereby voters are coerced to compromise their conscience and rights under the law. Before now, prospective voters were monetarily induced or settled, to use the common parlance, under oath, by opulent and influential politicians using stooges, surrogates and other categories of political jobbers, before casting their votes. This set of politicians and their gangs, in their inordinate ambition and desire to dominate the political space and strangulate democracy, have however upgraded their game, as voters now get paid only after having done their unpatriotic bidding. The political godfathers and demagogues are having a jolly good time at the expense of the nation’s democracy.

This latest strategy for undermining the secrecy of balloting requires that the voter display the ballot paper that (s)he has thumbprinted in favour of a particular party, so that the party agent standing strategically nearby can monitor, see and confirm compliance with the unholy contract as (s)he emerges from the cubicle at the polling unit. Having pleased the agent, the voter walks past the ballot box. Thereafter, (s)he is compensated in cash and kind, either immediately or at the close of balloting at an agreed spot and time, even before the result of the election is officially announced.

The practice, which is completely antithetical to the ethos and norms of democracy and the global standards, has added to the political lexicon of the country, such weird expressions as dibo ko se’be (Vote and cook a pot of soup) and cash-and-noodle, bordering on predatory and prebendal politics. This is a disservice to the less perceptible voter and, by implication, the electoral process. As such, we insist that major stakeholders must use the current opportunity provided by the National Assembly to raise the bar in terms of the rules of engagement in the electoral process. This is a crucial step in saving the system and protecting the long-term interests of the voter, and facilitating good governance and democracy.

The National Assembly should legislate to protect the people and guarantee the secrecy of balloting. Being a vital part of the strategic starting point to overcome voting buying, it should provide the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) with the needed legislation for electronic voting, complemented by simultaneous collation of results at the collation centres, whether at the zonal, state or national levels. This is the only way to deepen democracy and ensure that only popular candidates get elected. All persons and groups of conscience should mount pressure on the National Assembly members to do the needful, particularly as they are arguably interested parties in the current charade.

We urge the National Assembly to adopt further electoral reforms aimed at blocking extant gaps in the legal framework of the nation’s electoral process. The germane issues here include electronic voting and the use of technology in elections; regulating election expenses and increasing penalties for electoral offenders. Happily, INEC has enunciated plans to deploy a technology that would enable it to transmit election results electronically, directly from polling units to the state headquarters. No doubt, this will go a long way in eliminating rigging, electoral frauds and other irregularities. It will also enthrone credibility and transparency in the electoral process. The threat to the confidentiality of the process is real. It has a direct implication for the quality of leadership and governance.

Source: Nigerian Tribune

2019: Saraki constitutes conference committee on Electoral Act amendment

Senate President Bukola Saraki has announced a six-man committee of senators to harmonise the Senate’s version of the amended Electoral Act with that passed by the House of Representatives.

The Senate’s conference committee has the Chairman of the Senate Committee on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Suleiman Nazif, as Chairman.

Other members of the committee include: Shehu Sani, Biodun Olujimi, Hope Uzodinma, Dino Melaye and Peter Nwaoboshi.

The committee is expected to meet with the House of Representatives to harmonise the version of the amended electoral bill before transmiting it to President Muhammadu Buhari for his assent.

The Senate had on March 30, 2017 passed an amended version of the 2010 Electoral Act, while the House of Representatives passed its version on January 23, 2018.

The lower house voted to change the order of elections in the country, thereby altering the dates and timetable recently released by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for the conduct of the 2019 general elections. Lawmakers amended the Electoral Act by approving that the conduct of National Assembly election should comes first, to be followed by the governorship and state Houses of Assembly elections while the presidential election should be conducted last.

Highlights of the version passed by the Senate included the use of electronic voting for conduct and transmission of results, legalizing the use of Card Reader for accreditation, giving INEC powers to modify the voting process if there was any challenge among others.

The announcement by the Senate President comes 24 hours after the Chairman of INEC, Mahmood Yakubu, hinged the presentation of the 2019 elections budget on successful amendment of the Electoral Act.

Yakubu stated this while appearing before the Senate Committee on INEC to defend the electoral body’s 2018 budget estimates.

Also on Wednesday, the Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room called on the House of Representatives to rescind the amendment of the Electoral Act, which altered the timetable and schedule of activities for the 2019 general elections.

Specifically, Situation Room described the legislation as self-serving, noting that the action of the lower legislative chamber violates constitutional guarantees of the independence of the nation’s electoral body.

Convener of Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room and Executive Director, Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC), Clement Nwankwo, stated this at a press conference in Abuja.

“We are however concerned about the delays in the passage of the amendments to the constitutional and legal framework for the conduct of the 2019 elections. Of particular concern are proposals coming from the National Assembly to amend the Electoral Act to alter the timetable for the 2019 elections already announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

“The proposal by the National Assembly to alter the Order of Elections already set by INEC is an unwarranted interference in the Constitutional powers of INEC to determine the conduct of elections and interferes with the powers of INEC to carry out its electoralduties without directives or control from any person or authority, using the instrumentality of legislation. This is unacceptable and is hereby condemned.

“The National Assembly needs to backtrack from passing self-serving legislation that contradicts constitutional guarantees of the independence of INEC,” Nwankwo

Source: Business Day

Voter Registration to End Early December, Says INEC

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said the ongoing Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) will be temporarily suspended in the second week of December to allow for the conduct of the general election starting on February 19, 2019.

In a statement issued wednesday by the National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee (IVEC), Prince Solomon Soyebi, the commission said so far, it has registered over four million new voters under the CVR exercise.
The CVR exercise commenced on April 27, 2017 across the country.

However, the commission said going by the provisions of Section 9 (5) of the Electoral Act (as amended), the CVR would be temporarily suspended 60 days to the commencement of the next general election scheduled for February 2019.
It said the exercise would resume after the conclusion of the elections.

“The commission wishes to assure all eligible Nigerians that the CVR exercise is designed to continue indefinitely as envisaged by the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended).

“The commission hereby encourages all eligible Nigerians to register at our offices in all local government headquarters and other officially designated areas across the country between 9a.m. and 3p.m., Monday to Friday, excluding public holidays. Full information about the designated areas can be obtained from our state offices,” it said.

INEC said the exercise was intended to afford all eligible Nigerians, 18 years and above who did not register in previous exercises the opportunity to do so at their convenience.

According to the INEC statement, “So far, over four million Nigerians have registered across the country”.
In a related development, INEC has disclosed that it would deploy new card readers for the upcoming governorship elections in Ekiti State later this year.

The Chairman of the electoral body, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, said wednesday when he appeared before the Senate Committee on INEC, to defend the organisation’s 2018 budget estimates, where he added that the 85 staff, died of natural and unnatural causes in the outgone 2017.

“We ordered our ballot boxes in 2017 which cost N1.4 billion, we have been using same ballot boxes , INEC will no longer rely on other states for ballot boxes. So new ballot boxes will be used for 2019 general elections,” he said.
“We have been using same card readers but we are ordered for more card readers,” Mahmood added.

The INEC boss said the organisation is yet to conclude on a budget estimate for the 2019 general elections particularly as the National Assembly is still soldiering amendments to the Electoral Act of 2010.

“It is provisions of the amendment to 2010 electoral act after passage by the National Assembly that will show the commission how elections at primary level by the political parties would be conducted and monetary cost that would entail on the part of INEC, let alone the general elections,” the INEC boss said.

Speaking on the 85 deaths of staff recorded in 2017, Mahmood said the intense pressure which several of the workers are subjected to due to the nature of the job, led to high blood pressure for several of them, who also succumbed to heart attacks.
He made the explanation while defending the budget estimate for a sick bay at the national headquarters in Abuja

“In fact, last year alone, there was preponderance of the 85 staffers that we lost died through such circumstances hours or few days after being rushed to hospitals. This is the reason why we decided to have sick bays in our offices now for preventive measures,” he said.
In another development, the Senate Committee on INEC also screened eight nominees for Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) of INEC.
INEC nominations are not affected by the Senate’s resolution to suspend considerations of nominees pending the clarification of its powers of confirmation on the appointment of the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

INEC RECs are listed in the constitution as one whose members require confirmation by the Senate, where the EFCC is not.
Some of the nominees screened yesterday are Dr Usman Ajidagba (Kwara), Baba Yusuf Abba (Borno) Segun Agbaje (Ekiti), Yahaya Bello (Nasarawa) and Mohammed Magaji Ibrahim (Gombe).

Source: This Day

EFCC arrests former SGF, Babachir Lawal

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, says it has arrested the former Secretary to Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal.

Mr. Lawal was arrested Wednesday, Channels Television reported.

Mr. Lawal was recently sacked after he was indicted by a presidential panel that investigated misuse of funds meant for people displaced by Boko Haram.

He had earlier been indicted by the Senate.

His arrest is coming a day after former President Olusegun Obasanjo accused Mr. Buhari of condoning corruption where persons close to him are involved.

Mr. Obasanjo said in a statement that the president had failed woefully, and urged him not to seek re-election.

Source: Premium Times

Why there was no provision for 2019 elections in 2018 budget – INEC

Delay in the passage of the Electoral Act prevented the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, from including the budget of 2019 elections in the 2018 appropriation, Mahmood Yakubu, the chairman of the commission has said.

Mr. Yakubu said until legislative process is completed on the bill, the commission will be unable to estimate effectively the cost for the election.

He made this known on Wednesday while appearing before the senate committee on INEC to defend the 2018 budget.

“We can’t complete work on the election budget unless the national assembly has helped us to complete work on the electoral act,” he said.

“For instance, there is provision in the bill passed by the senate for two types of primaries; direct and indirect. One party may opt for direct, another for indirect and both will have different cost implications.

“What are we going to do? We have to wait until the act is passed before we know the correct figure. I will appeal to the distinguished senators to expedite work on the electoral act so that we can have an idea of the figure.”

Mr. Yakubu noted that INEC has made three key improvements on the card readers for forthcoming elections.

“First, we are improving the processors of smart card readers so that it will be speedier. Secondly, we are increasing the windows where people press the fingers on election day.

“We have realised that part of the problem sometime is with the size of the window.

“If the entire thumb covers the window, there is the tendency that for the machine not to recognise it. The third part is to enhance it to be able to transmit from the polling uni,” he said.

Source: Premium Times

Enforcing Nigeria’s electoral offences laws

As the 2019 general elections draw nearer and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) timetable of activities for the election already released, lawyers have called for strict implementation of the electoral offences laws with particular emphasis on the role of the judiciary and law enforcement agencies.
Even as the laws prohibiting all forms of electoral offences have been outlined by the Nigerian Constitution and the Electoral Act, 2010, there has been inconsistent enforcement mechanism where for instance, in a polling unit, a party agent financially induces the voter during an election, which is an offence under Section 130 of the Act; or where an unqualified person is induced to vote at an election knowing full well that it is an offence under Section 122 of the Act.

Again, law enforcement agencies have been accused of failing to act when a presidential candidate incurs election expenses exceeding N1 billion, a governorship candidate exceeds N200 million, and when a senatorial and House of Representatives candidate exceed N40m and N20m respectively, which violate Section 90, sub 1 to 10 of the Act.
Despite the seeming enhanced preparedness for elections by INEC, electoral offences have continued to undermine Nigeria’s efforts to consolidate its democracy through the power of the ballot paper. Ironically, these are not being treated strictly as criminal offences in the manner other crimes are viewed.
INEC on its website describes electoral offences as “Any conduct – action or inaction which is prohibited by the Constitution or the Electoral Act and a breach of which attracts punishment.” It added that “electoral offences may be committed by INEC or security officials, political parties and their officials, candidates, observers, journalists/media houses or the general public.”
To fashion a way out of the menace of electoral crimes, the 2008 Electoral Reform Committee (ERC) led by Justice Mohammed Uwais recommended generally among others, the setting up of an Electoral Offences Commission, and to stop the appointment of the chairman of the electoral body to guarantee its independence.
While receiving the report of Senator Ken Nnamani-led Constitution and Electoral Reform Committee in December, 2017, the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister for Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN) thanked the panel for a job well done especially on the review and jurisdictional mandates of the proposed Electoral Tribunal.
Besides, the panel was mandated to review relevant judicial decisions on election petitions as it relates to conflicting judgement; absence of consequential orders; trying of judges delay in issuing Certified True Copies of judgements as well as harmonising the Electoral Act in view of the judgements with a view to enhancing all the electoral processes.
It also had the mandate to review the extent of implementation of the recommendations of the 2008 Electoral Reform Committee (ERC) headed by Justice Mohammed Uwais (Uwais Report) and advise on outstanding issues for implementation.
Barr. E.M.D. Umukoro enumerated the steps to enforce breaches in the country’s electoral laws. Such as: First, “the President must be able to show the way forward by speaking up and insisting on the enforcement of the laws. Second, the security agencies must be fully trained, retrained and equipped for the responsibility ahead.”
He went further to suggest thirdly, “that there must be synergy amongst the various government agencies. Fourth, that the government agencies must be fully funded as politicians’ lured most of the security agents with financial inducement. Fifth, the courts must treat electoral offences with dispatch. And sixth, government must ensure there is adequate publicity of the laws and the consequences of breaking the law.”
Also speaking, Hamid Ajibola Jimoh accused INEC officials, political parties and their officials, security personnel, candidates, observers, media houses, media men or the general public for being responsible for electoral offences.
He therefore submitted that: one, “the electoral offences laws are sui generis – i.e. of its own procedures; two, prosecuting agencies should be specially trained for handling electoral offences; three, there should be specialised criminal rules for electoral offences and reportage; fourth, law enforcement agencies to investigate or arrest on electoral offences should not be officers of the Nigeria Police Force, due to suspected level of corruption lingering in the police force, if we want the electoral system to work as expected; and finally, the provision of Section 150 of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended) will work as expected only where investigating agencies are specially trained.”
The citizens and international community expect Nigeria through the National Assembly to improve its electoral processes through the review of existing laws. The task of enforcing electoral offences will bring sanity in the system and deepen the country’s democracy.

Source: Daily Trust

THE WAY OUT: A CLARION CALL FOR COALITION FOR NIGERIA MOVEMENT By President Olusegun Obasanjo

Since we are still in the month of January, it is appropriate to wish all Nigerians Happy 2018. I am constrained to issue this special statement at this time considering the situation of the country. Some of you may be asking, “What has brought about this special occasion of Obasanjo issuing a Special Statement?” You will be right to ask such a question. But there is a Yoruba saying that ‘when lice abound in your clothes, your fingernails will never be dried of blood’. When I was in the village, to make sure that lice die, you put them between two fingernails and press hard to ensure they die and they always leave blood stains on the fingernails. To ensure you do not have blood on your fingernails, you have to ensure that lice are not harboured anywhere within your vicinity.

The lice of poor performance in government – poverty, insecurity, poor economic management, nepotism, gross dereliction of duty, condonation of misdeed – if not outright encouragement of it, lack of progress and hope for the future, lack of national cohesion and poor management of internal political dynamics and widening inequality – are very much with us today. With such lice of general and specific poor performance and crying poverty with us, our fingers will not be dry of ‘blood’.

Four years ago when my PDP card was torn, I made it abundantly clear that I quit partisan politics for aye but my concern and interest in Nigeria, Africa and indeed in humanity would not wane. Ever since, I have adhered strictly to that position. Since that time, I have devoted quality time to the issue of zero hunger as contained in Goal No. 2 of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN. We have set the target that Nigeria with the participating States in the Zero Hunger Forum should reach Zero Hunger goal by 2025 – five years earlier than the UN target date. I am involved in the issue of education in some States and generally in the issue of youth empowerment and employment. I am involved in all these domestically and altruistically to give hope and future to the seemingly hopeless and those in despair. I believe strongly that God has endowed Nigeria so adequately that no Nigerian should be either in want or in despair.

I believe in team work and collaborative efforts. At the international level, we have worked with other world leaders to domicile the apparatus for monitoring and encouraging socio-economic progress in Africa in our Presidential Library. The purpose of Africa Progress Group, which is the new name assumed by Africa Progress Panel (APP), is to point out where, when and what works need to be done for the progress of Africa separately and collectively by African leaders and their development partners. I have also gladly accepted the invitation of the UN Secretary-General to be a member of his eighteen-member High-Level Board of Advisers on Mediation. There are other assignments I take up in other fora for Africa and for the international community. For Africa to move forward, Nigeria must be one of the anchor countries, if not the leading anchor country. It means that Nigeria must be good at home to be good outside. No doubt, our situation in the last decade or so had shown that we are not good enough at home; hence we are invariably absent at the table that we should be abroad.

All these led me to take the unusual step of going against my own political Party, PDP, in the last general election to support the opposite side. I saw that action as the best option for Nigeria. As it has been revealed in the last three years or so, that decision and the subsequent collective decision of Nigerians to vote for a change was the right decision for the nation. For me, there was nothing personal, it was all in the best interest of Nigeria and, indeed, in the best interest of Africa and humanity at large. Even the horse rider then, with whom I maintain very cordial, happy and social relationship today has come to realise his mistakes and regretted it publicly and I admire his courage and forthrightness in this regard. He has a role to play on the side line for the good of Nigeria, Africa and humanity and I will see him as a partner in playing such a role nationally and internationally, but not as a horse rider in Nigeria again.

The situation that made Nigerians to vote massively to get my brother Jonathan off the horse is playing itself out again. First, I thought I knew the point where President Buhari is weak and I spoke and wrote about it even before Nigerians voted for him and I also did vote for him because at that time it was a matter of “any option but Jonathan” (aobj). But my letter to President Jonathan titled: “Before It Is Too Late” was meant for him to act before it was too late. He ignored it and it was too late for him and those who goaded him into ignoring the voice of caution. I know that praise-singers and hired attackers may be raised up against me for verbal or even physical attack but if I can withstand undeserved imprisonment and was ready to shed my blood by standing for Nigeria, I will consider no sacrifice too great to make for the good of Nigeria at any time. No human leader is expected to be personally strong or self-sufficient in all aspects of governance.

I knew President Buhari before he became President and said that he is weak in the knowledge and understanding of the economy but I thought that he could make use of good Nigerians in that area that could help. Although, I know that you cannot give what you don’t have and that economy does not obey military order. You have to give it what it takes in the short-, medium- and long-term. Then, it would move. I know his weakness in understanding and playing in the foreign affairs sector and again, there are many Nigerians that could be used in that area as well. They have knowledge and experience that could be deployed for the good of Nigeria. There were serious allegations of round-tripping against some inner caucus of the Presidency which would seem to have been condoned. I wonder if such actions do not amount to corruption and financial crime, then what is it? Culture of condonation and turning blind eye will cover up rather than clean up. And going to justice must be with clean hands.

I thought President Buhari would fight corruption and insurgency and he must be given some credit for his achievement so far in these two areas although it is not yet uhuru!

The herdsmen/crop farmers issue is being wittingly or unwittingly allowed to turn sour and messy. It is no credit to the Federal Government that the herdsmen rampage continues with careless abandon and without finding an effective solution to it. And it is a sad symptom of insensitivity and callousness that some Governors, a day after 73 victims were being buried in a mass grave in Benue State without condolence, were jubilantly endorsing President Buhari for a second term! The timing was most unfortunate. The issue of herdsmen/crop farmers dichotomy should not be left on the political platform of blame game; the Federal Government must take the lead in bringing about solution that protects life and properties of herdsmen and crop farmers alike and for them to live amicably in the same community.

But there are three other areas where President Buhari has come out more glaringly than most of us thought we knew about him. One is nepotic deployment bordering on clannishness and inability to bring discipline to bear on errant members of his nepotic court. This has grave consequences on performance of his government to the detriment of the nation. It would appear that national interest was being sacrificed on the altar of nepotic interest. What does one make of a case like that of Maina: collusion, condonation, ineptitude, incompetence, dereliction of responsibility or kinship and friendship on the part of those who should have taken visible and deterrent disciplinary action? How many similar cases are buried, ignored or covered up and not yet in the glare of the media and the public? The second is his poor understanding of the dynamics of internal politics. This has led to wittingly or unwittingly making the nation more divided and inequality has widened and become more pronounced. It also has effect on general national security. The third is passing the buck. For instance, blaming the Governor of the Central Bank for devaluation of the naira by 70% or so and blaming past governments for it, is to say the least, not accepting one’s own responsibility. Let nobody deceive us, economy feeds on politics and because our politics is depressing, our economy is even more depressing today. If things were good, President Buhari would not need to come in. He was voted to fix things that were bad and not engage in the blame game. Our Constitution is very clear, one of the cardinal responsibilities of the President is the management of the economy of which the value of the naira forms an integral part. Kinship and friendship that place responsibility for governance in the hands of the unelected can only be deleterious to good government and to the nation.

President Buhari’s illness called for the sympathy, understanding, prayer and patience from every sane Nigerian. It is part of our culture. Most Nigerians prayed for him while he was away sick in London for over hundred days and he gave his Deputy sufficient leeway to carry on in his absence. We all thanked God for President Buhari for coming back reasonably hale and hearty and progressing well in his recovery. But whatever may be the state of President Buhari’s health today, he should neither over-push his luck nor over-tax the patience and tolerance of Nigerians for him, no matter what his self-serving, so-called advisers, who would claim that they love him more than God loves him and that without him, there would be no Nigeria say. President Buhari needs a dignified and honourable dismount from the horse. He needs to have time to reflect, refurbish physically and recoup and after appropriate rest, once again, join the stock of Nigerian leaders whose experience, influence, wisdom and outreach can be deployed on the side line for the good of the country. His place in history is already assured. Without impaired health and strain of age, running the affairs of Nigeria is a 25/7 affair, not 24/7.

I only appeal to brother Buhari to consider a deserved rest at this point in time and at this age. I continue to wish him robust health to enjoy his retirement from active public service. President Buhari does not necessarily need to heed my advice. But whether or not he heeds it, Nigeria needs to move on and move forward.

I have had occasion in the past to say that the two main political parties – APC and PDP – were wobbling. I must reiterate that nothing has happened to convince me otherwise. If anything, I am reinforced in my conviction. The recent show of PDP must give grave and great concern to lovers of Nigeria. To claim, as has been credited to the chief kingmaker of PDP, that for procuring the Supreme Court judgement for his faction of the Party, he must dictate the tune all the way and this is indeed fraught with danger. If neither APC nor PDP is a worthy horse to ride to lead Nigeria at this crucial and critical time, what then do we do? Remember Farooq Kperogi, an Associate Professor at the Kennesaw State University, Georgia, United States, calls it “a cruel Hobson’s choice; it’s like a choice between six and half a dozen, between evil and evil. Any selection or deflection would be a distinction without a difference.” We cannot just sit down lamenting and wringing our hands desperately and hopelessly.

I believe the situation we are in today is akin to what and where we were in at the beginning of this democratic dispensation in 1999. The nation was tottering. People became hopeless and saw no bright future in the horizon. It was all a dark cloud politically, economically and socially. The price of oil at that time was nine dollars per barrel and we had a debt overhang of about $35 billion. Most people were confused with lack of direction in the country. One of the factors that saved the situation was a near government of national unity that was put in place to navigate us through the dark cloud. We had almost all hands on deck. We used people at home and from the diaspora and we navigated through the dark cloud of those days. At that time, most people were hopelessly groping in the dark. They saw no choice, neither in the left nor in the right, and yet we were not bereft of people at home and from the diaspora that could come together to make Nigeria truly a land flowing with milk and honey. Where we are is a matter of choice but we can choose differently to make a necessary and desirable change, once again.

Wherever I go, I hear Nigerians complaining, murmuring in anguish and anger. But our anger should not be like the anger of the cripple. We can collectively save ourselves from the position we find ourselves. It will not come through self-pity, fruitless complaint or protest but through constructive and positive engagement and collective action for the good of our nation and ourselves and our children and their children. We need moral re-armament and engaging togetherness of people of like-mind and goodwill to come solidly together to lift Nigeria up. This is no time for trading blames or embarking on futile argument and neither should we accept untenable excuses for non-performance. Let us accept that the present administration has done what it can do to the limit of its ability, aptitude and understanding. Let the administration and its political party platform agree with the rest of us that what they have done and what they are capable of doing is not good enough for us. They have given as best as they have and as best as they can give. Nigeria deserves and urgently needs better than what they have given or what we know they are capable of giving. To ask them to give more will be unrealistic and will only sentence Nigeria to a prison term of four years if not destroy it beyond the possibility of an early recovery and substantial growth. Einstein made it clear to us that doing the same thing and expecting a different result is the height of folly. Already, Nigerians are committing suicide for the unbearable socio-economic situation they find themselves in. And yet Nigerians love life. We must not continue to reinforce failure and hope that all will be well. It is self-deceit and self-defeat and another aspect of folly.

What has emerged from the opposition has shown no better promise from their antecedents. As the leader of that Party for eight years as President of Nigeria, I can categorically say there is nothing to write home about in their new team. We have only one choice left to take us out of Egypt to the promised land. And that is the coalition of the concerned and the willing – ready for positive and drastic change, progress and involvement. Change that will give hope and future to all our youth and dignity and full participation to all our women. Our youth should be empowered to deploy their ability to learn, innovate and work energetically at ideas and concepts in which they can make their own original inputs. Youth must be part of the action today and not relegated to leadership of tomorrow which may never come. Change that will mean enhancement of living standard and progress for all. A situation where the elected will accountably govern and every Nigerian will have equal opportunity not based on kinship and friendship but based on free citizenship.

Democracy is sustained and measured not by leaders doing extra-ordinary things, (invariably, leaders fail to do ordinary things very well), but by citizens rising up to do ordinary things extra-ordinarily well. Our democracy, development and progress at this juncture require ordinary citizens of Nigeria to do the extra-ordinary things of changing the course and direction of our lackluster performance and development. If leadership fails, citizens must not fail and there lies the beauty and importance of democracy. We are challenged by the current situation; we must neither adopt spirit of cowardice nor timidity let alone impotence but must be sustained by courage, determination and commitment to say and do and to persist until we achieve upliftment for Nigeria. Nothing ventured, nothing gained and we believe that our venturing will not be in vain. God of Nigeria has endowed this country adequately and our non-performance cannot be blamed on God but on leadership. God, who has given us what we need and which is potentially there, will give us leadership enablement to actualize our potentiality.

The development and modernization of our country and society must be anchored and sustained on dynamic Nigerian culture, enduring values and an enchanting Nigerian dream. We must have abiding faith in our country and its role and place within the comity of nations. Today, Nigeria needs all hands on deck. All hands of men and women of goodwill must be on deck. We need all hands to move our country forward.

We need a Coalition for Nigeria, CN. Such a Movement at this juncture needs not be a political party but one to which all well-meaning Nigerians can belong. That Movement must be a coalition for democracy, good governance, social and economic well-being and progress. Coalition to salvage and redeem our country. You can count me with such a Movement. Last time, we asked, prayed and worked for change and God granted our request. This time, we must ask, pray and work for change with unity, security and progress. And God will again grant us. Of course, nothing should stop such a Movement from satisfying conditions for fielding candidates for elections. But if at any stage the Movement wishes to metamorphose into candidate-sponsoring Movement for elections, I will bow out of the Movement because I will continue to maintain my non-partisan position. Coalition for Nigeria must have its headquarters in Abuja.

This Coalition for Nigeria will be a Movement that will drive Nigeria up and forward. It must have a pride of place for all Nigerians, particularly for our youth and our women. It is a coalition of hope for all Nigerians for speedy, quality and equal development, security, unity, prosperity and progress. It is a coalition to banish poverty, insecurity and despair. Our country must not be oblivious to concomitant danger around, outside and ahead. Coalition for Nigeria must be a Movement to break new ground in building a united country, a socially-cohesive and moderately prosperous society with equity, equality of opportunity, justice and a dynamic and progressive economy that is self-reliant and takes active part in global division of labour and international decision-making.

The Movement must work out the path of development and the trajectory of development in speed, quality and equality in the short- medium- and long-term for Nigeria on the basis of sustainability, stability, predictability, credibility, security, cooperation and prosperity with diminishing inequality. What is called for is love, commitment and interest in our country, not in self, friends and kinship alone but particularly love, compassion and interest in the poor, underprivileged and downtrodden. It is our human duty and responsibility so to do. Failure to do this will amount to a sin against God and a crime against humanity.

Some may ask, what does Obasanjo want again? Obasanjo has wanted nothing other than the best for Nigeria and Nigerians and he will continue to want nothing less. And if we have the best, we will be contented whether where we live is described as palaces or huts by others and we will always give thanks to God.

I, therefore, will gladly join such a Movement when one is established as Coalition for Nigeria, CN, taking Nigeria to the height God has created it to be. From now on, the Nigeria eagle must continue to soar and fly high. CN, as a Movement, will be new, green, transparent and must remain clean and always active, selflessly so. Members must be ready to make sacrifice for the nation and pay the price of being pioneers and good Nigerians for our country to play the God-assigned role for itself, for its neighbours, for its sub-region of West Africa, for its continent and for humanity in general. For me, the strength and sustainable success of CN will derive largely from the strong commitment of a population that is constantly mobilized to the rallying platform of the fact that going forward together is our best option for building a nation that will occupy its deserved place in the global community. May God continue to lead, guide and protect us. Amen.

Source: The Punch