#FixElectionsNG: Memo Submitted to National Assembly on Electoral Amendment

Date: Dec 15 2020
Category: Elections, Elections Reports, Electoral Reform
Tags: Election, news, politics
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Elections all over the world remain the bedrock of democracy as it allows the people to truly take charge of their governance by determining who their leaders are and the policies (presented in party manifestos) with which they are governed. Given its pivotal place in a democracy, therefore, the laws governing the processes and procedures of elections must be sufficient to protect the sanctity attached to it. While the conduct of elections remains troubled in Nigeria, there is no doubt that tremendous gains enabled, particularly through legislations, and policies by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), have been recorded in improving the quality of the nation’s electoral process. However, a lot more still needs to be done. A tell-tale sign that all is not well with our elections is the progressive decline in voter turnout in every cycle of elections in the country. This worrying sign demonstrates a loss of faith in the democratic process of electing leaders by the people. This loss of faith could also be explained in the violent nature of elections in the country, the commoditization of electoral franchise, electoral malfeasance of various kinds, the complicity of state institutions in orchestrating electoral malpractices, and many more ills plaguing Nigeria’s elections. All of the foregoing indicates an urgent need to reform and improve the electoral laws in order to salvage the nation’s democracy. It is as a result of this that Yiaga Africa submits this memo to the joint committees of the Senate and House of Representatives on INEC and Electoral Matters. The organization welcomes the move not to amend the subsisting 2010 Electoral Act but rather to repeal the various versions of the electoral law in circulation. and enact a new Electoral Act.

Given its experience in electoral-related matters, Yiaga Africa’s memo speaks to identified gaps in the nation’s electoral law which if plugged will contribute to strengthening elections in Nigeria and building our democracy. Our proposal covers issues related to election administration and technology, electoral justice, political parties’ primaries, electoral finance, and political inclusion of women, youth, and persons with disabilities- all constituting a probable and ideal legal framework for election conduct and transparency in future election engagements.
Election administration and outcomes remain a recondite issue in Nigeria’s electoral democracy. Worried by the general perception of partisanship in the nation’s electoral umpire, our proposal seeks to suggest a new approach of constituting the commission to insulate it from every form of partisanship and bias. Equally contained herein are proposed amendments to ensure timely and adequate funding of the electoral commission to improve its efficiency and independence. This memo equally seeks to review the powers of returning officers in the declaration of results and returning of winners.

More so, our memo proposes a more punitive prosecution of electoral offenders through the establishment of an Electoral Offences Commission as recommended by the Justice Uwais Panel’s report of 2008. While mindful of the fact that this will require an amendment of Part 1 of the Third Schedule of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) Yiaga Africa believes that this Committee can equally suggest this to the Committees on review of the 1999 Constitution.

The issue of political party monopoly, weak democratic institutions, the growing culture of impunity, commoditizing of democratic rights, compromised security agents and election officials led to the crisis of diminishing confidence in the process. Similarly, the assault on voting rights, an increase in spates of electoral violence, and political thuggery contribute to the increasing withdrawal of citizens from participating in elections, thereby leading to a steady decline in voter turnout.

Our proposal equally seeks to sanitize the candidates’ nomination process as well as empower INEC to monitor and regulate party primaries. In addition, to empower INEC leverage technology in the conduct of elections in the country. Experience has shown that the current electoral process, from voter’s registration, political party primaries, and campaigns to actual voting/counting and declaration of results needs to be reworked in the interest of national unity and progress. More importantly, to sustainably address these issues, efforts must be geared towards addressing the pattern of appointments at INEC, technological gaps, procedural inconsistencies, campaign financing, election security, handling electoral offences, and the challenge of logistics, as this will go a long way in resolving the many challenges that confront our electoral democracy.

One of the high points for these proposals and bills before this 9th Assembly must be in ensuring that the inclusion of under-represented groups like women, youth, and people with disabilities (PWD) are well reflected, in ways that are devoid of ambiguity and lack of compelling sanctions to anyone or group who chooses to do otherwise. All of these issues, if addressed, will be instrumental in restoring the confidence of citizens in our electoral process.
The increasing cost of elections and contrasting drop in citizens’ confidence in the process are not good signs for Nigeria’s democracy. Thus, electoral policies must guarantee people’s participation, protect the sanctity of voters, and advance electoral justice. This informed our memorandum to the Joint Committee of the National Assembly for the repeal of the 2010 electoral act and enactment of the 2020 electoral amendment act taking into cognizance critical areas.

These proposed alterations and amendments to the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) as well as the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended), encompasses our quest to address the declining quality of elections and the loss of faith in the democratic institution as a result of the apparent inadequacies inherent in our current electoral framework in its delivery of free, fair, credible and inclusive elections in Nigeria.


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