By ANGELA ATABO
ABUJA- A group, the Electoral Forum, has called for the amendment of the Electoral Act to make delegates’ inducement and vote buying a criminal offence.
It also recommended deeper and more regular public education on the Electoral Act, to enable Nigerians take active part in the electoral process.
The Chairman of the Forum, Prof. Adebayo Olukoshi, in statement in Abuja said the recommendations were made at the forum’s Sixth Technical Session held via Zoom.
Olukoshi said that the session, which was supported by OSIWA, focused on three key electoral issues in the current electoral timeline.
He said that they included conduct of political party primaries, emergence of candidates for the 2023 election, and Ekiti and Osun governorship election.
“The Electoral Forum proposed some recommendations such as: reconstruction and reconfiguration of voting cubicles to further guarantee the secrecy of the ballot and voting.
“Further amendment of the Electoral Act is required in some key areas including the delegate selection process to ensure the quality of delegates and address vote buying and selling, amongst others.
“Vote buying and selling as well as delegate inducements should be criminalized with strict enforcement of penalties through collaborative efforts amongst relevant agencies including Police, EFCC, ICPC, and INEC.”
He added that the forum suggested that INEC and Civil Society Organisations should develop and promote a programme of education on the new Electoral Act to enable Nigerians have full and better understanding of its provisions.
Olukoshi said it was agreed by participants that there should be a firm, consistent, and uniform enforcement of the Act and INEC’s regulations and guidelines to ensure fairness and equity.
He added that it was important for INEC to submit party membership register and delegate lists on time in situations of indirect primaries for proper verification of the names.
The chairman said the forum agreed that only primaries monitored by INEC should be accepted, while there was need to reform the process of candidates’ selection with focus on the quality of delegates.
According to him, the meeting examined political parties’ primaries, dynamics of the outcomes and post-political primaries’ environment.
He added that the meeting also analysed the implications of Ekiti and Osun election, ahead of 2023 election.
He said that this was to identify strategies and mechanisms for addressing the challenges observed during the primaries and the election.
Olukoshi said that the overall aim was to recommend strategies to improve the electoral process as Nigeria prepare for the 2023 general election.
“The forum commended INEC for the successful supervision of these elections; there is clear evidence that our elections are getting better although still challenged by vote-buying and selling.”
Olukoshi said that the forum observed that all stakeholders, including NEC, security agencies and the electorate did better during the recent election.
“Voter mobilisation has improved with a higher turnout of 54.48 per cent turnout in relation to Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) collection,” he said, but expressed concerns over vote buying and the high number of rejected votes.
Some of the participants at the meeting included Prof. Attahiru Jega, Hajia Amina Zakari, Prof. Antonia Simbine, Prof. Babatunde Babawale and Mrs Gloria Ukpong.(NAN)