Home News Mixed reactions trail INEC’s preparations, conduct of 2015 general elections – ...

Mixed reactions trail INEC’s preparations, conduct of 2015 general elections – Survey


ABUJA – Nigerians, especially political stakeholders, have expressed mixed reactions to INEC’s preparations, capacity and challenges in organising a free, fair and credible general elections in 2015.

A News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) nationwide survey on various issues hinged on INEC’s build-up to the conduct of successful polls, recorded series of mixed feelings on the delay in the passage of the 2010 (further amendment) Electoral Act in particular.

The stakeholders, including political party leaders, lawmakers, legal practitioners, election monitors and civil society organisations, expressed divergent views on the absence of special tribunal to try electoral offenders and enforcement of guidelines.

While many of the stakeholders said the delay by the National Assembly to pass the act would cause setback to INEC efforts, others belived that the electoral body could rely on the existing law in 2015 because the new act might not eventually take effect immediately.

INEC’s proposal and approval by NASS to request for deployment of military personnel for elections received the disapproval of the political class, legal practitioners and some civil society organisations.

A cross section of the stakeholders took critical look at the distribution of the Permanent Voter Cards and the Continuous Voter Registration, concluding that incidents of mix-up and missing cards did not help matters.

Respondents criticised non implementation of reports by election observers, saying they did not contribute positive impact to the conduct of subsequent elections in the country.

A lecturer in the Department of Political Science in Umaru Musa Yar’adua University, Katsina, Malam Musa Usman, said the reports of such observers had remained unimplemented.

Usman Said that the reports of the Joint Association of Civil Society Groups that wrote against the 2011 election was never used.

He said that INEC was facing serious challenges in prosecuting the offenders because they were being sponsored by top politicians.

A lawyer, Mr. John Danasabe, said that the nation was passing through difficult time as INEC would not have the capacity to punish offenders.

Mr Richard Tiebiri, a Political Analyst and Assistant Legal Adviser, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Bayelsa, said: “I must tell you, about 30 per cent of eligible Nigerians are yet to receive their voter cards; I urge INEC to find lasting solution to such ugly trend.’’

In Edo, stakeholders expressed the opinion that election tribunals would help reduce rigging and fast-track quick dispensation of justice on electoral malpractices.

Rep. Akpodiogaga Emeyese expressed the belief that setting up of such tribunal was long overdue.

The Political Adviser to Gov. Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta, Chief Fred Majemite, expressed similar views, saying that INEC could only petition but did not have the power of arrest and prosecution in the current dispensation.

He said INEC’s reliance on police and other law enforcement agencies to arrest and prosecute electoral offenders had not made their job easy on the commission’s effort to curb electoral malpractices.

“Hearing of such cases in the conventional courts delays the dispensation of justice.”

For Danladi Ibrahim, a public commentator in Yola, INEC is weak in implementing the election guidelines.

“You see posters, bill boards and you hear and see media campaigns telling you to vote for this man or that woman going on in our media ahead of the campaign period,” he said.

On the delay in the passage of Electoral Act, many respondents in Adamawa said it was not too late for now.

” It can be passed a month to the election; as you know there wasn’t any much amendment in the act,” Ibrahim said.

The All Progressives Congress (APC) Ondo State chapter Publicity Secretary, Mr Abayomi Adesanya, also expressed concern on the need for INEC to enforce guidelines towards the 2015 elections.

“We hope they will start to enforce their own guidelines because a political party has been flouting these guidelines and there has been no penalty for doing so.

A Calabar-based legal practitioner, Mr Utum Eteng, expressed fears that INEC might be in a dilemma over the conduct of the polls because of the proposed amendments to the Electoral Act.

NAN findings showed that NASS recently harmonised the amendments to the act but was yet to transmit the document to the executive for assent.

Eteng, however, said that INEC could still use the old law to conduct the 2015 election.

In Benue, stakeholders rejected the deployment of soldiers to monitor the elections.

The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Makurdi branch, said it was partnering with INEC to prosecute electoral offenders during the conduct of 2015 elections in the state.

Its Vice chairman, Mr. Titus Hyundu, said the association had agreed to support the conduct of credible elections by identifying electoral defaulters and getting them arrested.

“If there is any challenge at all, it should be administrative; maybe there is not enough finance to pay the lawyers but legally speaking, there is no challenge with INEC prosecuting offenders,” Hyundu said.

However, an INEC Director, Mrs. Rose Mangkam, shared a contrary view, blaming the government for not implementing the Justice Mohammed Uwais report on Electoral Reform which suggested the creation of a commission for INEC to handle electoral offences.

According to Mangkam, the wholesale implementation of the report will enable INEC to have it’s own lawyers who will undertake investigation of offenders and prosecute them.

A lawmaker, Mr Dave Iorhemba, said INECs proposal for the deployment of soldiers to monitor the elections, already approved, would undermine the gains of the country’s democracy.

The former speaker of the Benue House of Assembly, said the constitution was unambiguous over whose duties it was to maintain internal security and wondered the reasons for such proposals.

“Let not our electoral process be seen as a war path; I am totally against the militarisation of the process.”

In Gombe State, a stalwart of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mallam Sullaiman Hassan, accused lawmakers at the NASS of stalling the passage of the bill on Electoral Act for selfish interest.

“They will make sure the bill is not passed so that they will continue with the practices that brought them in to power,” he said.

In Ebonyi, stakeholders said that issues of effective enforcement of guidelines and time table by INEC and delay in passing the electoral act would pose serious challenges to the conduct of the elections.

Chief Samuel Okobe, Secretary of a faction of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Abakaliki, doubted the ability of INEC to effectively enforce the guidelines and time table.

“The incessant crises rocking several political parties as a result of factionalisation of leadership might affect the timely nomination of candidates to fly their flags at the polls.’’

Mrs Chinwe Iroha, a Civil Liberties Organistion (CLO) member, decried the proposed deployment of the military by INEC, for the elections.

“This is a brazen violation of the peoples’ rights and an indictment on the police capability to discharge their duties.’’

On the proposal for independent candidates, he said: “An independent candidate would not be under any form of pressure from anyone, as it was only when this provision is made, that the country would produce good leaders.”

But stakeholders in Lagos State, particularly party leaders, lawmakers and civil societies identified lack of regulation of sale of nomination forms, 90-day campaign period and poor enforcement as some shortcomings of INEC guidelines.

The National Secretary of the National Conscience Party (NCP), Mr Ayodele Akele, said that INEC must regulate the sale of nomination forms by parties.

He said that the cost of the forms made it difficult for an average Nigerian with leadership qualities to contest for election.

Akele said that the 90-day period which INEC provided for electioneering campaigns was not enough.

He said that there was the need for the electorate to have enough time to listen to manifestos and know candidates better to be able to choose wisely.

Dr Joe Okei-Odumakin, a human rights activist and President of Women Arise – an NGO – said that adequate funding of INEC would be critical to the success of the 2015 polls.

“I am hoping that the recommendations of the National Conference which, I am a member of, would have been adopted before the 2015 general elections,” she added.

Contributing, some Lagos State lawmakers condemned non-adherence to electoral guidelines and timetable by some politicians and political parties.

Mr Sanni Agunbiade, representing Ikorodu Constituency 1, also noted that some politicians were not operating in line with INEC guidelines.

A former Deputy National Chairman of the Alliance for Democracy, Alhaji Musa Umar, said some politicians had been campaigning for elections through some NGOs while others were spending above the approved amounts.

“For INEC to be very effective, it must be totally independent in its finances and operations which include enforcement,’’ he said.

The Resident Electoral Commissioner, Dr. Adekunle Ogunmola, however, expressed optimism that the Electoral Act would be passed before the end of December.

He stressed the need for a special tribunal to try electoral offenders to promote justice, noting that the regular courts were already congested.

Ogunmola said that INEC learnt from reports of observers and they were put into consideration in making elections better.

In Kwara, the All Progressives Congress (APC) condemned the proposed deployment of military during elections, saying that it would amount to an infringement of rights of voters.

Chief Wole Oke, an APC chieftain, said deploying military to polling units would be counterproductive as it was sure to scare people away from exercising their civic responsibility.

But Ekiti State Resident Electoral Commissioner, Alhaji Halilu Pai, said INEC had no plan to tamper with the guidelines and time table already set for 2015 elections.

Pai also said deployment of security agents before, during and after elections was normal as it was aimed at saving lives and property.

He urged NASS to expedite action on the passage of the on-going amendments of the electoral act.

He warned that those without the permanent cards would not be allowed to vote.

The issue of military deployment, however, in Nasarawa State, was welcomed as the APC and the state chapter of PDP expressed support for the idea.

According to Usman Mohammed, state Legal Adviser of the APC, the security of lives was paramount in view of the insecurity in the country.

“We all know that in recent time, insurgents target places where people congregate and in order not to give them opportunity, the military had to be on hand to protect the lives of both the electorate and electoral officials,” Mohammed said.

He, however, said the military should only be deployed to troubled spots and volatile areas.

Similarly, Mr. Yunana Iliya, state Chairman of PDP, lauded the proposal.

Iliya said with the level of fear in the country, the people needed to be assured of their security, to perform their civic responsibility.

In Kano, the state Resident Electoral Commissioner, Alhaji Abdullahi Danyaya, said prosecution of election offenders was not part of INEC’s responsibilities but the security agencies.

He called for the setting up of a panel to prosecute offenders to serve as a deterrent to others.

Also, a onetime Military Governor of Katsina State, and a Senator in the Third Republic, Retired. Col. Isa Kachako, said it was a disgrace to Nigeria to deploy military during elections.
In Jigawa, INEC Head of Voters Education and Publicity, Alhaji Surajo Kore, called on civil society organisations to assist in voters’ enlightenment and mobilisation, to ensure a successful election in 2015.

Kore said that INEC was fully prepared for the next year’s elections because people were fully mobilised and voters’ cards were also distributed.

In his contribution, a legal practitioner in Dutse, Mr Muktar Usman, said that the only way to ensure a credible election was people should be allowed to vote and stay around the polling centres for their votes to be counted in their presence.

He rejected the idea of deploying military personnel to supervise election, stressing that they would not help in anything.

A legal practitioner in Bauchi State, Malam Isma’ila Idris, said unless the bill for further amendment of the electoral act was passed, the situation would not augur well for the people who were expecting changes.

He added that time was running out, therefore, the lawmakers should understand the importance of the act and pass the bill for it to be a reference guide to the general elections.

Reports from Enugu State indicated that political parties decried the non-existence of special tribunal to try electoral offenders.

The state Chairman of Kowa party, Mr Chinedu Anuche, said that establishment of such tribunals would discourage electoral malpractice and violence in Nigeria.

The chairman, however, commended election observers for their roles in promoting democracy and governance in the country

He said that their recommendations had contributed to some of the electoral reforms in the country.

The chairman called for more collaboration among INEC, political parties and security agencies

Also, the Secretary of the PDP, Mr Steve Oruruo, said the delay in the passage of the act would not disrupt the 2015 elections.

“With the quality of administration that I have seen under Prof Attahiru Jega, we are hitting standardisation.“

Religious organisations, including the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in Borno, also expressed the view that politicians should avoid rancour by playing politics according to the rules.

Borno CAN chairman, Rev. Titus Pona, told NAN: “Politicians should play a fair game of politics without bitterness with one another.’’

On the state of preparedness by the police, the Borno Police boss, Mr Clement Adoda, said that the command was ready to provide a level playing ground to all political stakeholders.

Adoda warned politicians against thuggery political recklessness usually associated with electioneering in some parts of the country.

The recurring issue of the passage of the electoral law played out in Osun when a lawmaker, Abiodun Awolola, said the delay would not have any effect on the 2015 general elections,

Awolola, a member of Osun House of Assembly, said that although the elections were fast approaching, the law could not be implemented immediately if finally passed before the conduct of the elections.

“Even if the bill is passed, it will not have any effect on the election because its implementation will not start immediately.’’

Sharing a similar view, Mr Kamil Oyedele, another law maker, said 2010 Electoral Act was still valid.

Meanwhile, Mr Adegboyega Adebayo, the state Coordinator of Civil Progress Group (CPG), expressed the fear that democracy might not be sustainable with the heavy deployment of security personnel during elections.

In Oyo State, Alhaji Nasir Ayilara, the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), said in Ibadan that the polls would be better than the 2011 edition adjudged to be free and fair by international observers and monitors.

“We have very high hope that the 2015 general elections will be better than that of the 2011. You know 2011 was a departure from previous ones,” he said.

The REC said INEC had been tackling the challenges facing the Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) distribution and Continuous Voters Registration (CVR) in line with international standards.

“The major threat to the conduct of 2015 elections is insecurity as hoodlums and thugs may want to perpetrate violence,” he said.

Commenting on INEC activities towards the elections, a Kaduna-based frontline politician, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, said the electoral body was not ready.

Musa said in Kaduna that the absence of an amended law would negate the 2015 election.

According to him, the election time table released by the commission will have very little binding effect since there is no law guiding the electoral process.

“INEC is not prepared for the 2015 election; we are going to have a mess; we are going to have imperfect election, bad election and it will be called elections, and winners will be allowed, which means there will be no legitimacy,” he said.

He said NASS granting of INEC request to use military for elections was unconstitutional.

Musa cautioned that ceding such powers to INEC would compromise the neutrality expected of the commission and portray it as “part and parcel of the ringing system”.

He said the commission did not require a special tribunal to prosecute offenders if it was serious in doing so based on existing laws.

The former governor also spoke on the operations of civil society organisations in the country, saying they had failed woefully in the discharge of their responsibilities.

The need for INEC to have “constitutional autonomy’’ was stressed by political stakeholders in Delta.

The state Chairman of the Labour Party, Chief Tony Ezeagu, said for INEC to deliver on its obligation to the nation, it must have a capacity to operate independent of the government.

“The electoral body cannot be said to be independent as long as it depends on the government of the day for funding. The constitution should make provision for INEC to have its own budgetary allocation.

“Also, the appointment of the chairman of the commission should be rested in the hands of the chairmen of the various political parties, not the government.’’

Politicians in Anambra, however, said the time table and guidelines for the elections, if strictly followed, would build better political orientation and advance the political culture of the country.

The electorate in Rivers also kicked against deployment of troops in 2015 general elections as undemocratic.

Mr Ben Orlu told NAN in Port Harcourt that deployment of troops was capable of triggering voters’ apathy.

Orlu, who is a community leader, said that presence of soldiers would undermine the tenets of democracy as well as truncate electoral values.

‘’If INEC is sincere, it should engage the services of police and other para-military, who I believe could maintain peace and order during the election.

Also commenting, the Zamfara Commissioner for Information, Alhaji Ibrahim Birnin-Magaji, said non prosecution of electoral offenders had created more avenues for election crimes and offences.

Birnin-Magaji noted that if INEC and other election tribunals could carry out their duties effectively to arrest and prosecute offenders, the rate of violation of guidelines would reduce.

The commissioner therefore called on INEC, election tribunals, and other enforcement agencies to ensure prosecution and punishment of electoral law offenders.

In Abia, Prof. Etannibi Alemika, a lecturer in the Department of Sociology, University of Jos, urged the Federal Government to ensure timely release of funds to the relevant agencies concerned with the 2015 elections to enable them to discharge their responsibilities.

Alemika said the delay in the release of funds to police in past elections always resulted in the non-payment of allowances to policemen on election duty.

He said the amendment of the electoral act ought to have been completed early by the NASS to enable Nigerians to study it before the commencement of the elections.

Alemika lauded INEC’s proposal for the use of the military during the polls, saying that ‘’the military can be used in the distribution of logistics and election materials.’’

Reacting to the issues at stake ahead of the election, the INEC’s Director of Education and Publicity, Mr Oluwole Osaze-Uzi, said there was need to establish special commission to handle electoral offences.

Osaze-Uzi said in Abuja that INEC’s roles did not include punishing the offenders but to present them in court for prosecution.

“It will be good to have special tribunal within the exciting judicial framework, or we can have special tribunal to do the same,’’ Osaze-uzi said.

He said that the commission would continue to do all within its mandate pending when the appropriate decisions would be taken on the matter.(NAN)

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