Seventy-five of the 91 registered political parties in Nigeria have asked President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately sign the Electoral Act Amendment Bill into law.
They said that President Buhari’s speedy assent to the bill will save the country from the avoidable crises that characterised the 2019 general elections.
Through their chairmen, the parties passed a vote of confidence on the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu.
Although, the parties said that the 2019 general elections met the expectations of the majority of Nigerians, they blamed some of the lapses in the election on security operatives, particularly partisan military and police personnel.
The party chairmen spoke yesterday at a two-day national roundtable on the evaluation of the 2019 general polls held at the International Conference Centre (ICC), Abuja.
The event with the theme: “The role and performances of stakeholders in the 2019 general elections – issues, challenges and prospects” was attended by political party leaders, members of the civil society organisations (CSOs), and other stakeholders.
It was graced by immediate past Vice President of Sierra Leone, Alhaji Sam Sumana and chaired by Prof. Remi Aiyede.
In her address, the acting executive director, Centre for Transparent Advocacy (CTA ), co-organisers of the event, Faith Nwadishi, said that INEC as the umpire of the general elections proved independent in the way and manner it responded to the challenges thrown its way by the stakeholders and other unforeseen circumstances during the general election.
She said: “Of note is how INEC bravely prevented the ruling party from fielding candidates in Zamfara State in its determination to follow the rules no matter whose ox was gored. More crucially, on the ground, during election and voting day, the commission refused to be intimidated by threats and violence unleashed on its officials and ad-hoc staff leading to some certificates of return being withheld though this is now subject to litigations.”
Nwadishi, therefore, urged the political class to “take internal democracy seriously.”
In a communiqué issued at the end of the conference, the participants said that the decision to commend the INEC chairman was based on his commitment to ensuring that things were done in a transparent manner.
“The roundtable after a comprehensive review of the conduct of the 2019 general elections passes a vote of confidence on the national chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu for the successful conduct of the elections, and notes with satisfaction the transparency in communication and regular engagement of stakeholders at the national, state and local government levels which ensured that everybody was carried along in the process.
“The roundtable indicts the security agencies for the lapses in the election due largely to their collusion with unscrupulous politicians and negligence to do their jobs”, the communiqué stated.
On the challenges encountered during the election, the forum deplored the role played by the military and other security agents as well as the activities of thugs who they said were used by desperate politicians to attempt to truncate the exercise.
According to the communiqué, “the roundtable condemned the hypocrisy of the leadership of the security agencies that manifested in the partisan deployment of police and security personnel to polling station/voting point, and also condemned the unprofessional conducts of security agents.”
Among their recommendations on how to improve the electoral system ahead of future elections, the participants said that President Buhari should as a matter of urgency, when represented by the National Assembly, should sign the amended Electoral Act Bill into law.
“The roundtable calls on President Muhammadu Buhari to sign the Electoral Amendment Bill into law when represented to him by the National Assembly to save the country from the problems associated with the extent law,” they said.
The participants further recommended that presidential, National Assembly, governorship as well as state Houses of Assembly elections should be held the same day to address the challenge of voter apathy after the first election.
“In order to address the dwindling turnout of voters after the first election and increase the zeal to elect credible leaders, the roundtable recommends the conduct of the three principal elections, viz: presidential/National Assembly election, governorship/state assembly elections and chairmanship/councillorship elections on the same day. This will save cost, ensure the emergence of quality leadership, the integrity of the ballot, large voter turnout and guarantee improved security on election day.”
The roundtable also called for the scrapping of ad-hoc arrangements by the electoral body in the conduct of elections, just as it recommended that the dates for possible run-off, rerun or inconclusive poll should be made known while scheduling the election time table.
“INEC should strengthen the capacity of its polling staff through training and retraining particularly on the handling of the card readers, assisting voters as well as other electoral procedures to ensure transparency and credibility during future elections.
“INEC should consider, recruiting permanent staff whose schedule should be the collation of results, train them thoroughly for the assignment to save the nation from the embarrassment of ad-hoc collation officers.
“Efforts must be intensified to ensure proper coordination of Inter-Agency Committee on Election Security (ICES) and the non-partisan deployment of security personnel to all the polling units to ensure peaceful conduct of polls.
“The roundtable calls on the National Assembly to immediately re-present to President Muhammadu Buhari the amended Electoral Bill and calls on President Muhammadu Buhari to do the needful to ensure that the amended Electoral Bill is signed into law.
“The roundtable demands the establishment of electoral offences tribunal to try electoral offenders, which should be structured to take off less than a month after the election petitions tribunal hearings have been concluded”, the communiqué stated.