A non-governmental organisation, the Electoral Forum has recommended that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) should prosecute politicians who violate the double nomination clauses in the Electoral Act.
In the recent party primaries for the 2023 general elections, there were many instances of political actors contesting for other elective offices after losing the selection process for other seats or crossing to other parties and becoming the candidates overnight.
This is one of the ills that the group wants the system to cure through this recommendation.
The Electoral Forum, an initiative of the Initiative for Research, Innovation and Advocacy in Development, recently held its sixth technical session. The Policy Dialogue examined the Nomination, Withdrawal, and Substitution of Candidates as part of its advocacy towards promoting electoral knowledge, accountability, and integrity.
According to a communiqué signed by its Chairman, Prof. Adebayo Olukoshi, the group urged INEC to publish reports from monitored primaries of the political parties as it observed that exercise suggested confusion in the selection of candidates or/and an ingenious attempt to circumvent the law. “INEC is primarily a regulator, but its transactional roles overshadow the regulatory aspects”, the Electoral Forum stated.
It further said: “As a regulator, INEC should undertake hearings; take evidence and make decisions by the commission public and anyone who does not agree with those decisions should go to court”.
The group also noted: “There is a need for the commission to remove discretion in its dealings with the political parties to show confidence to stakeholders. INEC, which expectedly should provide the best interpretation of the provisions of the Electoral Act must uphold its own duties, and not succumb to political intrigues.
“INEC should take the lead role in educating and sensitising stakeholders, particularly the political parties and their leaders on what the law expects of them. INEC should give decisions like an administrative tribunal does because the Electoral Act recognises it as the expert on electoral matters”.
Other recommendations of the Electoral Forum are: “Political parties should be strengthened to make it easier for INEC to perform the role of a strong regulator in the management of the electoral process.
“INEC should enforce internal standards, ethics, and discipline, particularly in regard to administrative staff that might compromise the integrity of the commission.
“INEC needs to be proactively open and transparent in its affairs regarding the disclosure of reports that emanate from its field observation activities.
“INEC should standardise its findings and if possible, transmit them digitally on the Commission’s portal to enhance the credibility of the commission and eliminate bias on the part of field observers.
“INEC should produce a proper proceeding based on the law and evidence from properly monitored field reports and publish public hearings with established facts.
“There should be a free and formal mode of making decisions by INEC.
“INEC should develop a much richer, much more controlling rulemaking process that tells everybody how the Commission resolves challenges”.
According to the Policy Dialogue of the Electoral Forum, the controversies ravaging the electoral process “are a result of the lack of proper understanding of the provisions of the Electoral Act 2022 on the part of critical stakeholders such as politicians and political parties. However, this can be addressed by adequate enlightenment and education of the stakeholders on the provisions of the Act. These issues point to the need for political parties to be strengthened and INEC to act as a strong regulator by making decisions within the confines of the existing legal frameworks”.
It urged INEC to work in conjunction with civil society organisation “to develop and promote a programme of education on the new Electoral Act so that both the voting public and other interested stakeholders have a full and much better understanding of the provisions of the Act”.
The panellists at the Policy Dialogue are Prof. Irene Pogoson of the University of Ibadan; Prof. Sam Amadi of Abuja School of Social and Political Thought; Barrister Victor Opatola, a legal practitioner and human rights activist; Mma Odi and Emma Ezeazu of Centre for Good Governance.