…As CSOs task NASS on review of legal framework
BY GLORIA USMAN, ABUJA – The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), has declared that that the Smart Card Reader used for elections has lost its efficacy and vibrancy in relation to the electoral process in the country.
This is as the Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room, a coalition of over 70 organisations equally declared that it is imperative and important to take a critical look at reports from the field during the conduct of the Kogi Governorship and senatorial elections, saying they threw up lots of lessons that raised the question on what needed to be done.
INEC National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Mr. Festus Okoye, who stated the position of the Commission in Abuja on Wednesday, said the whole issue about electoral reforms is that reforms alone will never and can never solve the problem of electoral violence and challenges unless we have less attraction of the democratic spirit.
However, the Situation Room therefore called on the National Assembly to as a matter of national urgency and interest, work on the review of the electoral legal framework to curb irregularities.
“We must find a solution to the issues of smart card reader, the smart card reader has lost its efficacy, the smart card reader has lost its vibrancy in relation to the electoral process, because the political elite have find a way around it.
The Coalition said that rather than just reviewing and passing again another electoral act amendment, the entire electoral act should be reviewed with the aim of achieving what is called a comprehensive electoral act repel and re-enactment.
Convener of the civil society groups, Mr Clement Nwankwo, who stated these at a conversation on the group’s experience while observing the Bayelsa, Kogi governorship and senatorial election as well as the Bayelsa election, said this was with the aim of reviewing what happened and being able to take lessons from that.
Nwankwo said; “Since 2006, the country has been tinkering with its electoral laws, yet we still find that each time, there is an election, there seems to be some urgency about reviewing the legal framework and Kogi election has again thrown up that urgency.
“This is in order to have a one stop document for all electoral laws not scattered in one, two, three, four and five documents as we have.
“You will be shocked that some of the judges presiding over election petitions tribunals had to come to us to ask for the copy of the electoral act because we had produced copies of the compendium of electoral laws,’’ he said.
Nwankwo also said that the groups would be pushing for a comprehensive review of the electoral act for use, adding that there was enough time for stakeholders, executive and legislators to push through fresh electoral act reform bill.
According to him; “This is much more urgent than the hate speech bill so we will be disappointed if the hate speech bill has its first hearing before the electoral bill.
This would go a long way to curb electoral violence among other irregularities and deliver credible electoral process.”
In his own remarks, the INEC National Commissioner that supervised the Kogi election, Malam Mohammed Haruna, said that too much attention was focused on the commission rather than other players like political parties and candidates.
Haruna said that INEC knew ahead that Kogi election would be problematic adding that the violence witnessed was predicated especially after the impeachment of the deputy governor.
According to him; “There was need for an attitudinal change to the electoral law otherwise any form of electoral reform would still not hold sway in terms of deterring people from malpractice.
The Political Counsellor, British High Commission, Mr Dominic William, commended the civil society groups for their work in letting the citizens know what happened on the Election Day, stressing that the level of electoral malpractices in the election was a call to really start holding politicians and government agencies to account.
William also said that one challenge the Kogi and Bayelsa election showed was lack of matured political culture in the country, adding that the challenges in Kogi were traced to political parties and that was why the role of CSOs was important to hold political actors accountable with a view to having a change in the political culture.
In his comment, Chairman of INEC Information and Voter Education Committee, Mr. Festus Okoye noted that there is no provision in the law that gives the commission power to cancel the law or gives INEC the power to postpone an election and go back if the condition has improved.
He said; “There are challenges and there are problems with our electoral process and our plea is we must understand some of this challenges and then proffer solutions to them.
“So, rather than use a smart card reader, they just ignores it because ultimately they know that when they get to the court, court will say that you want to prove over voting. We want to see voters register, we want to see INEC form. As far as am concerned the smart card reader has become redundant”.