Prof. Attahiru Jega, former chairman of Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), has called for amendments to the Electoral Act of 2022. While acknowledging that Nigeria’s electoral law is currently the best in the country’s history, Jega believes there is still room for improvement.
He made these remarks during a retreat for senators organized by the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS) in Ikot Ekpene, Akwa Ibom State.
Jega strongly advocates for amendments that would make the electronic transmission of results mandatory in the next general elections scheduled for 2027.
He also suggests reviewing the law to ensure timely resolution of election disputes and the issuance of judgements before the swearing-in date.
It is worth noting that concerns have been raised by various stakeholders regarding section 64 of the Electoral Act, which deals with the process of transmitting election results and its vulnerability to manipulation.
He also called for the introduction of either early voting for eligible voters on election duty, such as INEC staff, observers and their drivers, security personnel, and journalists or special arrangement to enable them vote on election day, especially for presidential elections.
The former INEC boss advocated for diaspora voting, at least for presidential elections, to enable citizens to vote, especially those on essential service abroad.
There is need to enhance inclusion of women, if necessary by up to 35% of elective positions in parliament, and in all political parties’ candidate lists, he added.
Cross-carpeting by elected officials, Jega said, should be proscribed not only for members of the National Assembly but also for elected executives, governors and chairmen of LGAs while INEC should be empowered to prepare for elections to fill the vacancy once it has evidence of the act of cross-carpeting.
He said, “There is need to place stringent conditions for candidate withdrawal and replacement to prevent abuse. Empower INEC to also screen and if necessary disqualify candidates whose credentials show that they are unqualified or in respect of whom it has evidence of forgery and other forms of criminality.
“There is need for the legislation to allow even candidates outside the political parties, as well as tax-paying citizens to file suits against candidates who provide false information to INEC regarding their candidature.
“Although Sections 132(8) & (9) have given timelines within which the Tribunals and courts of appellate jurisdiction should issue verdicts, there is need, particularly in respect of elected executive positions, to ensure that all cases are resolved and judgements made before the date of swearing-in.
“Review the process of appointments into INEC, specifically to divest/minimize the involvement of the President in appointment of Chairman and National Commissioners of INEC, in order to free the commission from the damaging negative perception of “he who pays the piper dictates the tune”.
“The Justice Uwais Committee recommended that the responsibility for advertising, screening, shortlisting and submission to Council of State for recommendation to Senate for confirmation hearings, for this category of officers, should be entrusted to the National Judicial Council (NJC).
“On second thought, and for obvious reasons, I will recommend a joint committee of the National Assembly be given this responsibility, with a criteria, for transparency, non-partisanship and stakeholder engagement for the process. The applicants/nominees for these appointments should be subjected to public scrutiny with regards to knowledge, skills, good character and non-partisanship. Guidelines should be provided for submitting petitions against any nominee during this process.”