BY ANDREW ESSIEN, CHIBUZO UKAIBE AND SUNDAY ISUWA, Abuja
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has hinted of plans to deregister political parties it classified as “commercial and dormant”.
To achieve the goal, the commission has initiated the alteration of the legal framework of the electoral process and the amendment of the Electoral Act.
The move was disclosed in Makurdi, Benue State by INEC’s national commissioner and chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Dr. Festus Okoye, in a keynote address delivered at the ongoing state level review of the 2019 general election.
He said that the alteration of the electoral legal framework would strengthen party primaries and promote internal democracy.
According to him, many of the country’s political parties merely exist in name and do not add value to the electoral process and, therefore, need to be deregistered.
At present, Nigerian has 91 political parties even as many associations queue up for registration, About 73 of them participated in the 2019 general elections with less than 10 of them winning seats in the contest.
Most of them endorsed the presidential and governorship candidates of the four major political parties. This was allegedly done at cost to the “adopted candidates.” Some of the parties reportedly hawked their tickets to the highest bidders.
LEADERSHIP learnt that it is against this backdrop that INEC declared them as “dormant and commercial.”
INEC said that the parties have no presence in most state of the federation, adding that the high number caused logistics problems for the commission in the 2019 general elections while the several logos in the ballot papers made voting difficult for non-very literate citizens.
Okoye told the audience at the weekend that “the electoral legal framework for the management and conduct of elections in Nigeria must be aligned and realigned to accord with the lessons and realities of the 2019 general elections. The lessons intersperse every aspect of the electoral process. Part of the lessons revolves around the management and conduct of political parties and political party primaries.
“The chairman of INEC has flagged off a conversation relating to the number and quality of political parties in Nigeria. At present, there are 91 registered political parties in Nigeria and 73 of the said political parties fielded candidates for the 2019 presidential elections.
“As at the time the commission suspended registration of new political parties before the 2019 general elections, 11 associations have paid the N1 million administrative fee for registration. Of the 11, one (Boot Party) was formally advised that its application failed but later the commission was informed by the legal department that the said party has been registered through the instrumentality of the court.
“Another three of the 11 were making corrections to their applications. Another three were awaiting verification visit from the commission. Four of the 11 were yet to return their application Form PA. Additionally, since the conclusion of the 2019 elections, three new associations have applied to be registered as political parties, thus joining the 79 associations that failed initial assessment of the suitability of their proposed names and or logos,” Okoye said.
He charged Nigerians to engage in root and branch review of the number of registered parties in the country, noting that the present framework for the registration of political parties is inadequate to guarantee the registration of qualitative, membership-driven and ideologically-propelled political parties.
Okoye declared that “some of the political parties are mere platforms and have no concrete and visible presence in most states of the federation. The presence of too many political parties on our ballot papers has in some instances confused some of our compatriots that are not well endowed in literacy. It has bloated the ballot papers and result sheets and trucking them to the polling units has become a logistics nightmare.”
The commission said that it would present alternatives to the Nigerian people including alteration of the constitutional regime that ties registration of political parties to visible, verifiable and concrete presence and structures in at least half of the states of the federation.
He said: “The commission will also propose a rational and democratic threshold for getting on the ballot and save the Nigerian people the phenomena of ‘also ran”.
On the deregistration of ‘dormant and commercial’ political parties, Okoye said: “The commission will also propose further alteration of the conditions for the deregistration of political parties as the 4th Alteration to the Constitution is inadequate to weed out dormant and commercial platforms with little or no visible structures and presence in any of the states of the federation.
“The Nigerian people need political parties that can bid for political power and not mere commercial platforms for hire,” he said.
On the management and conduct of party primaries, INEC said that the “conduct of opaque and flawed party primaries is at the root of the plethora of pre-election matters pending in the various courts.
“The commission has issued certificates of return in some cases based on court orders, withdrawn certificates of return based on court Orders, restored withdrawn certificates of return based on court orders and withdrew the said certificates again based on court orders.
“The commission believes that this is not healthy for the electoral process. The commission will propose constitutional alteration that aligns the resolution of pre-election issues and the activation of the issuance of certificates of return to the 21-day rule in the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended). In other words, lodging an appeal within 21 days of obtaining an unfavorable judgment at the court of first instance automatically stays the execution of the judgement and the issuance of a certificate of return pending the determination by the Court of Appeal and possibly the Supreme Court. The 60-day timeline for the determination of appeals arising from pre-election matters is reasonable and rational and will prevent the present challenge of issuing and withdrawing and re-issuing certificates of return to candidates,” he added.
INEC said that it would also propose constitutional and legal alteration to the legal framework that makes for the disposal or determination of all pre-election matters before the conduct of elections, stressing that the 180 days allowed the courts of first instance to determine pre-election matters dovetails into the conduct of elections.
The commission believes that a 60-day time frame for the court of first instance is adequate to accommodate some of the issues arising from party primaries and the management of political parties.
The electoral body added that it would engage the leadership of the judiciary relating to the territorial jurisdiction of the Federal High Court on the handling of pre-election matters.
A situation where primaries are conducted in one state and all the suits relating to same are trucked to another state for determination, according to INEC is not healthy for the electoral process.
Consequently, INEC said that it would engage more on the multiplicity of court orders on the same issues and by the same parties and from courts of coordinate jurisdiction.
Okoye also said that the commission would design, and test-run a new framework for the monitoring of the primaries of political parties.
“The commission will henceforth tie the acceptance of the list of candidates of political parties emanating from party primaries to the authentication of the results of the outcome of the said primaries. In other words, the commission will not accept the list of nominated candidates that are at variance with the clear intendment of section 87 of the Electoral Act.
“The commission, therefore, supports the proposition that any political party intending to conduct party primaries shall publish it in two national newspapers the date, the venue and the time for the conduct of the said primaries. “Gorilla approach” to the conduct of party primaries has no bearing and no foundation in Section 87 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended),” Okoye said.
On the logistics challenge and the need for a new approach, INEC said that strict adherence to timelines was fundamental to the conduct of good elections.
“Late procurement, late delivery and late deployment of election logistics leads to bad elections and creates security challenges for the electoral management body and the Nigerian people. The commission is a place for patriotism and selfless service. It is a place for national service. The moment the managers of election respond to the stimuli of mercantilist disposition, the electoral process is brought to grief.
“Electoral officers, collation officers, supervisory presiding officers and other managers of election must strive to have elementary knowledge of the electoral legal framework for the conduct of elections. Electoral officers with little or no knowledge of the electoral legal framework for the conduct of elections are a danger to the electoral process.
“Movement of materials to the various centres must be scientifically and logically done. Being time sensitive and security sensitive, any misstep in the movement of personnel and materials has far reaching implications for the electoral process.”
“We must evolve a new regime of hiring vehicles for the movement and reversal of personnel and materials. We cannot afford to make the same mistakes repeatedly. This review affords us the opportunity to celebrate our successes. It affords us the opportunity to learn from our challenges. It affords us the opportunity to understand our mistakes and failings and take remedial action in reversing them. To do this, we must be creative, innovative and communicate effectively,” he said.
EU Report Confirms Presidential Election Was Rigged – PDP
Meanwhile, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has said that the just-released report of the European Union (EU) has further vindicated its position that the February 23 presidential election was rigged to favour President Muhammadu Buhari and the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The party said that the revelations of manipulations as detailed in the report further validates queries by majority of Nigerians that President Buhari was not validly returned for a second term in office.
In a statement issued yesterday in Abuja by the PDP national publicity secretary, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, said that “the world can now see that the PDP has not been crying wolf in insisting that the election was outrightly rigged with the cancellation of millions of PDP votes, alteration of results and allocation of fictitious votes to the APC.
“Nigerians are still in shock over the revelations by EU of how about 2.8 million votes were deliberately ‘cancelled without sufficient accountability’ and how several returning officers gave no reason for the cancellations.
“More shocking is the iniquity committed at the national collation centre, headed by the INEC chairman, where the EU report exposed inconsistent numbers, distortions and ‘a large discrepancy of 1.66 million more registered voters’, as announced by INEC on 14th January, compared to those announced by state returning officers during the collation of the presidential results.
“Nigerians witnessed on national television how professors and returning officers were unable to reconcile result figures due to heavy manipulations upon which INEC declared the APC winner,” he said.
The party added that the EU report had further exposed the iniquity committed by the Prof. Mahmood Yakubu-led INEC by listing how ballot boxes were compromised, how essential materials were missing, how “voter register was not always ticked as required” and how “manual authentication procedures were not correctly followed.”
PDP said the export also bared how figures on result forms did not reconcile, how result forms were not publicly posted, how “result forms and smart card readers were not packed in tamper-evident envelops as required”, in addition to how the APC administration used security forces to intimidate voters, aid violence against our members and muscled votes for the APC.
The PDP, therefore, commended the EU for the courage in exposing the evils committed by the APC and INEC in the 2019 general elections.
The opposition party insisted that those in INEC, who perpetrated such crime to frustrate the choice of Nigerians in a presidential election, must be brought to book.
INEC Tackles PDP Over Comment On EU Report
In a swift reaction, INEC said yesterday that it won’t discuss issues that are before a competent court of law with the PDP.
The commission said that dwelling on a very contentious issue that is before a court of law might be contemptuous.
INEC chairman’s chief press secretary, Mr. Rotimi Oyekanmi, who reacted to the issue raised by Journalists on INEC platform, said: “It is not just acceptable that we continue to discuss what is clearly subjudice. The PDP has made a case and it is being argued in court. Let’s exercise some discretion and allow the court to take a decision.”
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