A former chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Attahiru Jega, has called on the National Assembly to unbundle the electoral commission in order to make it more effective.
According to Jega, if Nigeria’s electoral process must be improved, the issue of cross-carpeting or defection by politicians must be proscribed.
Speaking at a Citizens Town Hall on Electoral Reform organised by Yiaga Africa and European Union (EU) in collaboration with the National Assembly Joint Committees on Electoral Matters in Abuja on Tuesday, Jega said even though there has been some level of transformations in INEC, he noted that the commission needed to be unbundled for efficiency.
“From 2011 to 2022, a lot of efforts have been made to reform the electoral process. A few months after a new government has been sworn in, electoral reforms have started.
“The 2022 electoral reforms are the best in recent times but there is room for improvement.
“We must look at the voting rights and inclusion, political parties, primaries and litigation, security and public enlightenment which are necessary to electoral integrity.
“If we want to improve politics and deepen democracy, we must prevent cross carpeting by politicians from one party to another.
“The reason why our lawmakers don’t want to do that is because they win elections in another party and join the ruling party later,” Jega said.
According to the former INEC chairman, even elected governors were cross-carpeting, a development, he said, was affecting the polity.
“The law is very clear. If you move, unless there is a crisis, a by-election should be conducted,” Jega said, adding that if a politician defects from one political party to another as a matter of principle, he should vacate his or her seat.
“If you cross the carpet, you should be able to vacate the seat. I strongly support the recommendation that the appointment of INEC chairman and the Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) should be reviewed.
“Because when the president nominates, there is no serious screening. The legal provisions of appointing someone that is non-partisan should be considered.
“INEC should be unbundled. We also need to review how people stand to contest a presidential election. Some people form political parties just to run for the office of the president.
“A political party should not field a presidential candidate unless they meet a certain threshold,” Jega said after which he submitted his recommendations to the National Assembly Committee.
Also speaking, Senate President Godswill Akpabio said the National Assembly will work hard to ensure that it make INEC truly independent.
Represented by his Chief of Staff, Barr. Sylvester Okonkwo, Akpabio said lawmakers were committed not only to go along with the people, but to protect the independence of INEC and restore the trust of the people in the electoral process.
“All stakeholders must be doggedly involved in this. History will record every move we take to move this country forward.
“We will collaborate with Yiaga Africa and other stakeholders to ensure that we do the right thing. The national assembly and this administration is ready to work with anyone and everyone that is ready to work for the progress of this nation. The time has come for all of us to be positive about our country. Let us also find time to talk about the great achievement that has been made for the greatness of our country,” Akpabio added.