75 political parties pass vote of confidence on INEC Chairman, demand legalisation of card readers

Blame military, security agents for lapses during elections, seek review of role of security

Chairmen of seventy-five political parties on Monday in Abuja passed a vote of confidence on the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof Mahmood Yakubu, declaring that in spite of the challenges that rocked the elections, the Commission was able to score some good marks.

The political parties stated this in a three-page communique endorsed on their behalf by the Chairman of C4C party, Hon. Jeff Ojinika, Acting Executive Director of the Centre for Transparency Advocacy (CTA) Ms Faith Nwadishi, who are the co-organisers and the Chairman of Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC), Chief Peter Ameh.

The event, which also featured a Special address by the former Vice President of Sierra-Leone, Alhaji Sam Sumana, saw the party leaders presenting a report of their assessment of the elections.

Each of the Chairmen and Secretaries in some cases pinpointed aspects of the elections that should be improved upon, even as they declared that INEC under Prof Yakubu had demonstrated readiness to conduct an election with world-class standards.

The Communique, which was presented by Ojinika indicated that the Party leaders are appreciative of the show of independence by INEC, which they said was reflected in the rejection of candidates of the ruling party in some states as well as the harassment and kidnap of some staff of the commission in some other places.

Welcoming participants to the event, the Acting Executive Director, Centre for Transparent Advocacy (CTA), Faith Nwadishi, said that INEC as the umpire of the general elections proved quite independent in the way and manner it responded to the unexpected challenges thrown its way by the stakeholders in the process and other unforeseen circumstances during the last general election.

She said: “Of note is how it bravely prevented the ruling party from fielding candidates in Zamfara in its determination to follow the rules no matter whose ox is gored. More crucially, on the ground, during election and voting day, it refused to be intimidated by threats and violence unleashed on its officials and ad-hoc staff leading to some certificates of return being withheld by INEC though this is now subject to litigations.

The CTA director further said that political parties must take internal democracy seriously to ensure democracy take proper roots in Nigeria.

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While presenting the Communique of a two-day Roundtable on election evaluation and reports presentation, the party leaders blamed security operatives, particularly the military and the police for some of the shortcomings witnessed during the election.

They also called on President Muhammadu Buhari to speedily sign the Electoral Amendment bill into law, to save the country from the challenges associated with the current electoral law.

The National Roundtable with the theme: “The Role and Performances of Stakeholders in the 2019 General Elections, Issues, Challenges and Prospects,” was chaired by Prof Remi Aiyede of the Department of Political Science, University of Ibadan and was moderated by Prof. Anthony Olusanya of the Osun State University.

Also in attendance were leaders of Civil Society Organisations, security agencies and representatives of INEC.

The event which was also graced by immediate past Vice President of Sierra Leone, Alhaji Sam Sumana, who told the gathering that whereas democracy was no indigenous to Africa, the continent has a duty to make a success of it, having keyed into the global governance model.

He said that a lot of countries in Africa look forward to the success of democracy in Nigeria.

The Communique read: “The Roundtable after a comprehensive review of the conduct of the 2019 general elections passes a vote of confidence on the National Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Prof. Mahmood Yakubu for the successful conduct of the election, and notes with satisfaction the transparency in communication and regular engagement of stakeholders at the National, State and Local Government levels which ensured that everybody was carried along in the process.

“The Roundtable indicts the security agencies for the lapses in the election due largely to their collusion with unscrupulous politicians and negligence to do their jobs.”

On some of the challenges encountered during the election, the Roundtable deplored role of the military and some other security agents as well as activities of thugs whom they said were used by desperate politicians.

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It further stated: “The Roundtable condemned the hypocrisy of the leadership of the security agencies that manifested in the partisan deployment of police and security personnel to polling station/voting point, and also condemned the unprofessional conducts of security agents.”

The Roundtable also made far-reaching recommendations on how to improve the electoral system ahead of subsequent elections. The parties recommended that President Buhari should as a matter of urgency, when represented by the National Assembly, sign it into law.

“The Roundtable calls on President Muhammadu Buhari to sign the Electoral Amendment Bill into law when represented to him by the National Assembly to save the country from the problems associated with the extent law,” the communique said.

The participants recommended that presidential, National Assembly, governorship as well as state house of assembly elections be held the same day, to address the challenge of voter apathy after the first election.

It stated: “In order to address dwindling turnout of voters after the first election and increase the zeal to elect credible leaders The Roundtable recommends the conduct of the three principal elections, viz; Presidential/National Assembly election, Governorship/State Assembly elections and Chairmanship/Councillorship elections on the same day. This will save cost, ensure the emergence of quality leadership, the integrity of the ballot, large voter turnout and guarantee improved security on Election Day.”

The Roundtable also called for the scrapping of ad-hoc arrangement by the electoral body in the conduct of elections, just as it recommended that dates for possible run-off, rerun or inconclusive poll should be made known while scheduling election time tables.

The Communique read: “INEC should strengthen the capacity of its polling staff through training and retraining particularly on the handling of the card readers, assisting voters as well as other electoral procedures to ensure transparency and credibility during future elections.

“INEC should consider, recruiting permanent staff whose schedule should be collation of results, train them thoroughly for the assignment to save the nation the embarrassment of ad-hoc collation officers.

“Efforts must be intensified to ensure proper coordination of Inter-Agency Committee on Election Security (ICES) and the non-partisan deployment of security personnel to all the polling units to ensure peaceful conduct of polls.

“The Roundtable calls on the National Assembly to immediately re-present to President Muhammadu Buhari the amended electoral and calls on President Muhammadu Buhari to do the needful to ensure that the amended Electoral Bill is signed into law.

“The Roundtable demands the establishment of electoral offenses tribunal to try electoral offenders, which should be structured to take off less than a month after election petition tribunal hearings have concluded.”

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