Federal lawmakers, lawyers, political scientists, parties and members of the civil society organisations have set agenda for the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Mahmood Yakubu, following his reappointment.
To strengthen the electoral process, they urged Yakubu who got the nod of President Muhammadu Buhari for a second term on Tuesday to embark on critical reforms that would minimise the hiccups bedevilling elections in the country, including rigging, votes buying and apathy.
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The issue of electronic voting, according to them, should top the priority of Yakubu’s agenda for the electoral body.
If confirmed by the Senate, Yakubu is expected to supervise the conduct of the 2023 general elections.
The first tenure of Yakubu who was first appointed in 2015 will lapse on November 9.
President Buhari had in a letter to the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, on October 27, requested for the confirmation of Yakubu as the INEC chairman for a second and final term.
However, the Senate had on October 20 adjourned plenary till November 24 to allow Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to defend their respective budget proposals for the 2021 fiscal year before the relevant committees of the parliament.
With the suspension of plenary, the confirmation of Yakubu may not be possible until November 24, 15 days after his first tenure would have lapsed.
Daily Trust Saturday recalled that before the nomination of Yakubu, the confirmation of four commissioners of the commission was pending at the Senate.
President Buhari had in a letter dated October 12, requested the confirmation of the four nominees.
Yakubu in Senate meets Gaya over screening
Ahead of the screening, Yakubu was on Wednesday sighted at the Senate where he met with the Chairman of the Senate Committee on INEC, Senator Kabiru Gaya (APC, Kano).
Daily Trust Saturday learnt that the meeting of the INEC chair and Senator Gaya was on his screening.
But when asked about the possibility of the Senate reconvening to consider President Buhari’s request, Gaya said: “If he is not screened before the expiration of his tenure, someone will act”.
He confirmed Prof Yakubu’s visit to his office. The lawmaker said their discussion focused on his screening.
Gaya, meanwhile, hailed the reappointment of Prof Yakubu, saying his reappointment was a confirmation that he is equal to the task
Also speaking, Senator Saidu Alkali (APC, Gombe ) said his expectation from the INEC boss was the conduct of credible polls.
When asked on what he expects Professor Yakubu to do in his second term as INEC chairman, the Senator said simply: “Free, fair and credible elections.”
On his part, a member of the House of Representatives, Mansur Manu Soro (APC, Bauchi) urged Yakubu to push for more reforms especially as regards to the Electoral Act amendment.
“He has to see to it that the bill is passed and assented to by President Buhari. The bill contains laudable reforms that will transform our electoral system and strengthen the democratic process.
“He must keep in his mind that the Electoral Act Reform Bill is the most anticipated reform being sought by Nigerians” he said.
Lawyers urge Yakubu to raise the bar
Speaking, a former Commissioner of Police and lawyer, Lawrence Alobi, said Yakubu’s recent performance in Edo and Ondo governorship elections may have played a major role in the president’s decision.
“The result for hard work is more work. You work with somebody who you know can deliver; who can perform; who is dependable, reliable, and dedicated to be the chairman of INEC.
“I wish professor more, and wish this time they will try to raise the bar because he said they will raise the bar,” he added.
Speaking on the danger posed by the suspension of plenary by the Senate, Paul Ananaba (SAN), said if the nomination is not confirmed by the Senate by November 9, the president has the discretion to extend his acting tenure pending his confirmation.
Also speaking, Abdulhamid Mohammed Esq said that the Section 8(3) provides that in the absence of the chairman of INEC for any cause, the president may appoint any member of the commission/ commissioner to act for specified period.
Replace manual with e-voting – Rafsanjani, others
The Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, said that Prof. Yakubu if confirmed by the Senate, for his second term as the INEC Chairman, should utilise his re-appointment to look critically into Electoral Reform and constructively push for an amendment to the Electoral Act to mainstream electoral voting to ensure credibility, justice, transparency and accountability in the electoral process.
According to him, while the centre welcomes Yakubu’s re-appointment by President Buhari, they also urged the Senate to upon its resumption, ensure due process as related to confirmation of appointment, is followed to sustain the credibility of the commission.
“Pending the confirmation of the reappointment, we hope that Secretary to the Commission as mandated by the Act establishing INEC, will uphold high-level integrity while ensuring efficient administration, control and functionality of the Commission’s affairs.
“Electronics voting should not be limited to Smart Card Reader (SCR). It must cover the entire process including registration, accreditation, vote counting, collation and announcement.
“In order to achieve all-inclusive reform, adequate space must be made for wider civil society and stakeholders’ consultation and participation.
“More importantly, continuous reform of the legal framework governing electoral processes must be based on experience, review and thorough assessment in consonant with the global best practice,” Rafsanjani said.
On his part, the Executive Director, Resource Centre for Human Rights and Civic Education (CHRICED), Dr. Ibrahim Zikirullahi, said that apart from the legal requirement, however, the centre is interested in how Prof. Yakubu would bring to bear the experiences from his first term to ensure better management of the electoral process ahead of 2023 elections.
“We hope he gets the motivation from his nomination to work assiduously to rescue the electoral process from the vice-like grip of anomalies like vote-buying.
“The fact of the nomination of the INEC Chair by the President is deemed a holdover pending confirmation by the Senate. In other words, the nomination of the INEC Chairman by the President is deemed to have filled the vacuum, even though not yet in a substantive capacity, until the Senate reconvenes. There is therefore neither a vacuum nor an interregnum as far as we can see,” Zikirullahi said.
The Executive Director of MAMA Centre, Chioma Kanu, said that the organisation has hitherto been calling for total independence in the appointment and reappointment of INEC Chair.
According to her, the absolute power given to the president to appoint and reappoint discredits the independence of INEC as a very vital institution.
“Our primary interest in electoral institution is having a credible and reliable Chair with unquestionable integrity.
“Given the latest development on INEC Chair re-nomination by the President, we call for total scrutiny of the pre-requisite for the re-nomination to ensure it is performance based and accountability on the previous tenure.
“We must remember that credibility of electoral institution determines the functionality of political institution. Also, efficient political institution results in successful economic one,” Kanu said.
Also, the Executive Director, Centre for Transparency Advocacy (CTA), Faith Nwadishi, said that there would not be any vacuum.
An activist, comrade Achike Chude, said the reappointment of Yakubu was good for continuity, saying the commission under him has started finding its ground after the conduct of the 2019 election.
Chude, who is the Deputy President of Joint Action Front, a civil society group, however stressed the need for elections to be technologically driven.
He said though INEC has done well with the introduction of the Z-pad for uploading of results, there is the need to go deeper with the use of technology which would make the election cheaper and more credible.
“One area we need improvement again is the fact that there must be electoral reform. We in the civil society have been talking about the need to break INEC into different parts so that INEC would be charged with the core responsibility of conducting election and there would be an Election Petition Commission where people who violate electoral law for instance this issue of vote buying, vote trading and all kinds of electoral malpractices would be conducted by this commission,” he said.
Implement Justice Uwais panel report – Prof Odion
On his part, a Political Scientist, Prof. Sylvester Odion called for the full implementation of the Justice Uwais report on Electoral Reform.
He said, “The task before any boss of INEC is to ensure the full implementation of Uwais Panel report.
“The current mode of appointment goes against the grains of that report. Independent candidacy must be introduced into the electoral process to tame godfatherism and liberalised choices.”
He also called for full embrace of ICT to enhance the integrity of the electoral process.
Odion of Lagos State University is however of the view that the INEC Chairman doesn’t deserve a second term but he said, “mastery of the process and navigating the dynamics of the electoral process, requires a degree of experience. Somehow, second term confers that opportunity.”
Similarly, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has asked Yakubu, to ensure that all future elections are credible and conclusive.
PDP, in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, said the re-appointment entrusted on Prof. Yakubu the fate, hope and future of Nigerians as well as generations yet unborn.
“At least, with this reappointment whatever happens in our future elections cannot be ascribed to inexperience and lack of adequate preparedness on the side of INEC.
“Furthermore, we consider this reappointment by President Buhari as an impetus to demonstrate a readiness for a free, fair and credible election, which Mr President had always promised to bequeath at the end of his second and final term in office in 2023,” PDP said.