Senate president, Bukola Saraki
Senate president, Bukola Saraki

  •  All rerun polls to be concluded by July 31 – INEC

Ahead of 2019 general elections, Senate President Bukola Saraki yesterday disclosed that a new Electoral Act to guide the conduct of elections would be enacted by the National Assembly before the end of the year.

Saraki spoke while declaring open an interactive session tagged ‘Election Summit,’ among stakeholders in the electoral process on strategy for the review of the Electoral Act 2010, organised by the Senate Committee on Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
He said putting in place a new Electoral Act this year would go a long way in helping to correct shortcomings of provisions Electoral Act as amended in 2015, before full blown politics ahead of 2019 set in which, according to him, prevented the seventh Assembly from carrying out the needed electoral reform.
“We must conclude the amendment of the 2015 Electoral Act by the end of the year. My view is that politics starts early now, let us carry out the amendment in areas we all agreed on, as quickly as possible before 2019 politicking sets in,” he said.
He decried the trend of inconclusive elections by INEC in recent times, saying it had led to growing anxiety in the land, particularly amongst electorate and affected party candidates.
He canvassed for inclusion of Nigerians in diaspora in future electoral process, clear cut roles of security agencies, viability or otherwise of setting up of electoral offences tribunal, etc.
“For so long now, our citizens in the diaspora have demanded inclusion in the democratic process; a right afforded in many other countries to citizens irrespective of location; and this current government agrees with them.
“This is similar to the now germane issue of the voting opportunity of IDPs and people living in severely challenged hard-to-reach areas either due to security or other unforeseen challenges.
“It will be important to take another look at the role of our security personnel from the police to the Department of State Security and the military. This is especially so in the light of certain revelations to the effect that the previous government had signed into law an amendment to the Electoral Act empowering the military to be used during elections for a variety of reasons.
“It should be borne in mind that the Electoral (amendment) Act, 2015, had in fact made far reaching amendments on the role of the police before and during elections, especially the issue of holding of rallies and meetings by political parties (S.94) and the role and operational deployment of the armed forces during elections (S.29). These provisions were designed as an attempt to ensure the democratic character of free and fair elections.
“A corollary to this is the issue of the viability or otherwise of setting up electoral offences tribunal charged with dealing with electoral offences. This is especially important as there is an overwhelming national consensus to end election related violence and enthrone a new election culture built on integrity, safety and neutrality.”
The deputy Senate president, Ike Ekweremadu in his own submission at the summit strongly advocated for early, direct and staggered primaries by all political parties.
According to him, late conduct of primaries by political parties owing mainly to constitutional restrictions poses serious challenges to the electoral system while the parties’ penchant for indirect primaries has undermined internal democracy in the political parties.
Stressing the need for Nigeria to learn from international best practices, he said: “In the United States of America, USA, presidential primaries for presidential candidates start about twelve months to the election, culminating in the convention, which is usually a celebration of an already known candidate of the party.
“In Ghana, although neither the Constitution nor the Electoral Act gives any specific period for the conduct of presidential and parliamentary primaries, individual parties has provisions in their respective constitutions for early primaries.
“For example, Article 11 (2)(b) of the NPP Constitution provides that “parliamentary candidates shall be elected at least twelve (12) months before the National General Election” while Article 12 provides that the party’s primary election for the nomination of the presidential candidate shall be held not later than twenty-four (24) months from the date of the national elections.”
The deputy Senate president, who also chairs the Senate Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution, described the benefits of early primaries as manifold.
He said early primaries would allow the winning candidates in these early primaries the foothold to raise sufficient campaign funds for the larger contests.
Ekweremadu, however, suggested the amendment of Section 87 of the Electoral Act to make the conduct of direct primaries compulsory for all political parties, noting that presently, mandatory direct primaries only apply to the election of councillorship candidates.
Meanwhile, from the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, came cheery news to Nigerians who have been protesting the non-conduct of rerun polls in their senatorial districts and federal constituencies, as chairman of the commission, Professor Mahmood Yakubu declared at the submit that all pending rerun elections would be concluded latest by July 31 this year.
He said since the conclusion of the 2015 general elections, INEC had conducted a total of 129 elections which he listed to include 49 rerun elections out of the 80 nullified polls by elections petitions tribunals, 10 bye-elections in various constituencies resulting from the death of members of state and National Assemblies, 68 elections in Federal Capital Territory, FCT, and two end of tenure elections in Kogi and Bayelsa States, among others.
Yakubu also said 23 election certificates were withdrawn in accordance with court rulings and such certificates re-presented to rightful winners of elections in both the Senate and House of Representatives.
He advocated the need for an amendment to the 2010 Electoral Act with a view to ensuring that candidates whose elections are nullified as a result of improper nominations by their candidates should have their certificates re-issued to the runners-up.
The INEC chief said doing so would save the nation the huge cost of conducting fresh elections in such circumstances.

Stakeholders canvass direct election primaries
Meanwhile, the deputy Senate president, Senator Ike Ekweremadu has noted that early and direct primaries would make the nation’s electoral process more credible and deepen her democracy.
He made the call at a one-day summit on electoral reform organised by the Senate Committee on the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, in collaboration with the Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre, PLAC, at the National Assembly on Monday.
According to Ekweremadu, late conduct of primaries by political parties owing mainly to constitutional restrictions poses serious challenges to the electoral system, while the parties’ penchant for indirect primaries has undermined internal democracy in the political parties.
Stressing the need for Nigeria to learn from international best practices, he said: “In the United States of America, USA, presidential primaries for presidential candidates start about 12 months to the election, culminating in the convention which is usually a celebration of an already known candidate of the party.
“In Ghana, although neither the constitution nor the electoral act gives any specific period for the conduct of presidential and parliamentary primaries, individual parties have provisions in their respective constitutions for early primaries.
“For example, Article 11 (2)(b) of the NPP Constitution provides that ‘parliamentary candidates shall be elected at least twelve (12) months before the National General Election” while Article 12 provides that the party’s primary election for the nomination of the presidential candidate shall be held not later than twenty-four (24) months from the date of the national elections,’” Ekwremadu informed.
The deputy Senate president, who also chairs the Senate Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution, described the benefits of early primaries as manifold.
He said early primaries would allow the winning candidates in these early primaries the foothold to raise sufficient campaign funds for the larger contests.
He added: “Early primaries afford parties and candidates the time to visit every part of the country/constituency. It also allows them to initiate and shape the national conversation about their identity and future direction, defining ideologies and manifesto.
“Early primaries will help the judiciary to conclude all pre-election litigations and assist the election management body to have ample time to plan and deliver credible elections.”
Ekweremadu further argued that with early primaries, “resources expended on conduct of bye-elections over the fielding of the wrong candidates or omission of candidates will also be drastically reduced”, adding that knowing early enough whether they have their parties’ tickets or not would enable also enable elected political office holders to plan ahead for life after their tenure.”
The senator, who also canvassed staggered primaries, said that holding primaries in different states on different dates for presidential aspirants, for instance, would “allow the optimisation of the use of resources such as security forces and increases the possibility of closer scrutiny and transparency and management.”
On the imperatives of direct primaries, Ekweremadu regretted that while Section 87 (2) of the Electoral Act provides for the nomination of candidates by political parties for the various elective positions through direct or indirect primaries, parties had always favoured indirect primaries, which, according to him, were less transparent, participatory, and democratic.
To this end, he suggested the amendment of Section 87 of the Electoral Act to make the conduct of direct primaries compulsory for all political parties, noting that presently, mandatory direct primaries only apply to the election of councillorship candidates.
While further noting that direct primaries were the sure way of “returning power back to the people, Ekweremadu also said “such would ensure that the process of nominating candidates is credible, transparent, fully participatory and democratic, as well as reduce electoral disputes within the party and restore confidence and internal democracy.”


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