President Muhammadu Buhari has assured that he would not interfere in the running of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
President Buhari stated this while swearing in the new Chairman of the Commission, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu and five National Commissioners of INEC in the State House Council chambers yesterday.
“Another area of concern is the justice administration of the Electoral Tribunals. It is long overdue that our justice system addresses these shortcomings. It is not just enough for an election to be cancelled and a new one ordered.
“It would be much better if all whose actions or inaction that led to the cancellation of such election are to be investigated and if culpable, prosecuted
whether they are individuals as candidates or party agents, institutions such as political party, electoral body or public officers as electoral staff or security agents.
“Similarly, perpetrators of electoral violence and thuggery should not be spared. Unless our system stops covering up all forms of electoral malpractices we can hardly get it right. No system endures with impunity,” he stressed.
The President also promised to respect the independence of INEC in fulfilment of his campaign promise.
He added that his government would not by any means interfere with its operations.
The President continued: “In the conduct of elections we promised to respect the independence of our electoral body, INEC. We promised non-interference in its activities and above all we promised to encourage them to conduct transparently free and fair elections. I hereby pledge to keep that promise.”
He therefore urged the Commission not to allow itself to be unduly influenced or subjected to the control of external forces.
“You must respect the law and we will hold you bound by the oath which you have just taken. The nation has reposed a lot of trust and confidence in you. You cannot afford to fail,” he charged the new officials.
The President also frowned against state electoral bodies that hide under the cover of legal technicalities to deny citizens their rights, vowing that the Federal Government would protect the citizens at all times.
“I am aware of the Federal Government’s constitutional constraints in its engagement with the state’s electoral bodies. But the government has a social responsibility to protect the democratic rights of all.
“I am of the view that it is totally unacceptable to hide under the cover of the technicality of law to deny the citizens’ rights,” he stated.
Buhari noted an unfortunate trend in almost all the states, whereby the party of the sitting government would win all the council elections.
“Needless to add that the APC is not limited to the control of Federal Government alone. There are many states that are APC controlled; I expect them to do no less in the way they handle their various States’ Electoral Commissions.
“All of us, and this includes other political parties, have a responsibility to safe-guard the sanctity of democratic values; and the foundation of such values are free association, transparent electoral process and free and fair elections.”
Buhari thanked the press, the social media, various local and international monitoring groups, international community and donor agencies for the support to Nigeria’s electoral management and operation, expressing optimism that such cooperation would continue.