The Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) and the Youth Initiative Advocacy for Growth and Advancement (YIAGA) have expressed concerns that about two and a half years to the 2023 general elections, the needed electoral reforms are yet to be concluded by the 9th National Assembly, even as they called for urgent reforms.
This was the crux of a roundtable discussion organised by the NLC on Wednesday to ensure a smooth electoral system that will be marked by accountability and integrity in order to avoid the sloppy process of the 2019 election alleged to have been heavily compromised.
Speaking to journalists, Ayuba Wabba, president of NLC, pointed out the urgent need for improvement and tasked the National Assembly to implement reforms before the next general elections.
He said: “Having participated in the process of election from 1999 till date, I have seen that there are a lot of rooms for improvement in our electoral process, be it on the aspect of law, how to choose candidates, be it in the aspect of inclusion particularly gender. These are areas that we critically need reforms and we don’t want these reforms to come at the eve of the election. We want them to come earlier before the election.“
He, however, assured that the National Assembly has shown readiness to see that reform processes are driven much earlier to the effect that by December Nigerians should be able to be discussing the new electoral law.
Speaking in the same vein, the Executive Director of YIAGA, Samson Itodo, emphasized that the reforms should be all encompassing.
He said “the priority issue is in respect to the independence of INEC, we have got an opportunity of incorporating all the recommendations made by Justice Uwais’s committee. The appointment process needs to be open and more transparent. The power to appoint the commissioners and the chairman should be divested from the president; it would go a long way to guarantee the independence of the commission.
“There is a need to actually provide a clear legal timeline for the release of funds for INEC. In the 2019 Elections, the fund INEC required was not released to the commission until few weeks to the elections and that to a large extent can potentially undermine the integrity of the election.”
“The other issue is around section 68 of the Electoral Act and that is the Provision that politicians have capitalized on to force INEC officials and voting officials to declare results under duress. Those declarations when they are made under duress should be subjected to review.
“The other issue is around electronic accreditations and transmission of results. Nigeria is at that point where we need the technology to improve the transparency of our result collation process. INEC used the result viewing portal for the Nasarawa by-election, we have seen that it is possible to electronically transmit results and make it open for people to participate.”
The YIAGA boss also condemned the high cost of elections in the country even as he tasked the security agencies to be more professional in the manner they manage elections in the country.
“The candidate selection process, the cost of politics is very high. It is despicable for a political party to charge 45 million naira and 22million naira for party nomination forms. That is why we have a political process today that is meant for the highest bidder and the highest spender and that is an issue that this 9th Assembly needs to address. Limit the cost of campaigns; limit the cost that party’s charge aspirants running for office,” he advised.