Speaking at a retreat on the review of the electoral legal framework on Monday March 2, INEC chairman’s Mahmood Yakubu said they received the draft of the bill from the Senate Committee on INEC which had been presented to the executive for assent before the 2019 general elections.
Mahmood further revealed that the draft bill has been shared with the National Commissioners, Directors, Resident Electoral Commissioners (REC) and senior officials in the 36 states and the FCT.
“As long as violators of electoral laws are not penalised, we will continue to have issues with our elections. As part of the reforms of the key components of the Electoral Act, we will like to see the effective sanctions of those who violate electoral laws of this country.
“Any country that does not penalise offenders is doomed and we must find a way of penalising electoral offenders so that impunity can be at best reduced or even eliminated completely.
“Listening to Nigerians, it is clear that a review of the Electoral Act and our electoral legal framework in general, must be anchored on curbing incidents of violence and sundry malpractices in the electoral process.
“It is also to ensure that violators of electoral laws are effectively sanctioned. It must deepen the deployment of technology in elections.
“It will also ensure inclusivity in the electoral process for marginalised segments of the society such as women, youth and persons living with disabilities.”
Yakubu added that the retreat which was organized in partnership with the European Centre for Electoral Support (ECES) and the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), was meant to finalise INEC’s comprehensive proposal to the National Assembly for amendment to the electoral legal framework.
“Our draft is ready but requires further internal review ahead of submission to the National Assembly.
“I am glad to know that members of the Senate Committee on INEC and House of Representatives Committee on Electoral Matters are joining us on Thursday and Friday for in-depth review of both their proposal and our input.
“This is the first time that the National Assembly and INEC are coming together on electoral reform. We look forward to this opportunity to serve Nigerians better.”
INEC’s Director of Legal Services, Oluwatoyin Babalola who confirmed the development said the amendment which will include punishments for electoral violators, will also make provisions for the security of lives and property during elections.
The Nation reported that she said the lacuna in the provisions of the extant Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) had been identified and highlighted by INEC and stakeholders, adding that there have been calls in recent times for amendment to address the lacuna to foster better elections.
Mrs Babalola said “There are 34 proposed amendments elaborated in four columns.”
Lagos State Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Sam Olumekun also proposed the creation of special courts for electoral offences. He further stated that the special courts will defined time frame for prosecution and speedy administration of justice.
“The commission should critically examine the issue of conflict of interests among our external solicitors that represent the petitioners in other matters.
“The commission should ensure that such solicitors do not represent any petitioner throughout the period of election petitions in the tribunals and courts of competent jurisdiction.
“While we appreciate the effort of the commission in dealing with legal issues, the commission should continue to equip the Legal Department and prepare the staff to represent the commission in election matters.”