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On The Integrity Of INEC - The Guardian

By The Citizen


Concerns over the integrity of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as the 2015 general election approaches are justified and must be addressed. Doubts must be erased and confidence built in the electoral body for it to conduct a free, fair and acceptable election. As an unbiased umpire, INEC must be imbued with high integrity if it is to discharge its duty to the satisfaction of all.

The task of conducting a free and fair election in Nigeria is daunting enough. INEC should, therefore, buckle up, work as a team, with the common objective to give Nigeria an acceptable election in 2015.

The ongoing complaints about the powers of the INEC chairman, Attahiru Jega, and the allegedly lopsided structure in the commission are issues that should not be ignored. They raise questions about the integrity of the electoral body and its personnel. Besides insinuations of favouritism and lopsided assignment of duty to commissioners from certain parts of the country the question over the posting of directors and management officials of the body should be examined and rectified before it breeds bad blood within the commission.

Since Jega assumed office in July 2010, there has been relative calm and decency of conduct in INEC. The Commission's first assignment of conducting the 2011 elections was generally rated high compared to the previous elections that were roundly condemned by domestic and international observers. Jega's personal reputation for integrity has also contributed to the general perception that the electoral system is in good hands. This trust should not be betrayed.

Confidence building is critical to the success of INEC's job and the structure of the electoral body is important to its ability to deliver. A bad structure will undermine its function. Putting the right commissioners and directors in critical positions is essential irrespective of where they come from, but this must not be done in a way that lays the INEC leadership open to changes of insensitivity and favouritism. The suggestion that an open screening of the electoral commissioner- nominees may be necessary to determine their suitability for the job should be given due consideration.

The complexity of Nigeria's diversity is well known and should not be allowed to truncate an important assignment.

INEC should recognise that it is saddled with the task of handling the process of recruiting leaders for Nigeria at a time when leadership has emerged more than ever, as the obstacle to Nigeria's emancipation. Elections being the avenues through which worthy leaders are recruited cannot be seen to be handled by a body whose integrity is suspect.

…And Parties Without Structure
THE threat by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) not to accept nomination of candidates for elective positions from political parties that have no recognised structure in the states is somewhat confusing. With this threat, INEC appears to be indicting itself for registering parties that didn't meet the requirements for recognition, in the first place.

Having recognised structures in the states is one of the critical requirements a political party seeking registration must satisfy. If parties were registered without fulfilling this condition, then, INEC, and not the parties is to blame.

INEC chairman, Attahiru Jega, spoke at the third quarterly meeting of INEC and representatives of the 25 registered political parties, where he urged them 'to ensure that they conduct ward, local council and state congresses to establish their executives before nominating any candidate to run on their platform at elections'.

Jega disclosed that only three parties - All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Advanced Congress of Democrats (ACD) and Allied Congress part of Nigeria (ACPN) have submitted the lists of their state executives to the commission; meaning that the other 22 parties, including the newly registered ones, have no state structures. On that ground he then, threatened to sanction the erring parties by not accepting their supposed candidates.

Well, if there are standing rules that must be obeyed, then, INEC is in order to insist on compliance. There is freedom of association upon which parties are formed. If the parties didn't meet the conditions, they shouldn't have been registered. The 1999 Constitution, the Supreme Court ruling on the freedom to run political parties and the Electoral Act should guide INEC's actions.

Suffice it to say that political parties should be allowed to grow even though it must be acknowledged that there had been abuses of the process with some people turning the so-called parties into private enterprises with which they merely collected statutory funding. This can be dealt with by using a more rigorous sifting mechanism at the initial stage.

INEC, of course, has inherent powers but these should not be abused, otherwise, democracy will be the worse for it.