Press Release: The Lagos State chapter of the Action Congress has insisted that for the electoral body to be independent and impartial, the power to appoint its head must not reside with any political office holder. The party therefore sees the retention of the power to appoint the chairman of the electoral body by the presidency as a mockery of the entire concept of electoral reform and a veiled attempt by the present regime to ensure that Nigerians are saddled with manipulated and discredited elections as seen in 1999, 2003 and 2007.
In a release in Lagos, signed by the party’s Lagos State Publicity Secretary of AC, Joe Igbokwe, Lagos AC says that though some of the recommendations of the ERC, which were adopted in the Federal Government White Paper are laudable and good, it is not comfortable with the effort the present PDP government has made so far to water down some other recommendations to take care of their selfish interest in 2011. It insists that no free and fair election is possible where the chairman of INEC owes his job to the president.
“While we applaud some of the recommendations of the ERC, which were adopted in the Government White Paper as being in line with the popular aspirations of the Nigerian people in their desire for free and fair electoral conduct, we do not see the wisdom in subjecting the reports of the 22 wise men that constituted the panel to the dictates of three men, who are operatives of the PDP and who work for the present government. We see this as an attempt to copy the Babangida and Abacha types of political manipulation where the wishes of a whole were subjected to the dictates of a few for the purpose of manipulating the outcome of the electoral process.
“We refuse to see why the report from such eminent panel led by the retired Chief Justice of the Federation Justice Uwais, and, made up of very bright minds should be subjected to further doctoring by a panel of three appointees of the president if this government sincerely meant to initiate a reform of the despicable electoral system that birthed it. Again, we see the present government as insincere and mischievous in insisting that the INEC chairman remains an appointee of the president, as well as removing time limitations on electoral adjudications. We believe that the major factor that accounts for the shoddy performance of INEC especially since 1999 is that the chairman is an appointee of the president who takes dictations from the president and in some cases, as we saw in 2007, remains unabashedly committed to the political interests of the president and his party.
“Again, we see the recommendation to abolish state independent electoral commissions as suggested by ERC as insincere. It is beyond doubt that the kind of electoral perfidy noticed with some state electoral bodies were informed by the brazen manner the so-called Independent National Electoral Commission rigged and manipulated the 2007 elections. So we believe that any reform of the electoral process must also include state electoral commissions and not by the president indirectly annexing state functions in total contempt to the principle of federalism. We believe that INEC, especially in 2003 and 2007 remains the fouled wellspring from which the states developed templates of varying electoral chicanery, which the reform aims at solving.
“Vexatious to us, as to other Nigerians is the attempt to continue the present elastic time frame for adjudicating in electoral disputes. While we align with the recommendations of the Reform Panel that six months be used to settle all electoral disputes, we do not see any reason why the Presidency would prefer a continuation of the present system of endless electoral litigations, which has greatly distorted the country’s electoral calendar and has worked to reward electoral robbers.
“Lagos AC therefore calls for the wholesome adoption of the recommendations of the Electoral Reforms Panel except the dissolution of SIEC if the desire is to ensure that elections in Nigeria conform to local and international standards. If the President hands off the appointment of INEC Chairman, it is imperative for the Governors to hand off the appointment of SIEC Chairmen. The reform must be total and comprehensive from the National to State and to Local Governments. We call on the federal government to stop believing that it can still control the electoral process for its own benefits because the cost of another shambolic election would be too great for the country to bear.
“We want the ERC to report to be released to the public verbatim. We want an all-inclusive debates on the recommendation before it goes to the National Assembly for ratification and to translate into law. Even though majority of National Assembly members were not elected by anybody, the Party hopes they will do some growing up this time around standing with Nigerians when this need is greatest.”