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ENABULELE: APC’s ‘Change’ Slogan Should Be Total

Enabulele

Enabulele

Dr. Osahon Enabulele is vice president, Commonwealth Medical Association and immediate past president, Nigerian Medical Association (NMA). He spoke with ALEMMA-OZIORUVA ALIU on electoral reforms. 

What should be the mode of appointment of INEC’s chair? WHILE the appointment of Amina Zakari as acting INEC chair may be in line with the extant public service rules, I wish to unequivocally state that in the light of the public campaign for total independence of Nigeria’s extremely sensitive Election Management Body and the substantial independence witnessed during the tenure of Prof. Attahiru Jega, I view the manner and mode of the current appointment as not only shoddy, but one capable of blotting the electoral escutcheon of the current government.

This is more so, as the outgone Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Attahiru Jega, had affirmed that he actually wrote to President Muhammadu Buhari well ahead of time, to notify him of his terminal exit date as Nigeria’s electoral umpire.

I would have thought that a more critical and deep reflection of the appointment ought to have been done by Mr. President, such as to consolidate and improve upon the recommendations of the Rtd. Justice Uwais Electoral Reform Committee, particularly, as it concerns the appointment of the chairman of the Election Management Body.

It is an indisputable fact that the antecedents and acknowledged credibility of Jega, who, before then, was not a staff of INEC, not only engendered substantial public acceptance of his appointment by former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, but also positively impacted on the public perception and integrity of INEC.

Indeed, this positive integrity and public perception quotient reduced the public resistance to the results declared during the 2015 Presidential election in Nigeria.

Nigerians expect real change in the way the business of government is conducted, and how it responds to the legitimate aspirations and overwhelming desires of Nigerians.

The expectation of Nigerians was that Buhari would improve upon the performance of former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, in the realm of electoral independence, integrity and transparency.

Indeed, whereas Nigerians tolerated the partial implementation of the laudable recommendations of the Rtd. Justice Uwais Electoral Reform Committee, largely because of the personality of Prof. Attahiru Jega, the least Nigerians expected from ‘Change’ the government of Buhari, was to sustain the tempo of the outgone PDP-led Federal Government in the manner and mode of appointment of Nigeria’s Chief Electoral Umpire/Commissioner. I hope that the current appointment will not become a recurring decimal.

The expectation of Nigerians was that Buhari would improve upon the performance of former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, in the realm of electoral independence, integrity and transparency. Indeed, whereas Nigerians tolerated the partial implementation of the laudable recommendations of the Rtd. Justice Uwais Electoral Reform Committee, largely because of the personality of Prof. Attahiru Jega, the least Nigerians expected from ‘Change’ the government of Buhari, was to sustain the tempo of the outgone PDP-led Federal Government in the manner and mode of appointment of Nigeria’s Chief Electoral Umpire/Commissioner. I hope that the current appointment will not become a recurring decimal.

The Justice Lawal Uwaise report on electoral reform is lying fallow; what is your opinion on this? I advise the Buhari-led Federal Government to urgently call for the Rtd. Justice Lawal Uwais Electoral Reform Committee Report, completely dust it up, and give Nigerians the benefit of the laudable recommendations contained in the report, especially, as it concerns the total independence and unbundling of Nigeria’s election management body, as well as the effective prosecution of electoral offenders.

Additionally, I advise the President Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government to urgently put in motion the process for the implementation of the profound recommendations of the Rtd. Justice Idris Kutigi-led 2014 National Conference report, particularly as it concerns electoral reforms in Nigeria. Do you think INEC should remain as it is? My answer to this is no.

I expect to see a consolidation of the gains made during the tenure of Jonathan in the area of management of the electoral body. I particularly expect a more progressive engineering of the body by Buhari. The real change that Nigerians expect is a progressive movement in the way the business of government is conducted, with the overall aim of restoring public confidence in Government and all its institutions.

This, therefore, will include Nigeria’s electoral system and its management body. Specifically, in terms of Nigeria’s electoral system, the Buhari-led government must deeply reflect on the issues of appointments into the body, its funding, transparency and accountability.

I am of the strong view, that while the Federal Government dusts up the Uwais Report, the extant provisions in the 1999 Nigerian constitution (as amended) that seek to strengthen and empower the Independent Electoral Commission, particularly, in terms of its independence, must be given full expression.

In particular, sections 154 (1), 154 (3) and 157 (1) must be given concrete expression. I, therefore, expect that aside from the President, who, for now, has the imprimatur to appoint the chief electoral commissioner, the other bodies with relevant constitutional roles and powers in the process of appointment and removal of the chairman and members of INEC, particularly bodies such as, the Council of States, and 8th National Assembly, must diligently play their roles in all these processes.

Additionally, I expect the government to also engage the public by way of soliciting the views of Nigerians, with respect to their acceptance or rejection of the President’s nominee, before the name is forwarded to the Council of State and the National Assembly for confirmation.

In terms of the operational independence of INEC and state levels (SIEC), I expect necessary constitutional amendments to be made such as, to give the bodies total responsibility for conducting their own affairs and procedures.

With respect to financial independence and funding of the electoral body, I advise that maximum expression should be given at all times to extant constitutional provisions that place the funding of the Independent National Electoral Commission as a first line charge from the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation, and that of the State Independent Electoral Commission as a first line charge from the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the State.

In terms of accountability, there is need for operational independence of the electoral body, as well as greater involvement of the Civil Society, particularly Civil Society Organisations and Professional Organisations.

The body must show transparent leadership in the transaction of its affairs, including its recruitment of staff/employees, conduct of elections, as well as its financial transactions.

Indeed, just as the amended 2010 Electoral Act expects political parties to publish in at least two national newspapers, the audited returns of their electoral expenses, I also expect INEC to regularly publish in its website or national newspapers their audited financial returns and organisational transactions.

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