By Emmanuel Oladesu, Deputy Editor
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is proposing 34 amendments to the Electoral Act, it was learnt yesterday.
Its Director of Legal Services, Oluwatoyin Babalola, said there are certain shortcomings in the electoral legal framework that should be addressed through legislation.
Also, Lagos State Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) Sam Olumekun said the delimitation of constituencies was long overdue, in accordance with the 1999 Constitution.
He said the last constituency delimitation was done “more than a long time ago,” adding that the population of the country and registered voters have increased exponentially, thereby underscoring an urgent review for proportional and fair representation.
INEC Chairman Prof. Mahmud Yakubu said the agency remained committed to the review of the Electoral Act to enhance better conduct of elections.
The INEC chiefs spoke yesterday in Lagos at the opening of a week-long retreat on the review of the electoral legal framework jointly organised by the commission, the European Centre for Electoral Support (ECES) and the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES).
The 37 RECs, national commissioners and directors of INEC were present at the retreat.
On Thursday and Friday, members of the National Assembly Committees on INEC and Electoral Matters will join the retreat for what Yakubu called an “in-depth review of their proposals and the commission’s input”.
Babalola 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.
She recalled that while INEC’s proposals were accepted, the amended Electoral Act was not signed into law by the Executive arm of government.
Noting that the retreat was organised to enable the electoral officers contribute ideas and harmonise the inputs, Babalola said: “There are 34 proposed amendments elaborated in four columns.”
The Lagos REC emphasised the importance of special courts for electoral offences, saying the special courts should have a defined time frame for prosecution and speedy administration of justice.
On electoral litigation, Olumekun said: “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.”
Yakubu said the retreat was meant to finalise INEC’s comprehensive proposal to the National Assembly for amendment to the electoral legal framework.
He added: “Our draft is ready but requires further internal review ahead of submission to the National Assembly.”
The IN£EC chairman said the review of the electoral act will increase citizens’ confidence, enhance the transparency and credibility of the electoral process; entrench internal democracy within political parties; reduce violence, expand the scope of participation for women, youths and people living with disability; deepen the use of technology and foster independence of INEC.
He added: “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.”