Committed to the enhancement of electoral legal framework for efficient delivery of electoral service, the Independent National Electoral Commission has opened a two-day internal retreat in Lagos, to discuss and validate contributions to amendments to the electoral legal framework.
The Chairman of the Commission, Professor Mahmood Yakubu while addressing participants at the retreat in Lagos today, said the function was aimed at providing the Commission with the opportunity to cast its nets wide by dissecting the Electoral Act and propose amendments that would give the Nation an Electoral Framework that can protect choices and guarantee free, fair and credible elections.
The Retreat put together with support from the European Centre for Electoral (ECES) and the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) was coming on the heel of proposed amendments to the Electoral Legal Framework.
Professor Yakubu explained that the National Assembly had last year forwarded to the Commission a modified version of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill which it (NASS) had presented to the Executive for assent before the 2019 General Elections.
He said the Commission on its part shared the Bill internally with National Commissioners and Directors at the Headquarters as well as with Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) and senior officials in the 36 states and the FCT for comments. ‘’These comments have now been compiled into a draft document that this Retreat will discuss and validate as the Commission’s position on the legal framework’’, the Chairman said.
In making its contributions to the legal framework the Commission, Prof. Yakubu said had defined basic principles which should be anchored. They are: ‘’Increasing citizens’ confidence by enhancing the transparency and credibility of the electoral process; Entrenching internal democracy within political parties; and Ensuring inclusivity in the electoral process for marginalized segments of the society such as women, youth and persons with disabilities’’
Others are: ‘’Reducing the cost of elections; Curbing the incidence of violence and sundry malpractices in the electoral process; Ensuring that violators of electoral laws are effectively sanctioned; Deepening the deployment of technology in elections; and Increasing the autonomy and independence (both administrative and financial) of the electoral Commission’’.
In his welcome remarks, the Resident Electoral Commissioner for Lagos state, Sam Olumekun, observed that ‘’the legal framework for the conduct of election is undoubtedly the foundation and the credibility by which the success of election can be determined’’, hence as usual the Commission was taking the bull by the horn by arranging the retreat.
The Director Legal Services of the Commission, Oluwatoyin Babalola Esq while outlining the retreat’s objectives and expectations noted that experience in the electoral space have revealed certain shortcomings in the legal framework that needed to be addressed through legislation.
The Director said the objectives of the Retreat include to: ‘’articulate the position of the Commission in enhancing the Electoral legal framework; Generate robust discussion to propose amendments to the Electoral Act that will be comprehensive, concise, acceptable and easy to implement for conduct of free, fair and credible elections’’.
Others include: ‘’to provoke discussions to strengthen the processes and procedure for voter registration, the use of technology in elections, registration and regulation of political parties, conduct of elections and election dispute adjudication, and Interrogate INECs proposal for the amendment of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended).
In their separate goodwill messages, the Country Director of IFES, Hermann Thiel; and Project Coordinator of ECES, Maria Teresa Mauro commended the Commission for the initiative to organize the retreat. They pledged the commitment of their organisations towards strengthening the electoral process in the country.
In attendance are all the National Commissioners, RECs of the 36 states and FCT, Secretary to the Commission, and Directors in the INEC Headquarters.
The Commission is scheduled to meet with members of the Senate Committee on INEC and House Committee on Electoral and Party Matters during the week for an unprecedented meeting on electoral reform.