Femi Falana urges constitution of INEC before Kogi guber polls
CONSTITUTIONAL lawyer and human rights campaigner, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN) has urged the Federal Government to, without further delay, constitute the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) especially now that governorship elections will soon hold in Kogi and Bayelsa States.
Since the completion of the general elections last April, the top echelon of INEC has been badly depleted due to the exit of the National Chairman Professor Attahiru Jega and about 12 National Commissioners following the expiration of their terms.
As at today the commission is being headed by an Acting Chairman, Mrs. Amina Zakari, whose appointment has been severely criticised by the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Falana who made the call in an address he delivered yesterday at a Review Session on Electoral Violence in the 2015 General Election, urged President Muhammadu Buhari to appoint Nigerians with impeccable characters, who could stand their ground under whatever pressure from any quarter, when filling the vacancies.
To drive home this point, Falana said, “I wish to call on the Federal Government to constitute the INEC without any further delay. The many vacancies in the INEC should be filled with independent minded Nigerians of unimpeachable integrity through a transparent process.
“Once reconstituted, the INEC should proceed to ensure that all citizens of voting age are registered and issued with permanent voters cards on a continuous basis while the use of card readers is perfected for future elections.
“The National Assembly is called upon to amend the Electoral Act to permit electronic voting and the use of permanent voters cards and card readers. Henceforth, the INEC should bear the legal responsibility of proving that elections have been properly conducted in substantial compliance with the Electoral Act.”
The senior lawyer decried the failure of security agencies and offices of the Attorney General to prosecute electoral offenders in the country.
He recalled with disgust that all electoral crimes charged to court since 2003, have been discontinued by the office of the Attorney General, which filed nolle prosequi to terminate them.
His words, “In many cases, attorneys-general are directed to file nolle prosequi to stop the prosecution of suspects who belong to the ruling parties. Hence, the cases of the hundreds of suspects charged to court by the Police for electoral offences committed during the 2003, 2007 and 2011 general elections were abruptly terminated in all the states of the federation.
“Since ours is a country which claims to operate under the Rule of Law, it is inexplicable that the suspects involved in sabotaging the electoral process have not been charged to any criminal court. The crisis of impunity in the land has been compounded by the partisan involvement of the authorities of the police, the armed forces and other security agencies in the political process.
“Although there are adequate and elaborate provisions in the Electoral Act, 2010 as amended and the penal statutes to deal with political violence and electoral malfeasance, the managers of the neo-colonial state lack the political will to bring electoral offenders to book.”
He however acknowledged President Buhari’s determination to bring electoral offenders to book, while urging all stakeholders particularly, INEC, the National Assembly and the National Human Rights Commission to collaborate with the president in his resolve to bring sanity to the conduct of elections in the country.
“As President Buhari has pledged to bring the perpetrators of electoral violence to book the federal government should direct the National Human Rights Commission and the Nigeria Police Force to collaborate with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to prosecute all electoral offenders.”
The human rights lawyer expressed worries at the action of INEC officials in some states who according to him are trying to frustrate some petitioners with cases at election tribunal in some states by making it difficult for them to access election materials used for those elections which are now very germane to the prosecution of their petitions.
“No doubt, election petitions are being attended to by the various election petition tribunals currently sitting in many parts of the country. The impunity that was witnessed during the election has continued as the Independent National Electoral Commission is trying desperately to justify the rigging of many governorship and legislative elections. Apart from frustrating the inspection of election materials as ordered by election petition tribunals INEC has been filing objections that are designed to frustrate the speedy dispensation of justice.”
The civil rights campaigner commended the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CSLAC), organizer if the forum for helping to bring into the front burner issues of violence and impunity that partly characterised the conduct of the 2015 General Elections which were being swept under the carpet by the relevant agencies that are supposed to ensure that culprits are brought to book and the rule of law is ensured.
“As if that was not enough the INEC has urged the tribunals not to place any probative value on the use of card readers. As there is no plan to prosecute the people who committed serious electoral offences the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CSLAC) deserves commendation for reminding the Nigerian people of the urgent need to revisit the orgy of violence that was witnessed during the 2015 general elections.”