Buhari seeks interface with governors to reform SIECs
Pledges total independence for INEC
PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari yesterday disclosed that the Federal Government would soon engage state governments with a view to making the performances of the State Independent Electoral Commissions (SIECs) come in sync with the Independent National Electors Commission (INEC) in terms of credibility and acceptability among Nigerians.
Speaking at the Aso Council Chambers while swearing in the new presiding officers of INEC, led by its Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu and five new national commissioners, the President said the reform had become imperative given the large scale public perception of states’ electoral bodies as tools of the ruling parties in the states.
Acknowledging the Federal Government’s constitutional constraints in its engagement with state electoral bodies, Buhari, however, believed that with constructive engagement between the Federal Government and state governments, a lot of improvement could be achieved in ensuring free, fair and credible elections at the state level.
He also reiterated his commitment to the independence of INEC.
His words: ”The APC government has promised Nigerians change. In electioneering, this change should be all embracing. It starts from change of attitudes, change of work ethics, change in attitude to corruption and corrupt practices, change of party political conduct-right from primaries to the emergence of candidates and finally the conduct of elections.
In the conduct of elections, we promised to respect the independence of our electoral body, INEC. We promised non-interference in its activities and above all we promised to encourage them to conduct transparently free and fair elections. I hereby pledge to keep that promise.
Needless to add that the APC is not limited to the control of Federal Government alone. There are many states that are APC controlled; I expect them to do no less in the way they handle their various state electoral commissions. All of us, and this includes other political parties have a responsibility to safeguard the sanctity of democratic values; and the foundation of such values are free association, transparent electoral process, free and fair election.
I am aware of the Federal Government’s constitutional constraints in its engagement with the state’s electoral bodies. But the government has a social responsibility to protect the democratic rights of all. I am of the view that it is totally unacceptable to hide under the cover of the technicality of law to deny the citizens’ rights.
“Accordingly, the Federal Government is considering a different strategy of engagement with state governments on how to make state electoral commissions much freer than many are today.”
Another area of concern to the President was the justice administration of the Electoral Tribunals, stating that it was long overdue that the nation’s justice system addresses these shortcomings.
According to him, it was not just enough for an election to be cancelled and a new one ordered.
He advocated a reform system in which all identified persons who aid and abet any form of electoral fraud and misconducts are fished out and punished accordingly.
The president acknowledged and pledged to respect the independence of the commission and this government, noting that his administration would not interfere with its operations, urging the new INEC team not to allow themselves to be unduly influenced or subjected to the control of outside forces.
“You must respect the law and we will hold you bound by the oath which you have just taken.
The nation has reposed a lot of trust and confidence in you. You cannot afford to fail.”
Speaking with State House correspondents after the occasion, Yakubu assured Nigerians and the international community that all the actions of INEC under his watch would be guided by the constitution and the Electoral Act.
According to him, “the constitution and also the Electoral Act are very clear. These are the two documents that will guide the operations of INEC under my chairmanship and we will not waver.”
Asked what fresh ideas the new Electoral Management Body (EMB) would bring on board, Yakubu said: “Well, we have achieved universal accolade for the successes recorded in the 2015 general elections. I think it is prudent that we are going to consolidate on this electoral achievement so that what counts ultimately is the will of the Nigerian people. Whoever Nigerians vote for, they should be rest assured that their votes count. And those they vote for will be their representatives at all levels.’’